Balcony Books

In St. Johnsbury, Vermont there is a gem, a real gem, not a shiny bauble, but something truly valuable. It is called the Athenaeum.  Built in 1871, it stands proudly on Main Street as a monument to the beautiful architecture known as the Second Empire. As lovely on the inside as it is on the outside one finds oneself gaping at the Victorian-style design which highlights intricate paint/stencil schemes, detailed moldings, creative natural lighting, and unique painting installations. Two years after it was built, Horace Fairbanks who was the manufacturer of the world’s first platform scale, added an art gallery. The gallery’s black walnut walls and floor fairly gleam with the light that streams down from an arched skylight in the ceiling.

I first stepped into this luxuriant space just over a year ago. I was so taken by the beauty that I could scarcely breath.  The artwork in the gallery is exquisite and includes an amazing still life the likes of which I have never seen before. In fact, I’ve always thought still life was a bit of a bore until I encountered this one. However, (and you knew there would be a however, didn’t you?) what I love most are the books. Well, not all of the books, of course.  I love the books of the balcony. The books that one must climb to attain. The lovely walnut stairs that spiral like a perfect nautilus draw me up to a world where books worth reading rest in the hope of once again being caressed and perused and loved.

Today I climbed those stairs alone for the first time. You see, I thought they were off limits until three weeks ago when I asked for a book that I heard about on a radio program I listen to. The book was called To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston, and it dated back to 1900. The volume I checked out was from 1904. I finished it this afternoon and immediately went to the Athenaeum (I love that name, don’t you?) and started my quest for the next treasured book. I plan to go from one end to the other, so I started at the back wall. OH, don’t I wish my children were young again, for there in that corner were my beloved Bobbsey Twin books!

I was not searching for something for children though. Perhaps another Mary Johnston volume like the one I greedily devoured over the last two weeks. It was based in my beloved Virginia when the settlement was young, and the world was new. I could see the landscape.  I could smell the air. I knew the names of John Rolfe, Governor Wyatt, Capt. Percy and Opechancanough. I imagined the palisade, the fort, the ships. I heard the birdsong, and I was home again! OH to visit sweet Jamestown again!

Before I could find Mary Johnston’s books, I found another favorite of mine…Sigrid Undset whose stirring novel of the life of Kristin Lavransdatter had taken me to Norway. Ah, Norway, a land I may never see, but one I love nonetheless! My mother’s mother was full Norwegian, so I am drawn to it.  Thanks to the lovely books of the balcony at the gem called the Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, I am on my way on another journey to Norway with Sigrid.

Recommended reading:



To Blog or Not to Blog that IS the Question!

So this week is opening week of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I’ve been tired all week…too tired to do anything really. I’ve done some usual things this week.

On Monday, I made purple satin pantaloons and did the dishes. At rehearsal that night, I filled in for one of the actresses who thought she’d take it literally and break her leg. It’s not broken thank God because I don’t want her role! (I could do it if I had to, but it’s an opium selling prostitute…like I said, I don’t want the role.)

Tuesday, I got up so as to do something worthwhile only to fall asleep while reading my Bible. I was reading Leviticus so can you blame me? I then slept until almost eleven. I decided that I should wear a wig in the play because my hair is so short, so I spent the afternoon styling one. When Kreg got home he remarked how there was a body-less woman on the front porch…I had forgotten that I stuck the wig head on the broom so the wig could dry in the sun. Imagine if I had had guests!

Wednesday I finished Leviticus…do you know how many silver trays were given for the Tabernacle? (12) Dry book that one! Though Numbers which I started isn’t much better…do you know how many men twenty year old or older who were able to serve in the army who were from the tribe of Dan? (62,700) I made the bed because Kreg says it makes him feel loved when I do. It seems like a such a strange thing to make someone feel he’s loved. I should do it everyday since I love him everyday, but then it might become less special to him. At least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t make the bed! I also went out and raked some leaves. I broke the rake, so now I don’t have to rake the leaves anymore! Before rehearsal I worked some more on the set. I’m decorating Cloisterham High Street. So far, I’ve created Nell’s dress and hat shop and Miss Havisham’s bakery (wedding cakes are half off!). Miss Flite’s Fanciful Flowers is almost done with a large vase that looks like a pineapple with sunflowers growing out of it. I still need to paint a birdcage in her store front. Yes, Cloisterham is an interesting village having no fewer than three shops owned by characters from other Dickens’ novels.  They live there because I want them to not because they really do!  (By the way, if you’ve never read The Olde Curiosity Shop, Great Expectations or Bleak House, let me encourage you to do so. They’re marvelous!)

It’s Thursday now, and I’ve been to Berlin, Montpelier and Barre.  If you were here, I would have taken you to a fabulous consignment shop in Montpelier where I wanted to buy a coat.  Not just any coat but a shin-length fake ocelot fur coat! It looked amazing on me, and were I made of money it would now be mine!  I could just hear Kreg’s voice inside my head, “Yvonne, really?!” In Berlin, I would have taken you to see my rheumatologist where I was told that I’d lost 24 pounds in the last year…it’s really 30, because I started before I saw this doctor for the first time. But whose counting? In Barre, we would have gotten into a traffic jam before finding a delightful thrift store.

So back to the question, “To blog or not to blog?” Am I too tired to think of anything to write? Apparently not. Did anything happen that was noteworthy? Not really. But isn’t that what life is all about? Would we really want  a life of adventure and unexpected events? I doubt it.  The man changing is tire on the side of the road is a good example of why not. How lovely to have a quiet week!  OH wait!  Opening night is tomorrow! Sigh, somehow I don’t think my life is all that quiet.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 96:9

Purple Bloomers Vs. Dirty Dishes

This morning  I could hardly see straight when I got up. Yesterday and Saturday I worked on the set for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Then we had dress rehearsal until ten. By the time I got home I was too tired to sleep. My skin and joints hurt from fibromyalgia so a comfortable position in bed was next to impossible. When I awoke I determined that I would get up and get something done even though I was exhausted.

