Posts Tagged ‘Childe Hassam’

Baker’s twine and Kraft paper;  items that bind boxes and bakery together into neat bundles of laundered shirts and school books. They are as useful as they are evocative of other eras, and they came to mind several times lately, reminding me of my childhood.

Bakeries – stand alone, family owned, old-fashioned bakeries – are harder to find these days. We are fortunate to have a most excellent Swedish bakery  nearby. I frequent it now-and-then for their outstanding pecan coffeecakes and the best hot cross buns during the Lenten season. A German bakery bustles, especially on Saturday mornings when the small shopper area is elbow-to-elbow and where the best molasses cookies and apple pie can be found. Earlier this week, I was on the hunt for a Czech bakery a friend recommended some time ago which is in another nearby suburb that once was peppered with many such bakeries.

I selected a few brownies and a cherry coffeecake for a special someone who I hoped would enjoy it. The checker, who was efficient if rather no-nonsense, quickly wrapped up my purchases, hand tying the boxes of sweet wonders as if strumming a guitar. Her motions were almost musical as she mentally measured the chord of string and tied my bundle in a sturdy bow, handed my bundle over and sang out “next”.

I think a few Linzer cookies might have made their way to my mouth as I drove away.

Later, homeward bound, I stopped at The Farm. The Farm it is a favored summer vendor of mine for produce – and flowers. They grow most of the flowers they sell from a large plot of land behind the old barn from which vegetables, fruit, honey and seasonal items are sold, especially sweet corn.

I selected some bell peppers, pickles, plums and peaches. A jar of honey was set in the cart . . . and then, there were the fresh cut flowers, bundled in sturdy vases of Kraft paper. The bouquets reminded me of bouquets long before the plastic sleeves without a soul that we find today – and they reminded me of my grandmother.

Yia Yia grew a circle of zinnias every year in our back yard.  Come September, a few days after school resumed, Yia Yia would pick the choices zinnias from the garden and gather them together in a bouquet. She would wrap them securely in newspapers, creating a vase to keep the stems together, sending me off to school with a glorious garden bouquet for my teacher.

I selected a bouquet, not the zinnias, but instead an arrangement with hydrangea and grasses, knowing they would sit comfortably in front of the window, where they will primp and pose until they are passed their prime. It will be right about then that more sweet corn will be calling – and perhaps a bouquet of zinnias will follow me home then.

I am sorry for the darkness of the photos here. I tried to lighten them up, unsuccessfully. I hope you have an idea of the textures in the bouquet.

Do you use baker’s twine? How about Kraft paper?

A little on-line research, and a few off-line gardening books, brought me to Childe Hassam’s painting, At the Florist, which is pictured on top of this post. The bouquets from The Farm reminded me of Hassam’s painting.









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As we dip into Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, we find each day a wee bit shorter. The slant of the sun cuts deeper. Dusk arrives a moment earlier than the day before. There is a change in the air, imperceptible at first, more certain when the Harvest Moon arrives.

This is the most magical of seasons as nature slowly prepares for winter. Where would we be without Autumn? What force of nature would strew seeds from summer’s bounty with such precision? Where we get a palette of colors so rich and varied and inviting?

Here on the Cutoff, the squirrels are busy gathering nuts. One leapt across the lawn yesterday, short hops then long leaps, the letter S in perpetual motion. He had a walnut, still in its husk, wedged in his mouth, and looked like a fur-bit carrying a holiday ornament in search of a fir tree. He stopped in his serpentine movements, gave me the once-cover, then scurried away, with nary a sound. To chatter would have meant losing the walnut he fully intended to bury somewhere.  He’ll never remember where, but, bury it he will. Maybe, just maybe, a tree will grow from his long-forgotten stash.

The deer have begun their rut. It is quite a sight to behold. I always know when a buck is around by the leaping and running of the does. It’s a wonder to watch them in their homecoming dance; myself a chaperone from the window. Careful observation usually finds a randy stag on the perimeter, choosing just the right girl to waltz with.

Birds swoop in masses, eat seeds, and drink from the bird baths. Some will stay for the winter. Most will fly south to warmer climes. Soon, we will hear the gurgling trumpets of sandhill cranes high above the clouds. Canadian geese will gather and fly in their signature V pattern as they head to their seasonal refuges. The hummingbirds and wren will venture south.

For me, it is time to begin clearing out the potted plants. The heat, then the cool weather and forceful winds that came through have had their way with some sorry specimens that need to be culled. This is a welcome chore, however, for the vegetation will make its way to the compost heap; fodder for worms and the rich, new blankets of soil to enrich our gardens.

Autumn, itself, is fodder for the coming year. It is a slow preparation for the long winter months , but, I’m getting ahead of the seasons in thinking that, for first there is Autumn to enjoy, with all its color and richness, scents and excitement. It is fodder for the soul.

Off I got, a-pottering.

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In abeyance

columbus-avenue-rainy-day-1885.jpg!BlogA few posts are in abeyance, waiting, patiently, to be aired while I’m on the road.

I’m hoping, since I will be traveling solo this trip, that I don’t encounter rain on the way.  Things seem to be leaking on the Cutoff; our refrigerator and the windshield of our mocha colored VW with a latte interior. I am roaming today, with towels left on the kitchen floor, and towels in the car, just in a case of a downpour, though I would sure love to see a rainbow along the way.

