Monday, December 18, 2017

Stillmeadow - December

Gladys begins her December chapter with words all too familiar to those of us who live in the country.
Living in the country in winter is not easy. It is not simply sitting by a log fire and reading that good book. It is no life for lazy people. 
She goes on to talk about being "snowed in" and losing power. She says the local people call it "the electric."  I have a very vague memory of that term being used when I was a kid, but I sure haven't heard it for ages.

It is never made very clear about when the husbands of Gladys and her friend, called "Jill" in the books, stop becoming part of the scene. I believe both couples broke up. There is one mention in this book of "urging my husband to bring in more wood."

Gladys has wonderful neighbors who do a lot of the strong-arm chores. Even though they have help, I greatly admire these women moving to what was then a kind of wilderness. I imagine Gladys' Connecticut like in the old movies such as Christmas in Connecticut and Bringing Up Baby - rural and remote. In her time it was becoming 'discovered' by various writers and celebrities looking for a simpler, quieter way of life.
and if there is anything a city-dweller can have half as pleasant as a filled woodshed, I know not what it would be.
And all these years later, I still feel this way. We don't have a woodshed, but we have a woodpile, and it is as good as money in the bank. Whatever weather comes our way, we can be warm.

Some people cut, split, and pile it themselves. Some buy it cut and split so just have to pile it. In the over forty years we've burned wood, we've done it both ways. Some years we've gotten log length wood and both cut it and split it. Some years we get cut, but unsplit. This year we got cut and split because there was a lot of work to do, and there wasn't the time to get wood ready.

Tom has a step-uncle who lives nearby. He is in his early eighties, and still puts up his own wood. He loves the work. He scoffs at old friends who hire people to do their yard work and then go to a gym for exercise. He would rather get his exercise doing real, necessary work.

Gladys writes of snow:
When the first snow arrives, I really give myself up to winter. The air comes cold and sharp and there is a quickening in the blood, a feeling that the seasons are rolling around quite the way they should, and all is well. 
 But in the city, snow is looked at quite differently.
In the city the street-cleaning department looks on snow as a crisis. There is always a terrible to-do over snow in New York. One would think New York was a tropical city, and snow an unheard-of phenomenon. Generally, before the snow is carted away there are various battles. The head of one department accuses the head of another department of inefficiency. Taxpayers write in to the papers about their streets. The mayor issues orders to car owners. The taxis never have chains; they skid into one another and the drivers get out and shout furiously. The snow is loaded in trucks with machines like hay loaders. Finally, as the last load roars away, the weather turns warm and it rains.
Because these essays were written during and after the Second World War, there are occasional mentions of the unease of those years.
Christmas is almost upon us before we get over Thanksgiving. Many simple folk like me are thinking long thoughts as we wrap the packages. We are still waiting for peace. We are insecure, when we have won the war. Civil conflicts exist everywhere, peoples are still starving, Labor and Management are embroiled in half the world. Nations still argue unsolved issues. Race prejudice snakes along every hidden byway.
Gladys' "long thoughts" focus on what individuals can do to make the world better. Loving one another, teaching tolerance to children, having faith in "all the human beings of tomorrow." She is a woman much like any of us today. We hope for the best, we try our best, we try to not get discouraged. There are always more good people than not even if they are never reported on in the news.
I came back from a trip to New York, tired and anxious about all those things which pile up when a housewife goes away. One of those lovely, early snows had been falling for hours, and I drove through a kind of lacy twilight down the winter road. I saw my friend walking away from Stillmeadow along the shadowy path, and she waved and said she had been to the house. I drove on, and there was the house in the sweet twilight of snow, and on the door the Christmas wreath she had carried over and put up. Deep green of pine, cinnamon brown of cones, a spray of gay little bells, and a flash of rosy ribbon.
"This," I thought, "is what I mean by Christmas! To come home, after absence, and find the gracious thoughtfulness expressed, the good and gracious warmth of friendship." 

20 comments:

  1. I love Gladys Tabor, but it has been years since I read her writing. Thanks for this meaningful reminder!

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    1. I'm not a bit surprised that you are a fan!

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  2. Thanks, Nan, for posting these wise and lovely words of Gladys Taber - absolutely relevant and to me, healing as ever.
    I wish you a most merry and healthy holiday season,
    Mary

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    1. Thanks so much, Mary, and the same to you!

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  3. Hmmmmmmm. Last time you mentioned Gladys' book, I was going to dig my copy out and read it along with you. That hasn't happened -- yet... I DO enjoy reading your posts about her books.

    Merry Christmas, Nan. I look forward to more warm and wise posts from you in 2018 ♥.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rebecca. I wish you the same.

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  4. I know the books (and the ladies) only through your blog, Nan, but I know I would greatly enjoy reading them in full.
    Sorry to hear the husbands dropped out of the picture at some stage. Both women had so much love to give, so one wonders why their marriages did not work out. Being once divorced and once widowed myself, it always makes me said to learn of other couples breaking up.

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    1. I think she just kept her family life personal. There are occasional mentions of children but nothing in depth.

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  5. Thank you so much for writing and sharing Gladys. It always fills my heart with a warmth that is difficult to describe. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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    1. I'm so pleased you like these postings so much. And a Merry Christmas to you, too!

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  6. So glad you are doing this! I remember reading her Butternut Wisdom columns in The Lady's Home Journal when I was in high school. They were so good.....And I love the Stillmeadow books, but I think my favorite is her astonishing Especially Father, about her rather strange father, the mining engineer, and growing up with him. It's so different from her other books. Have you read it?

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    1. No, I haven't. From what I've read of her father, I don't think I'd like him very well!

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  7. I agree with Tom's uncle. Some of my best workouts have been when I've been raking and weeding in the yard! Best thing for the arms and legs!

    Thank you for sharing all these passages, Nan. I love this one the best:

    "This," I thought, "is what I mean by Christmas! To come home, after absence, and find the gracious thoughtfulness expressed, the good and gracious warmth of friendship."

    Merry Christmas to you and Tom! I know you'll have a lovely time with your children and grands. Much love to you all.

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  8. Such a joy to read your post on this cold, crisp December morning. The simple gift of hanging a wreath on a neighbor's door is so sweet. I missed our garden club's annual holiday luncheon, the first I've missed in a dozen years. I came home after a long day to find one of the table decorations at my doorstep. It is still looking good after two weeks and just needs a bit of freshening up. Gladys's words of "the gracious thoughtfulness expressed, the good and gracious warmth of friendship." sings in my heart today. Thank you for these posts, Nan.

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    1. I love your story, Penny! Amazing that much the same thing was done for you 70+ years later. It just shows that kindness and graciousness continue despite what all media tries to make us believe. Thanks so much for telling me this.

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  9. Hi Nan! I'd been meaning to read Gladys again lately and now you've inspired me to do so. Thanks! Oh, and yes, Gladys was divorced, but 'Jill's' husband had passed away. (Her real name was Eleanor.) I've always thought she and Gladys made the final move to Stillmeadow after Eleanor's husband died, but I'm not certain. My friend, Wilma, is the real Gladys expert and she's a wealth of knowledge. Merry Christmas to you! Blessings, Debra

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    1. Thank you, Debra, and the same to you!

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  10. This books sounds wonderful, love those extracts. Merry Christmas!

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    1. It is quite wonderful. Thanks, and the same to you!

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