November 2012: Winter| Notes Archive


Darkness can be scary, but it can also be protective. When we turn the lights off in our barn at the end of the day, we feel enveloped by something mysterious and benign - a very benign crucible making us aware of our vulnerability and smallness, while providing comfort. It is very dark in the little hill towns of NH in the wintertime. We almost feel like cave-dwellers. Interiors become very, very important. The furniture itself seems alive when beyond the windows is all-consuming blackness. We always think of those who went before us in these rural towns when the setting sun signified many hours of night and candlelight did little to ease the darkness. They were really pioneers - hacking out a living from the rocky earth, suffering blinding cold to care for the livestock, without proper medicines, but with what we call "faith". I salute them, especially in this dark season. They built it all for us, including the very houses we rely on for shelter.

Light is a balm for the winter heart - the flickering candles in the old windows, the lonely streetlight at the top of our country road, the spotlight focused on the facade of our magnificent Meetinghouse. Folks are at home, making dinners, watching the news, knitting a few rows, calling the cat in for the night. Home. Maybe a bit more than others , country people know the meaning of the bricks and mortar surrounding them, and cherish home.

Into the midst of this dark time, we celebrate the lovely traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmastime. Thanksgiving - our very own American celebration of harvest , and Christmas, with all the deep spiritual meaning of the birth of the Christ Child. Both winter holidays hark back to pagan times. Just listen to the ancient carols; they are emblematic of pagan culture. Imagine the winter without these beautiful pauses for keeping the feasts. The moment the deep darkness surrounds us, we begin to plan our rituals.

Boo Radley .* After losing a sweet 8 year-old cat during the summer, we finally weakened and adopted a kitten The pitch is up a few notches with two Aussies, a 13 year old Jack Russell, and Polly, our 11 year old cat. We are all having fun.

Stephen Corrigan and Douglas Jackman have invited me to make a guest appearance at their Christmas Open House in their beautiful Walpole shop on December 15 and 16, from 10 to 4. I will be presenting for sale the Virginia Spencer Clark collection of folk dolls. Ginny was a passionate collector. Her death in August of 2011 was so sad. Now her husband has decided to launch this touching collection onto new adventures. You are cordially invited to attend. Info : 802/463-4296 or 603/835-2105.

Snow. I remember in the early 1970s, we went literally years in CT without snow. It was terrible! Even last winter, NH got a pitiful amount and
very few people up here were genuinely happy about it. (One notable exception is my husband who barely tolerates snow.) The white covering the hard brown earth is restorative - emanates light and softens the edges of the world. The first snowfall is the harbinger of the snug season we are facing. "Heap on more wood……" Pile the cookbooks next to the comfy chair. Put the candles in a handy spot, and the matches too. Store water in bottles to keep the house working a bit during the stormy blackouts. Prepare for discomfort, but also restorative solitude.