Friday, December 1, 2017

Stillmeadow - November

I've embarked on a year long reading adventure - Gladys Taber's The Book of Stillmeadow.


It is set up in monthly chapters, and that's how I'm going to read the book. I did much the same thing in 2011-2012 when I wrote about a book by Gladys and another by Rachel Peden. You may find those posts under A Year with Gladys and Rachel.

The book begins in November. Though so many people don't care for this month, it is one of my favorite times of year. I like the opening up of the woods, the quiet, the early darkness. Outdoor work isn't calling me and I can focus more on the inside, both of the house and my own inner self. It is a time for reflection.

I'm reading a 1984 reissue copy of The Book of Stillmeadow. It was originally published in 1948. The copyrights listed go from 1937 through 1947.

There is an introduction telling the reader how Gladys Taber ended up at this old farm in Connecticut that she named Stillmeadow. It's a lovely name, don't you think?

I've always loved books about city people who pull up stakes and move to the country to make a life there. Mostly they don't have a clue what they're doing, and yet they daily come to learn all they need to know. I believe the first series of books I read about this was Derek Tangye's books about moving to the Cornish coast and growing flowers. I mentioned him in one of my early postings. If you've not heard of him, this is a good starting place, and there's a wonderful Facebook page.

Gladys and her friend, called Jill in the books, were both married with children and living in New York City apartments when they began to dream about a place in the country. They thought at first that it would be a weekend place, but it became their life and the source of Gladys' many writings over the years.
I began to keep a kind of diary the year we found Stillmeadow. There were so many things we wanted not to forget and the family liked a journal to refer to. Sometimes it was recipes, directions for doing over the old furniture we had bought at the auction, notes about the puppies. And sometimes it was my own thoughts, a record of country living. It turned out to be a kind of potpourri of happenings at Stillmeadow.
And after nine years, it was filling so many scrapbooks that the cupboard was full. So I made a selection of the parts that would represent our life in the country and copied it out - a staggering task.
And now we have the Book of Stillmeadow.
As she begins the November entry, I was rather amazed to read something quite similar to what I wrote in my very first blog post. Had I read it in another Gladys' book, or did I come up with that thought myself??
At night, little faraway houses, never seen in summer, suddenly prick the dark with their lamps. 
She writes, "All the browns, a thousand browns, come out. Rust-brown, sand-brown, topaz-brown, and the faded gold of harvest fields." And she notes that in her Connecticut hills, "This is a peaceful, serene land, and never quite so peaceful as now, with the crops in, wood piled high, houses snugged down, brooks running slow with leaves. The days grow shorter. Dusk comes before we are finished with the day."

I think that's it. With all our capabilities and determination, we are still ruled by the natural world at least to some extent. I rather love it that I am not in charge of how long the daylight lasts. Even with a headlamp, or barn lights, you aren't going to pile wood. You are stopped. If we give November a chance, it can change us in profound ways by giving us the opportunity to look deep and maybe change some things that need to be changed. Things we don't even think about when the sun shines and "the livin' is easy."

In all her writings Gladys moves back and forth from her own personal world to the world at large. When she watched the sun going down,
My heart got to aching for all the sad people all over the world. I wanted so terribly to share the color and the peace and the serene fall of evening and the clean cold air coming up from the water. And I wanted families together, going quietly home at night. This, I thought, is what we must have in this world again, somehow. Not power and glory, not magnificence. Only freedom for folk to work and be at peace in their own lands.
She warns against "things."
Happiness is not upholstered in velvet, nor lighted by the push of a button. If we start a new wild scramble for material luxury, we shall begin a toboggan slide to destruction. I do believe in pleasant living, as much as our means afford - but I wish we could chart a modest course between overelegance and simplicity.
All these decades later and we are still striving. As the Talking Heads wrote, "Same as it ever was." Gladys Taber is a woman for all seasons and all ages. Her words are as meaningful today as when she wrote them. She offers solace and hope to the reader by showing us her deep and basic humanity, and her knowledge of what is important.
The house was warm and inviting when we got home, and smelled of bayberry and burning apple wood. And white moonlight began to sift through the windows. This time of year has so much comfort in it, when all is said and done. 

40 comments:

  1. oh my
    I bought her books years ago because of your sharing
    and now I am taking them off of the shelf again.
    Thank you, Nan...

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    1. You are so welcome! Makes me happy to think of you taking them off the shelf!

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  2. A lovely post Nan with much to think on. Thank you for the Derek T link it's long since I read his books but I can still picture some of his descriptions.

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    1. Thanks so much. If you went to the link on the blog, you'll see that we met him!

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  3. I love Gladys Taber too. If I remember correctly, I first read her columns in Family Circle - the columns were titled Butternut Wisdom. I suspect I read them secretly, borrowing the magazine from my mother as it wouldn't have seemed "cool" at that age. We all worried about things like then. For Mom's birthdays, we always knew a Gladys Taber book would be perfect. I still have several on my bookshelves all these years later.
    Love November too for just those reasons you note.
    Lovely post, Nan. Happy reading!
    Mary

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    1. How I would love to read those 'Butternut Wisdom' columns! I've heard about them for ages. As well as those in the Ladies Home Journal. I suspect many of them made their way into her books. I love it that your mother liked GT. Lucky you to have her books. And a fellow November fan!

