Most of the time, people assume the name Savage Sublime is a direct reference to Danny and me, and in many ways, it is. But aesthetically, there's more to the story (there's always so much more to the story).
I had the great fortune of coming of age as a homemaker under the influence of a stunningly quirky and effortless artist. My kids called her Nana; to the rest of us, she was Sharon. She was deep beyond measure: A dichotomy, a puzzle, a blade, and a poem. She was all of these things and so much more.
Her home was her reflection, and because of that, it was a feast. An absolute feast. It was the kind of place you could only dream of creating… cozy, sophisticated, comforting, surprising. It was as if the whole house was in on one big fun secret, and your great luck was to relish in the game.
I called it 'winking' - her playful sense of design. It was a coy little wink from a friend that knew you well (better than you knew yourself, you might say).
I knew Sharon all my life, our lives intermingling over and over in my little hometown of Turlock. Dan knew her better, though. He was her adopted son in many ways. And she, a second mother, to a kid wrestling for growth. She consoled him as he wept on her kitchen floor with a broken heart (so I'm told), she fed him when he dropped by unannounced, and she guided him, as he grew, from a boy to a man.
(Sharon's Three Boys)
When Dan and I married, she took me in as well, speaking so softly I had to lean in to listen. She noticed me. She noticed my small efforts to stretch and the dramatic distance my pendulum swung.
It wasn't easy to set up a home, to blend my things with Dan's. We were the same. And very different. And we hadn't had a 'proper' wedding, with all the accompanying gifts and registries. Our individually collected artifacts were clunky and chaotic. Dan brought in boxes of assorted militaria, and I had a taste for romantic reflections.
Sharon noticed me trying, though. I remember the first time she came to our home, and she whispered to me that she understood why I collected Dan's miscellaneous Bowies and daggers in a crystal glass bowl on a bookshelf above my desk. I'm not sure I understood it myself…. but her validation made me keep looking.
Sharon was creative, bold, and refined. She dressed with an intention that beckoned you to notice, and she played around the edges like a troublemaking fairy. Brilliant, intuitive, fragile, and bold.
She gave me fun little gifts, with no rhyme or reason, on Christmas and birthdays, and always surprising. Fancy teacups with blue horses painted inside and a collection of socks - made of lace and ruffles. Soon I relished finding gifts for her as well: A set of dessert plates with dancing Scottish bagpipers, a handmade rag dolly-horse dressed in a fur shawl, an Italian orange juicer shaped like a spider.
It was so much fun and so incredibly charming: She was so much fun and so incredibly charming.
She taught me to embrace my eclectic leanings. She laughed with irreverence, and I know she prayed for me.
Fragile and fierce, storied and simple.
Sharon's passing seemed overwhelmingly hasty, but her playful reflection is ever-present.
Even now, I miss our little gift exchanges. The way she would stroke the package as it sat in her lap, inspecting its wrapping and turning it over, like a little child, almost… uninhibited in her attention. She would open it slowly and study it hard, looking at it with eyes that seemed to be seeing so much more than I saw when I picked it out for her myself. And then she would pull it to her chest, with her arms overlapping, in a sentimental embrace befitting her very presence. I'd watch her as she opened it. She wouldn't even look at me. She'd pull it out of its package and turn it over and over, then suddenly - she'd stand. She'd almost jolt. Straight up. And walk with perfect certainty to a place in her home where she'd nestle my little offering in just the right spot. And it would look as if it had always belonged there.
And when I would visit again, I'd find my little token stashed in a new location, looking just as purposed as it did in the first place. And this would happen again, and again, and over, and over.
Her style was tasteful, surprising, and timeless. Her design was essential, eccentric, and perfect. She was wicked AND winsome, classic AND cutting edge. Sharon was the original: Savage Sublime.
I made this newest board with my darling Sharon in mind. It's the gift I'd love to give her this year if I could, the gift I'd love to see her unwrap….
I'd love to see her stroke the edges and inspect the size. I'd love to see her pull it to her chest, to stand up and turn. I know she'd walk straight to the kitchen and place it directly in a spot that seemed like it had always been calling. And I'd love to return, again and again, to find it in new locations throughout her home… surprising me, laughing with me, winking my way, and inspiring more.
I'd find it under a mountain of colorful blocks of Parisian hand soap beside the bathroom sink, next to an antique linen, and topped with a glass perfume bottle in the shape of a little monkey. I'd find it on her coffee table under a tiny silver bowl filled with a collection of vintage Monopoly pieces and beside a tub of red licorice. I'd meet there for breakfast, and it would be at the center of the table, holding freshly baked bow knots and a dish of orange sugar glaze, surrounded by single photos of family, and friends, and circus acrobats, and news clippings.
Sharon would love this board. I know she would. That might be why it's my favorite piece too. She'd style it over and over and over again, she'd use it at dinner, and breakfast, and lunch, and the movement of her hands over it would make it even more special in time... and time, and time, and time, again.
It's made of English Walnut from an orchard in her little town, salvaged nearly fifty years ago. The wood is moody. The shape is refined. It's just like my Sharon.