28 December 2013

"Light the lamp, not the rat!"

Ebenezer Scrooge Gravesite — Shrewsbury, Shropshire England
I will sail a friendly course,
file a friendly chart,
on a sea of love and thankful heart.

It's that time of year, when I find myself getting out all the various interpretations of "A Christmas Carol" and basking in the time-worn but essential lesson of kindness over and over again.

Thanks to the generosity of friends and family I have no fewer than seven versions of the wonderful tale on videotape or DVD, and all are favorites for different reasons. 

Who can argue that Patrick Stewart isn't a remarkable Scrooge?  With his voice like a rich pudding, grumbling one minute and bellowing the next. And his beautifully expressive face, scowling disapproval. And his energetic body, erect and unyielding in his stinginess or leaping like a child and giggling in the final scenes of redemption.

George C. Scott, on the other hand, is the most forbidding of the brood, and his version appeals to me on a personal level.  I have walked the very "shuts" (lanes) where it was filmed in the city of Shrewsbury (Shropshire), including wandering through St. Chad's graveyard one evening and gazing down (in disbelief!) at the long tablet stone with it's ominous and chillingly carved name.

Alistair Sim isn't brooding at all, despite being a mean-hearted fellow. And yet there is no one who captures Scrooge's sheer zany giddiness and genuine warmth on Christmas morning when he realizes he is still very much alive and able to renounce his miserly ways.  His interaction with his maid on the stairwell always makes me laugh out loud.

Music is such an integral part of Christmas, and I do enjoy the musical version of the story, featuring Albert Finney. The soaring chorus that accompanies the beautiful watercolor drawings in the opening credits perfectly sets the tone for the Victorian spirit of an English Christmas.  And Finney is brilliant as Scrooge from his opening scowl to his final geriatric romp on Christmas morning -- opening all the curtains and letting light into his darkened home and heart.

And then there is the version set in New England during the Depression, starring Henry Winkler as a miserly man, who spends his time reposessing the worldly goods of the town's poorest residents. At first it's a bit jarring to have a different landscape, a more recent time period, and the flat American accents. But the story transcends these variations and Winkler's response to the final apparition is heart-rending.

But my favorite version, hands down, has Michael Caine as Scrooge, supported by a cast of Muppets decked out in full Victorian splendor. Their word for word version of the tale is so endearing, so heart-warming, so hilarious, it is the first one I watch every year.  Narrated by Charles Dickens (aka Gonzo) and his faithful side kick (Rizzo the Rat), it's heart-lightening to see the story unfold to the point where I actually forget I'm watching humans and puppets interact and can simply let myself get carried away on the tender tutorial of opening one's heart to the spirit of Christmas. (Although I don't actually remember the scene in Dickens's original story where a lamplighter lights a rat's tail by mistake...) 

It's in the giving of a gift to another,
a pair of mittens that were made by your mother,
it's all the ways that we show love
that feel like Christmas.
A part of Childhood we'll always remember.
It's the summer of the soul in December.
Yes, when you do your best for love
it feels like Christmas.

Yes, indeed it does.

19 December 2013

Down the lane, tree tops glisten....

The snow here in southern New England hasn't been very memorable, but that's fine with me during these busy weeks before Christmas.  And it's early days, yet.  The real snow doesn't fall until the year turns and we're deep into the dim, cloud-heavy days of mid-winter.

We've had two small squalls so far, each of them dropping a pretty 'icing' on trees and gardens. The last one turned to rain overnight, leaving a thick carpet of sleet on the roads and pavement and making them something of a challenge to negotiate on foot. But it's all part of the season and I wouldn't change it for anything. 

Once Christmas Day has come and gone, and the New Year has been celebrated, I'll be hunkering down and readying myself for the window-rattling winds that whistle down the chimney.  Perhaps we'll have a blizzard... or two.  One never knows in this neck of the woods.  The salt air of the ocean sometimes interferes, shifting the snow line further north.

If we do find ourselves in the grip of a heavy snow, I hope it's the sort that keeps us all indoors and off the roads. The kind of storm that leads to ventures to the mailbox in your nightgown, lots of wood fires on the grate, endless pots of tea with cinnamon toast or scones, and comradely shoveling larks in late afternoon, once the flakes begin to wane, waving over the road to one another.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone
Snow was falling, snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter, long ago
Christina Rosetti

A soft blanket of snow at a loved one's cabin on the coast of Maine. Our time will come...

