09 July 2009

old birds...

I have been throwing money away on pre 1850 ornithological and other engravings. I love them all, but would like to point out the 350 year old owls in particular.

9 July 2007

In April, I began reading Dickens. I had been asked, some years ago, to compile a life list, and among the things I wanted to accomplish before I die was to read all of Dickens' novels. I started with David Copperfield, followed by Great Expectations, followed by Tale of Two Cities, which is where I am now, albeit not happily. Everyone I have spoken with about this little project urged me to read this one next and I am barely trudging through it. I simply cannot find a way to enjoy it. I'll just cut to the chase: I found something so very much better to read and it has absolutely renewed my joy in reading again. (Disclaimer: I really do love Dickens.)
This is IT...Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge, a folksy yearlong correspondence written in 1953 by Gladys Taber and Barbara Webster.

It is not clever, prescient, or cutting-edge, thank goodness. It is kind, thoughtful, and authentic, thank goodness. There is plenty of talk about Great Danes and Cocker Spaniels, the sound values of a country life, the comfort of a good book, the ways of the garden and wild animals. It is full of sane and sensitive observations about a life without the incessant invented complications of our time. One of my favorite passages:
"The moles are at it again! The yard fairly billows as we walk across it. I wonder what they do in their dark secret burrows all winter? Presumably they hibernate, but they are certainly busy the minute the ground softens with the end of winter. And as fast as we roll the humps and reseed the holes the dogs have excavated, there are more jutting up. Followed by more and deeper holes, of course. We gave up croquet on their account. There was no level space left on the lawn."
Yes, indeed, what do they do all winter? How lovely the luxury to imagine it! How wonderful it is to spend time with someone alive to natures' exquisite subtleties and for whom imagination is alive! How many unbearably dull conversations I have lately had the misfortune to endure. Dull for so much foolish posturing, so much thoughtless competition to be clever. And to say nothing!! Such relentless, empty babbling! What a relief to reject such enervating nonsense and choose to spend time with a companionable voice that is human and substantial!
Gladys Taber, who I believe may have been the model for Elizabeth Lane in that wonderful film, Christmas in Connecticut, lived in Southbury, Connecticut and wrote prodigiously. Barbara Webster, of Chester County, PA, authored a handful of books including Creatures and Contentments, which I'm about to begin soon. I have not abandoned Dickens, and I will read another fifty pages tonight and for the next few nights until I finish (next one is Pickwick Papers), but I just crave these tales from Stillmeadow and am beginning to feel quite sad as I come to the end of this inspiring book.