I went to the library in Westchester yesterday, as it was the only library around that had an unchecked copy of the book we are reading for our September discussion group.  I also picked up  a few audio books  -well, actually four audio books. I just couldn’t decide. They will keep me company, along with Wisconsin’s wonderful public radio broadcasts – or, I may just listen to the quiet,  watch the corn and soybeans and diary farms pass me by and think about the prairie.

As long as I was in Westchester, I stopped, for a second time this week, at the Wolf Road Prairie. I hope to show you some pictures soon, along with our own burgeoning attempt at prairie plants and grasses.

A basket of food is packed for nourishment, and I’m anticipating a few scenic stops along the way. Do you pack up food for a long road trip?

Well, the  grandchildren are waiting, so, off I go, bidding you fair-thee-well until I’m online again.

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t_Childe Hassam - Snow shovels, New EnglandI relish living with four distinct seasons: the crispness of winter, the hopefulness of spring, the freedom of summer’s warmth, and the brilliance of autumn.  I relish each in turn and am often in awe of the beauty of each. This winter, however, is wearing thin, which is odd as it has not been a hard winter, as hard winters go hereabouts.

Our latest snow was but a few inches; not much for the Chicago area, and, as I am told, not particularly hard to shovel as shoveling snow goes. Easy for me to say, of course, as I sat at my desk, all cozy and warm, while the Antler Man was out making a path, a very long path, for me to escape from.

So why, I wonder, has it seemed like such a long winter? Could it be just that feeling come February that those of us in northern climes experience? Cabin fever, no matter how many inches accumulate, how many degrees the mercury dips, or that we’ve even been holed up in our cabins that long? Is it just time to begin feeling restless?

I pondered this cabin fever I have as I looked out at the new fallen snow, with all its beauty clinging to tree limbs and cars, mailboxes and urns, a great expanse of confectioner’s delight on a late winter’s day.

The cardinals and starlings were at the suet feeder and a pair of red-tailed hawks were doing their winged waltz up above.

A neighbor’s dog could be seen, running in frenetic circles, a little black storm cloud amid the white snow.

Two squirrels chatted, up on a limb, their bushy tails curled up in question marks,as they inquired of each other’s day, wondering, perhaps, where the last of the walnuts were buried.

The deer are so much easier to see in the snow. One stood, stock still,  just beyond the arbor, watching as I went out to check the mail. I had interrupted her afternoon break, a frozen white smoothie in the birdbath.

As I trudged through the slush and the snow, like Susie in her galoshes along in the slush, I noticed movement beyond. I stopped. When one lives on a road called the Cutoff, one learns to stop often, to listen, to watch. There they were, an outdoor classroom of creatures, recess from a spell of yarding up, all prancing from east to west, leaping over the driveway; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight, together, nine, ten, eleven and twelve. Their graceful movement and precision a sight to behold; Swan Lake in hooves atop the snowy Cutoff stage. I wanted to clap, Bravo, encore,  more, but, then they were gone, into the forest. I picked up the mail, trudged back to my cabin, the doe still sipping her tea, and I thought, spring is coming, with all its hopefulness, and maybe, perhaps, I could endure a bit more of winter after all.


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I had just finished a light read,  A Memory Between Us, by Sarah Sundin, and have been slogging through The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, when the urge to spend some time in one of my gardening books came over me. I needed the tender words and love of gardening of a woman who lived in another time and another place  but whose words were still relevant today and I was hungry for the beautiful paintings of one of the great Impressionists. Celia Thaxter and Childe Hassam were tucked into a beautiful book sleeve, sitting, quite nicely, on a shelf, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Does this ever happen to you? Piles of books all around, several with bookmarks peaking a third of the way through, with nothing to really satisfy you but a treasured volume hidden upon a shelf?

An Island Garden was reissued about ten years ago, reproduced with the art nouveau cover of its time with an introduction by none other than Tasha Tudor. The book follows the island garden, in the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, through a year. The prose is poetic and beautifully crafted and the illustrations are by a friend of Celia Thaxter’s, Childe Hassam, who came summers to stay at Appledore House Hotel, where Celia worked with her family, who owned the hotel, acting as hostess. The hotel was a haven for artistes of the day, Hassam being one. Hassam and Thaxter became friends and he returned to the Isles of Shoals many times, painting some of his most memorable works there.

He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters the world with a passion for flowers in his soul. Celia Baxter, An Island Garden, page 4

From her earliest memories, Celia loved flowers. When she was four years old, her family moved to White Island, in the Isles of Shoals, where her father was the lighthouse keeper. A lonely place for a young child, young Celia grew to love the natural beauty of the island. The experience cemented not only her love of gardens, but, the islands themselves. That she shared her garden in 1894, near the end of her life, with words and images that still resonate today, is a gift to the reader; a time to reflect, to slow down, to listen to the rhythms of the wind and the soil and the seasons. That her friend illustrated it with such remarkable splendor only makes it all-the-more-special in An Island Garden.

I’m glad I acted on that urge to delve into one of my gardening books, to visit a nearby shelf, to slip the book out of its booksleeve and open its wondrous pages. It is good to be refreshed and renewed with the beauty of good words and beautiful paintings, is it not?

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