16 December 2013

Daddy's Little Tomboy

Lest my father be overlooked in all my recent talk of domestic bliss and 'homely' skills, I must give him credit for many lessons learned while in his care. I was his only "son" for eleven years... until the appearance of my two brothers, after which my reign ended. But until then I was schooled in a variety of comradely pastimes, and witness to many of his quirky character traits, the benefit of which I recognize in my adult life nearly every day.

By the age of twelve I knew how to salt-water fish, casting my line from slippery rocks overlooking the bay. Stopping at the bait shop on our way, he taught me the economy of buying only enough clam worms to catch Choggies near the rocks. Once our pail was full of the "scavenger" fish, we'd use them to catch flounder further out. While I wasn't enamored of slicing and dicing the Choggies, they were certainly a less "creepy" alternative to the slippery millipedes we'd purchased.  Years later, my beat up tackle box became a recepticle for my paint brushes, sketching pencils and watercolors, and each time I open it I'm reminded of fishing with my dad on the bay.

Thanks to frequent trips with my father to various sporting events, or simply sitting next to him and watching them on television, I came to understand just about every sport imaginable. (And since my father was left-handed, I also learned not to sit to his right if I didn't want to get punched in the arm when our team scored.) While I never formally participated in any sports as a child, I loved taking my turn in the nightly whiffle ball games under the street lights each summer. And when I was much older, I enjoyed a brief stint as scorekeeper for his neighborhood softball team.  An early result of all this was that I found it easy to talk with boys in school, and as an adult am eager to talk sports with male friends and family members. And I'm sure it's why I tend to mark the seasons not only with the variance in my gardening chores but also with the coming and going of the different sporting events I follow: beginning with tennis and baseball in the Spring and moving on to football and hockey in the fall and winter.

After watching my father build or fix just about everything in (and out) of our house throughout my childhood, I came to appreciate the joy that comes from trying to do things myself before calling in the professionals. Hence, my frequent wing-walking escapades on ladders, my request for a proper tool kit one Christmas, and a dangerous penchant for clearing out my own gutters or switching out storm windows. (With a grateful nod to my dear neighbor who frequently 'spots' me on these aerial excursions.) And thanks to my weekly outings with my father to the local Ace Hardware or Hay & Grain store, I would much rather walk into a Home Depot than a chic boutique, preferring the scent of sawdust over the cloying whiff of flavored candles.

My father approached life like a twelve-year-old. His "goofball" quotient was quite high and we never knew what mischief he might get up to next.  He was a rule breaker and a clown and had the spontaneity of a 12 year old on a sugar high. Would he come home with a puppy?  A Volkswagen convertible?  A camper? (He did all three at one time or another, to my mother's chagrin.)  He woke me at dawn once to walk with him to the rail yard to watch the Circus Train pull into town. We stood and watched as they raised the enormous tents on the tent ground. He walked me to Kindergarten one day wearing his policeman's uniform even though it was his day off, simply because I'd asked him to.  Later in life, when he worked as a telephone linesman, he would stop his truck if he saw me walking home from school and let me ride in the back, which I'm sure was against several different regulations. He embodied the old joke that a good friend might bail you out of jail, but a great friend would be sitting next to you in the cell saying, "Wasn't that fun?" He was a great friend. As a result I have never been afraid of breaking a few rules or taking chances. His boyish approach to life paved the way for my own escapades and risk-taking: sleeping outside at Stonehenge; fare-hopping a train from Boulogne to Calais when I'd missed the last ferry; sneaking into a deserted mansion the night before it was demolished... just a few of my ill-considered shenanigans.

My father and mother were both responsible for my love of books. Each pay day my father would bring me a Golden Book throughout my early childhood, and every night my mother would read to me. Not only fairy tales but poetry. Our favorite was The Golden Book of Poetry. The illustrations were magical and the poems were a wealth of descriptive language that fed my mind and developed my love for words and keen love of reading.