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  4. Gladys Taber is the best. I have quite a few of her books and know some rereads are in order for this winter.

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  5. Dear Nan, I remember your "Year with Gladys and Rachel" well, and how much I enjoyed those posts. Lovely now to look forward to another year with Gladys, through you!
    I, too, like books where people take charge of their lives and change their circumstances, instead of keeping on dreaming (and moaning). Do you remember the series of books by Tessa Hainsworth (high-profile marketing woman from London ups sticks and moves to Cornwall, where she becomes a postwoman) I reviewed on my blog last year? You recommended Derek Tangye's books to me then, but I still haven't got round to looking for them.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. And I do plan to buy the Tessa H. book(s).

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  6. I will get those books from the library. Look forward to reading them. Some profound sayings and if not even more true today.

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    1. The library is where I discovered Gladys' work. I hope libraries haven't culled her work for the new flashy books.

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  7. ....just the impetus I needed to go get my copy off the shelf!

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  8. Oh boy. I can't wait to ready what you write about this journey. I love Gladys and the way you write about her. Happy day!!

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    1. What a nice, nice thing to say! Thank you.

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  9. A wonderful idea, and a wonderful beginning to it. I'm looking forward to reading about this year with you and Gladys.

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  10. I love how your header is a reflection of her words. ("All the browns, a thousand browns, come out. Rust-brown, sand-brown, topaz-brown, and the faded gold of harvest fields.") My library has copies of Still Cove Journal and Stillmeadow Seasons, which I plan to look for next time I'm there. I'm looking forward to your future posts. Such wisdom in her writing!

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    1. I love that you said this. And completely unintentional!! Still Cove is the home on the Cape. She was so wise, and in an unpretentious way. Always humble.

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  11. So good to see you commenting on Gladys Taber's, The Book of Stillmeadow!
    Thanks,
    Susan Turnley

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    1. Amazingly, it is one I've never read!

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  12. I'm so glad you wrote again about Gladys Taber's books!
    Thanks,
    Susan Turnley
    FOGT

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    1. Me, too, Susan! It has been 4 1/2 years since I've read a book by Gladys. I'm looking forward to my monthly reads. Thanks for coming by and leaving a note.

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  13. Just discovered your blog awhile back. I too love Gladys, just got the same book out to re-read in October! I love the peacefulness of Gladys and how her thoughts mirror my own.

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    1. Welcome! And thanks for taking the time to leave me a note. That's amazing you just read this book! This is my first time reading it.

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  14. I haven't read any books by Gladys Taber yet, but after reading your posts, I have her on my list for 2018.

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    1. I'll be interested to hear what you think about her work. I'm so pleased my posts made you interested enough to try her books. Thank you for saying so.

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  15. I love the name Stillmeadow. There is a well-know gardener here in the UK, Monty Don, he broadcasts from his garden at Longmeadow, don't know if you know of him in the US. Your headers are still the best Nan, so lovely.

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    1. I have heard about him, though I've never seen a show. I actually have a book on my Book Depository wishlist called Nigel. Thank you, Carole. Always so glad to hear from you.

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  16. You might imagine my delight at this post and how much I look forward to your yearlong adventure with Gladys and Stillmeadow. I have this book and love it, but, don't really read it in season. You inspire me to do just that, Nan. Thank you.

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    1. There is something especially nice about reading 'in season.' There's a book I'm starting the end of this month because it opens on Boxing Day! (An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor)

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  17. I don't have this book of Gladys', but do have Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge which is one of my favorites. I will look forward to your "in season" post as you go along.

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    1. I have that book too, and have read it! I've often thought of doing a read like this with it. Maybe I will, another year!

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  18. I remember your ‘Year of Gladys and Rachel’ and remember loving those posts. We’ve been blogging friends for quite a while ... and for all that while I’ve wished it were possible to live two different kind of lives st the same time ... . I love what we do, but I would like to know how it feels to be deeply attached to a beautiful *place* that speaks my name.... the way StillMeadow did for Gladys and the way a certain HillFarm does for someone else who writes beautifully!

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    1. Such a beautiful comment, Sallie. Thank you. I feel the same way about living different lives. Maybe I get that from reading? I know I'd love to have a little place in England, preferably Oxford.

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  19. I loved every word of this post, Nan. All my Gladys books are near my bedroom door and for decades I've made a habit of pulling them out one at a time each month to read through the year with her. Some books get skipped each month when I run out of time but my books are falling apart from 40 years use. I would comb used bookstores for them and slowly got all of them except one of the Still Cove books. I have a few of her fiction books too. I really believe that Gladys helped raise me! One of my dear friends tells me that I remind her of Gladys and I can't think of a better compliment.

    November lost a lot of its luster for me this year but it had always been my 2nd favorite month. December, October, then January--cream of the crop.

    It's funny about you writing something similar to Gladys. I wonder sometimes too if I'm unintentionally doing the same thing. It does rub off when you love and reread some books over and over.

    From one Gladys fan to another,
    Dewena

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    1. Maybe it is because we are kindred spirits with her (and each other) that we think the same way sometimes. I love it that you have all her books but one. I have only a few, but hope for more as time goes on. I've never read any of the Still Cove books.

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