Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Lady of Leisure in the Central West End, St. Louis

I've been spending more and more time with my father on our Illinois homestead working on harvesting: heritage & lineage projects. So, when I'm back in the city for a few days, I bask in being a lady of leisure in one of the most cozy and vibrant neighborhoods in St. Louis: The Central West End near Forest Park. Some highlights:

Women of Letters in a Sidewalk Cafe

Walking back from Sante--my health club in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel--I see writer Ruth Miriam Garnett relaxing at a sidewalk cafe. We've had bumping into each other luck for years now. (Read other posts related to Ruth Miriam Garnett with a Riehlife search.)

This night I find out she's working with children in "turn-around schools." She fills me in on national educational policy, the poignancy of working with at-risk children, and how her creativity is now channeled into this work. From there Ruth moves on to broaden my world with a synopsis of "sookie-sookie na: and the opacity of culture." I suggest she write an article on this topic for Harper's or the Atlantic.

Spontaneous Children's Play Dates

Two neighborhood children popped by to play. What fun!

One is bored during this gap week before her private school starts back up. There's a knock on my door. We make lemon aid from scratch, and pick some playthings from my Frog Collection. Outside sitting in the shade on the cool courtyard grass, we read about frogs, tell frog stories, invent frog games. Have you ever seen frog softball before? Neither had I until we made it up. half-an hour.

A bit later her brother shows up swaggering like a West African trader offering his wares. I'm one of their favorite customers. Every child loves to earn their own money. The price for the origami planes and bunnies is right. They'll make grand presents for my great nieces and nephews. shanti

I love my health club. The Chase Park Plaza's 1920s beauty and elegance shifts me into a world of luxury and grandeur. The valets and the concierge for the Private Residences great me as if I lived in one. Then, at Sante I'm greeted by name as one might have been at an exclusive English Club in those BBC mysteries.

One evening there's a sunset yoga class on the 11th floor of the Chase Park Plaza on the terrace outside the Starlight Room. Breezes waft over us under the large sky and birds overhead. While the sounds of the city reach us up high. Vast views of St. Louis on every side complete the feeling of being a small part of the whole.

On Friday morning several women in another of Sante's group classes convene for a coffee klatch in an unoccupied sidewalk cafe. It's a new experience for me to hang out discussing what we're reading, volunteering, dating, grown children, pets, and clothes. Every once in awhile it clues me in to what women of a certain age are doing and thinking.

Art History Lecture: Michaelangelo--the art and the man

Free culture abounds in St. Louis. I bop over to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park to hear an art history lecture on Michaelangelo's. I leave with new perceptions on his creative process and place in society.

Deshabille at home

At home I relax. Perhaps read books from the library either poolside or in my gathering room. Cook for one. Converse with friends around the world via email. Ah, yes...and that secret vice: watch TV.

In Forest Park

I could walk for days here across the beautiful bridges and fountains. Or stop to enjoy cultural institutions like the art museum, history museum or zoo. Then, rest under a tree to look at the sky. Sit on a bench next to Jefferson Lake to take the day in and watch people fish.

All this for free or nearly so in the Central West End.

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3 Responses »

  1. A friend asked me: "So do agree that the level of civilization is measured by the amount of time not spent scratching for food clothing and shelter? Is there passion in leisure or a lugubrious lack of stress?"

    I had to look up "lugubrious" again. "Feeling sad & dismal" is the definition I found.

    I believe that civilization cultivates culture. Maslow's pyramid of the hierarchy of needs says it all.

    The quality of leisure depends on how it's pursued, received, and benefited from. Some of my leisure time is for escape--and time escapes me. Some is to settle, to regroup, to rest, to remember myself vs. himself. I'm not sure that leisure can be pursued with passion--unless leisure is defined as "soft time" that makes space for passions to live and and bloom.


  2. Lady of Leisure, I'm jealous for me and delighted for you. E-mail me again when you are back in West End. I'm beginning to think that maybe you may have to come my way for a meal or afternoon tea. I have lots of rooms, but no marvelous gathering room like yours. I pray Erwin and you are well. Love jb

  3. Julia,

    Looking forward to our time with your quilting ladies at the SLU museum. We can all be ladies of leisure together!


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