In the kitchen sat the dishes which had been accumulating over the last few days. Since it’s only Kreg and I there are never many, but still the sink had been full when I left yesterday. Oddly enough, the sink was empty…Sweet Hubby had kindly stacked the dishes beside the sink. Wasn’t that thoughtful of him? I chose to be the bigger person, and do them even though my nasty side asked why he didn’t just do them when he was stacking them.

Doesn’t he realize I would rather be sewing purple bloomers, than doing dishes? Doesn’t he realize that to me costumes and sets and the rest of the make believe world is more real than the humdrum  right now? The play will soon be over, and I will do the mundane things then. These days are fleeting! The dishes can wait!

Oh, well, I washed the dishes (didn’t put them away though…passive aggressive response, ay?) And I made myself a jolly pair of purple bloomers to boot! My, ain’t I industrious!

Eyes Like Sapphire Toenails

ImageThere is  a rather strange category on Jeopardy called “Before and After” where they link two dissimilar phrases that have one word in common. For me, it is almost always insolvable because I just don’t normally think that way. However, today, a phrase like that came to me. You see, I was contemplating my toenails…strange, I know. I painted them blue at the beginning of September in honor of my birth-month’s birthstone.  It’s a lovely color called “Eyes Like Sapphire” by OPI.  However, sadly, September of 2013 is now history.  I’ve celebrated my birthday on the tenth, my daughter’s on the twenty-secondth (is that even a word?) and my husband’s on the thirtieth.  I won’t list everyone else in my family who has a September birthday or I’ll be doing nothing today but making a list.

So back to this toenail discourse…It is October and my toenails are still blue! True they kind of look like French nail done in blue rather than white, but the fact that they are still blue speaks to the issue of the passage of time.  I seem to be delaying dealing with that issue. If I leave my toenails blue will it lengthen the days I love so much?  I love September! It’s my month! I bless the day I was born!  I bless the day my hubby was born! I bless the day my firstborn, my Baby Girl, my Whitney was born!  Psalm 136:13-16 put the significance of our birth this way:

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Is it any wonder I love my birth-month? On the other hand, it’s not the month of my conception which is what the Psalm really addresses. After all, that’s when life begins! Maybe I should celebrate my conception-month. Oddly enough that leads me back to October…this is my mother’s birth-month. Ah, now how shall I celebrate my mother’s birth? Toes like Opals? Each month has a gift of it’s own, it may be a person’s birthday, an event, or something as simple as the first snow of winter, the first flowers of spring or the pleasure of painting your toenails a new color.



Time in a Hammock


King Solomon said there is a season for everything.  Everything is so fleeting that it’s hard to keep up. I love the lazy days of summer. People who know me, know that I love the sunshine and heat of the long daylight hours of July and August. And nothing is quite as lovely as spending those days in a hammock. This summer was not one of those summers. It was rainy and, in my opinion, cold. I have never experienced a summer like it! Ugh!

However, the weather was perfectly suited to working on the house renovations that so desperately needed to be completed in our cottage home. The hours when I would have loved languishing in the hammock, were spent scraping and painting, bashing and slashing, banging and hanging. At one point I was on my belly under the claw-foot bathtub which was jacked up just high enough for me to squish under. It was the only way we could lay tile under it without taking out a wall to take the bathtub out of the room! Can you imagine how difficult that was? No, probably not. (It probably looked pretty hilarious too!)  In the end it was worth the effort because we saved a lot of money by tiling the room ourselves.  In fact, all the hard work has paid off because most of the work got done on a shoestring budget, and the improvements have fixed a lot of problems. Plus, it looks great!

That lovely hammock hanging in my yard on the bank of Joes Brook has hung dutifully waiting for me all summer. Poor, sad hammock would probably turn itself upside-down into a frown if it could. Four days ago, Kreg suggested it might be time to take it down. I don’t want to. I want to go rest in it. I want summertime to return, so that I can indulge in the peace of lying in the shade on a shimmering summer day.  Oh well, to everything there is a season: a time to hang up the hammock and a time to store the hammock away.  The Bible also says that hope springs eternal, and my hope is in the Lord who holds me in the hammock of His arms every moment of everyday.  May you find rest in His arms today…I know I will!


And now, O LORD, for what do I wait?

My hope is in You.

                                                                                                                                     Psalm 39: 7(ESV)

Peek-a-Boo Sunshine

The sun is playing peek-a-boo today. I am sitting in my living room knowing full-well that I should not be. There is work to be done, but still I sit.  When the sun breaks through the spaces between the clouds I feel like doing something, anything! But then the clouds overtake the inconstant sun and my enthusiasm wanes…no rather, it disappears like a vapor. Sir Gibbie, the fattest, youngest and only male cat in our family of six  (my husband Kreg, my dog Reine, the sister twins Cosette and Eponine, Gibbie and me) returns time and again to claim my affection. I can’t deny him, can I ? So sweetly trusting that I will be there when he returns it would be shameful to leave him abandoned to an empty chair.

What a blessing it is to have time to sit, to not be pressured by deadlines and overwhelming schedules. But Proverbs talks about laziness. Proverbs 6:9-11 says,

How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–

and poverty will come on you like a thief, and scarcity like an armed man.

Poverty and scarcity are not blessings, so I guess it’s time to rouse myself (and Sir Gibbie) and get something done…sunshine or no!