The most magnificent collection of carnelians I ever saw…

 

It was 2011, in the month of June. I was back in the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, UK for a visit after more than a three decades long absence. Of course, I went down to the beach. It was a windy day and even though the sun was out, nothing glinted the warm bright orange color of carnelians up to me from the pebble beach.

Walberswick beach

Walberswick Beach, June, 2011

I sauntered along thinking of my father, my siblings, my mother–all the things we did and did not do–during so many Walberswick days of my childhood. I picked up a few shells and put them in my pockets. Bending way down to the sand, I did find a grey stone with a gray heart rimmed with white. Second-best perfect, I thought! I kept this one in the palm of my hand, enjoying the smooth raised heart.

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My heart-shaped stone

During my stay in Walberswick, Tassie, the daughter of our family’s village friends,  whisked me off in her car to visit her mother Diana, this beautiful warm woman my whole family loved. Tassie’s father Clifford, Diana’s husband, also a most beloved family friend, was no longer alive. Tassie brought out artist Clifford’s’ paintings to show them to me. Oh what lovely landscapes he had done of Walberswick! While I studied them, I could still see him hard at work when I used to come upon him in the village. My chest heaved with the wistful memory.

Tassie didn’t stop there. While we sat on the back patio, she brought out her family’s collection of carnelians on a gray stone tray. If I didn’t gasp out loud, I am sure I laughed with delight, or at least smiled broadly.

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Clifford, Diana, and Tassie’s Carnelian Collection

Diana held the tray out to me. I lifted a beauty from it and lay it on top of my knee.

large carnelian

large carnelian

It was not wet, very dry in fact. But, still utterly amazing. Beautiful!

Yes, I wished I could take it home. No luck there. It’s part of this family’s magnificent collection. A family heirloom.

 

 

Carnelians, a pink pottery bowl, and a sage leaf

 

This is a true story.

It was an ordinary day in November in the year 2015. I went to the mailbox to fetch the usual things I don’t want—advertisements, bills etc., but in the pile I spotted something unusual: an air mail envelope from the UK with a customs declaration on the front that also had a gift box checked and a description underneath that stated it was costume jewellery. What’s this?

envelope from Ann Connack Knowland, Malthouse Farm[1]

I opened it up at once. Inside was a valentine!

Valentine from Ann copy

And inside the card was a sort of letter:

card from Ann copy

Dear Lynnie, Paul,

Not before (not sure I am reading this word right) time I write to you for Valentines Day and have enclosed carnelians which I have found on the beach in Walberswick and sending them to you with the extract from your story in my mind, “Squinting through Carnelians” which I loved…

My heart danced a jig. My good childhood friend Ann, originally from the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, UK, went to the beach and collected carnelians for me! What a thoughtful thing to do!

 

package from Ann

“Squinting through Carnelians” is now a part of the book Jewels That Speak: Tiffanys, Freuds, and Me to be published on April 17th, 10 days from now.

Kirkus Reviews addresses this part of the book: ‘She did get one thing from her Tiffany heritage: her father shared with her an appreciation of beautiful precious and, especially, semiprecious stones…  “I never went with [my father] on his solitary walks. Alone, he ambled along the chilly shoreline, especially on sunny days when light shone through the wet stones, revealing their yellow-orange to reddish-brown to rich red tones.”’

And here are the carnelians three years later.

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Ann’s carnelians from the beach in Walberswick, Suffolk UK, in a pink pottery bowl from my daughter, Cora, and with a sage leaf from my son, Roland.