One of life’s greatest pleasures is re-connecting with friends from past lives. Frances Schultz and I had known each other in Atlanta thirty years ago; she was with Southern Living, I had my catalog company, Papillon. Two young career girls who would both go on to write books, live in New York, work for magazines…not at the same time, though.
We had lost touch, but still managed to take notice when “news” surfaced. Her latest news is a charming, elegantly-sized part memoir, part decorating guide titled, The Bee Cottage Story, for which she was just honored by the Horticultural Society of New York.
Frances’ years as a writer and world traveler, coupled with her long-standing associations with House Beautiful, Veranda and Southern Living, as well as her books on decorating and entertaining (one of her first books, Atlanta at Table, included our farm in Covington, Georgia) have well-served her in the story-telling genre.
The Bee Cottage is a tiny, tiny East Hampton shingled house that is packed with light, color and Frances’ brand of joie de vivre.
The Bee Cottage Story is pure Frances, loaded with practical advice, accompanied by whimsical watercolor drawings and written with wit and soul (in spades!)
Her ‘before and afters’ are especially instructive.
But it is the subtitle of her book that speaks volumes and is the first reason to grab this book…before it goes out of print, again… “How I made a muddle of things and decorated my way back to happiness.” And the sub-subtitle could just as well be…
“There is no magic pill for a muddle-free existence, but there may be a way to keep one muddle from spilling into another.”
As Charlotte Moss (another Southerner) put it in one of the many testimonials on the book’s back cover: “Frances Schultz is a rare, straight talking Southern belle of a bird.” This talent was what had the large audience at the Horticultural Society luncheon both laughing and crying at the same time, hearing her tell her stories in her own words, sharing the sentiments, failures and successes of her life and career. Giving an audience the chance to hear her life in “plain speak” is an art form that makes you want to run up and hug her.
Yes, this is a bit of a book review, but it’s really highlights of the lessons and wisdom that she so eloquently expresses in The Bee Cottage Story. We all need to read this! Here are my favorite “Living 101” quotes from Frances.
“Maybe it is not so much perfect bliss we seek, but rather self-awareness. The Buddhist principle of detachment from self-imposed suffering is in its essence the ability to recognize our own neurotic patterns and step aside from them. We aren’t necessarily “cured” of them; we just aren’t caught up in them. The openness and effort to learn sustains our momentum to grow and change.”
“By being true to who we are, we know who we can be. Being authentic allows us to see our soul’s blueprint, intuit our purpose, fulfill our mission, and make our hearts sing. Anything else is clutter. So the journey continues with another series of choices – not in paint colors and curtains, but in priorities, in recognizing what’s important, in winnowing away what no longer serves, in finding my own truth. At the end of the day, it’s all housekeeping.”
“It is one of life’s greatest reliefs – right up there with the ending of your child’s school play – to realize that no one person or relationship can fulfill all your needs, much less mirror them. Just as no one person, situation, thing, or house will make you “happy,” as if happiness were an egg that hatches when you pick the right nest.”
“The house,” whether cottage or castle, stands for who we are, how we live, and how we love ourselves and others. I wish for you a home you can be yourself in, and a self you can be at home in.”
It’s not usually fair to give away the ending of a story, but when it’s as happy as this one you might thank me for bending the rule a bit. As Frances’ dedication in the book said…”to Tom, our story is just begun.” (Pictured- Frances, her sister Duval and her husband Tom Dittmer.)