Zoon, zoon, cuddle and croon—
Over the crinkling sea,
The moon man flings him a sivered net
Fashioned of moonbeams three.

And some folk say when the net lies long
And the midnight hour is ripe;
The moon man fishes for some old song
That fell from a sailor's pipe. 

I also learned to appreciate the importance of humor from my father who was as irreverent as they come. There was never an event or situation that didn't benefit from his sarcasm or pithy remark to lighten the mood or allay our fears.  To this day, I'm sure my reliance on self-deprecating humor to meet and greet life's tragedies and setbacks is in no small part to his example.  Following his death, my mother's humor stepped into the light from behind the large shadow he cast, and over recent years I have come to appreciate her deadly, dry wit, most often displayed during our lowest moments of loss or pain together. Laughing in the face of sorrow, hurt and disappointment is surely one of the most important lessons she and my father shared with me.

Indeed, on the occasion of his death he had the biggest laugh of all, at our expense.  Having died in winter, there was no way to have a stone raised over his grave until the ground had thawed.  For weeks we visited his gravesite, following the directions of the cemetery groundsman to find the dull patch of earth where he'd been buried, crying silently and leaving flowers.  It was only when the stone was raised that we realized we'd been standing over the wrong grave. My father would have thought that was hilarious.

11 December 2013

All That Fall

A few weeks ago I had the extraordinary good fortune to watch two of my favorite actors perform in New York City.  Dame Eileen Atkins has won numerous awards in British theatre, television, and film. And she has appeared in, or been responsible for, so many of my favorite television programs—most of them broadcast on PBS—that it's difficult to narrow down my favorite. She was one of the chief creators of the original Upstairs, Downstairs series as well as House of Eliot.  Although if hard pressed, I would have to say her role of Miss Deborah, the elder strait-laced sister in Cranford, based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, was easily one of my favorites.

Sir Michael Gambon has been in countless films and television series over the years—including the disturbing Peter Greenaway flick The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and her Lover—although his depiction of Inspector Maigret is perhaps the character I've enjoyed most.  (More recently, he crossed over into pop culture in his recurring role as Dumbledore, filling the wizardly shoes of another fine actor, the late Richard Harris.) His theatre awards are many, and he is considered a "bright light" in British theatre, appearing frequently with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Royal National Theatre.  He, too, had a role in Cranford as the elderly Mr. Holbrook, whose courtship with the endearing Miss Matty, years earlier, was thwarted by her spinster sister, Miss Deborah.

Samuel Becket's All That Fall was written as a radio play, but director Trevor Nunn guided the actors to a happy medium: dressed for their roles, they held scripts and limited their movements to suit the various sound effects that peppered the production—blaring car horns, clopping horses, braying farm animals, arriving trains, and the dull scrape of Mrs. Rooney's feeble steps as she walks to the station to meet her blind husband.

That is the sum of the action: a walk to the rail station, meeting her husband, and their walk home. But it is fraught with pathos, humor, defeat, tragedy, and what Stefan Brook-Grant calls "the deeper melody of the pain of existence."

We also had a chance to be a bit star struck, finding Mr. Gambon and several members of his cast drinking coffee before the production in the same small cafe where we'd taken shelter from the cold. We were polite and kept to ourselves, but I was grinning from ear to ear at the sight of Miss Deborah and Mr. Holbrook.

27 November 2013

Giving Thanks

A Wooded Path in Autumn by Hans Anderson Brendekild
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
— Marcel Proust

