"From my desk I can look out through the old bubbly glass panes in the window. There are twelve panes above, eight panes below, and it is very hard to wash clear to the corners of them. But since the house was built around 1690, I can only be thankful that the old windows were never ripped out."
So Gladys Taber introduced Stillmeadow Seasons, one of the books I've returned to over and over since I was a teenager. It is based on the regular column, "Diary of Domesticity," which she wrote for the Ladies Home Journal beginning in 1937. She also wrote the "Butternut Wisdom" column for Family Circle from 1959-1967. Stillmeadow Farm is the home in the Connecticut countryside she and her husband bought with another couple so they could spend weekends away from the city. She taught English at Lawrence College and Columbia University. After both husbands had passed away, Gladys and her friend Jill lived at Stillmeadow full time.
"Pheasants flash up from the meadow, and rabbits and woodchucks live there, and little velvet field mice, and now and then a secret otter follows the course of the hidden brook. The deer do not venture so near the house, but sometimes a red fox streaks up the hill."
The column might have been called "Diary of Domesticity," but she also wrote extensively about nature, community and family. Bits of homegrown -- and very sensible -- philosophy creep into her writings. There is no story, per se. It does read like a diary. Or maybe, even, a blog. She did, however write over fifty books, some of them fiction.
"The story of our life is written in white tulips set in the Quiet Garden, in tomatoes ripening on the vine, in puppies bouncing through the great snowdrifts. It is inscribed with the scent of dark purple lilacs, the satiny touch of
eggplant, the swift falling of golden leaves."
She's a writer who focused on the domestic and living a simple life. Look at how she appeals to all the senses, creates an atmosphere of peace, conveys the bucolic with neither pathos nor apology. The reason I come back to this -- and her other books -- over and over is because in the dead of winter they tell me of spring, in the heat of summer they offer cool respite, and whatever the season, they invariably provide a sense of calm.
The past few days have been a little crazy. Gladys Taber once again reminded me to relax and think about what's really important.
Taber's books are out of print, but you can still find them in libraries, through interlibrary loan, and used on the Internet. If the snippets of her writing above appeal to you, do consider tracking down one or two. It's worth the trouble.