There is so much in life to make us happy,
so much abundance, and all of it so simple,
that it gives one the sense of being unworthy.
Those who make me laugh. Out loud.
Those whose caring and generosity is unconditional.
Music that brings me to tears. Or makes me want to vacuum.
Train rides that carry me off onto landscapes that hold me captivated for hours.
The alchemy of making the perfect cup of tea.
The birds who nest on the house each spring.
The call of crows each morning as they leave their roosts in the cemetery.
The song of robins at twilight.
The first glimpse of paint-box colored primroses pushing through earth.
The scent of dried seedheads in the fall.
The aroma of bacon in the house on Saturday mornings.
The sound of the postman at the mailbox and the discovery of a letter from a friend.
The heft of wool in my hands as I knit,
and the slow emergence of a sock, mitten or hat.
The way the wind howls in the hemlock at night.
The way the rain pelts the window panes.
The way the snow robes the garden arbors.
Being on time for the bus.
Getting entirely lost in a good book.
Dozing in a chair in the garden on a summer's day.
Opening packages from far away loved ones.
Sending packages to far away loved ones.
Sawing tree branches into firewood.
Building a fire on the grate.
The scent of the Christmas tree in the house.
Making soup on Sunday afternoons.
Opening a new bottle of wine.
Baking bread.
 Family dinners, family drives, and family sleep overs.
Being with family.
Having a cat wind around your ankles.
Having a dog rest his chin on your knee.
The scent of lavender water and steam as I iron.
Starting off on a road trip with a loved one.
Finding a package of Twizzlers in my purse.
Getting Chinese take-away on payday.
Having enough rainfall to fill the rain barrel in August.
Smiling back at people in your favorite paintings.
The transcendent sound of Church choirs.
Looking at old photographs.
Observing family traditions and rituals.
Learning family history.
Watching squirrels in the back yard.
Eating cookies warm from the oven.
Kissing and hugging my family and friends.
Eating waxed-paper wrapped sandwiches on the beach in summer.
Drinking thermoses of hot tea on the beach in winter.
Sitting on a bench by the bay and watching the boats sail past.
Watching football or hockey games on television.
Going to hockey games and eating cheese fries.
Riding the merry-go-round with my mother.
Eating ice cream cones with my daughter.
Coloring with my granddaughter.
Riding go-karts with my grandson.
Watching my grandchildren at the lake each summer.
Spinning wool on my wheel.
Watching "A Muppets Christmas Carol" each year. 
Reading "Wuthering Heights" each Autumn.
Putting my socks and nightgown on the radiator on cold nights.
Listening to crickets under the porch window in late summer.
Waking up each morning.
For all this and so much more I am heartily thankful.

15 November 2013

Domesticity: a personal history

Yes.... I keep my ironing basket under the kitchen table.

Not surprisingly, the Matcher book on Domesticity provoked my own memories of when and why I came to enjoy the skills most associated with 'nesting'. 

Remember these?
When I was six years old, I was given a square metal loom on which I would stretch colored loops to make pot holders. Numerous trips up the road to McClellan's Five & Ten would result in more and more bags of the brightly hued loops. Using the small metal hook to pull them in the "in and out" pattern, I would sit for hours and make the waffle-grid squares. I doubt if any of them still exist in my mother's kitchen, but for several years she received them from me by the gross.

By the time I was eight years old I'd been taught how to knit and crochet. My humble projects were nothing like the spider-like lace my mother summoned forth from impossibly small crochet hooks, or the flower garden afghans that tumbled off her knitting needles. But I did my best and had several crocheted doll hats and knitted hot pads to show for it.  (One of those hot pads did manage to survive and although it became slightly felted over the years, it is pressed into service now and then on her table.)

Still knitting, after all these years.
At the age of 12 or so I was taught how to embroider.  Another trip to McClellans yielded my first embroidery hoop and a set of white pillow cases with a pale blue design stamped along the edge. Elementary cross-stiches led to more challenging ones: french knots, silk stitch, and tiny loops that became daisy petals. Although my embroidery skills were fairly decent, my grandmother, who lived with us until I was a teenager, had the exasperating habit of checking the back of my work which invariably looked like a labyrinthian transit map. I was sent back to start again until the back looked as neat as the front.

My local fabric store.
Throughout my teens, I continued to embroider now and then, adding crewel to my needlework repertoire. (My mother still uses a small pin cushion I made for her in those days.) Around this time, I also ventured into the world of sewing, having watched my mother make clothes for us and herself for so many years. Her big brown Westinghouse machine—which perported to be "portable" but took both of us to heft onto the kitchen table—became my new plaything as I produced Hallowe'en costumes, coat-dresses, skirts, and peasant dresses. I adored our trips to the fabric store where the walls were filled to the ceiling with bolts of materials and you could stand for hours perusing cards of beautiful buttons, or rows of colorful zippers, and wooden spools of thread in a rainbow of shades to match whatever fabric you'd picked. And oh the hours I spent flipping through the enormous Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue pattern books.  (Project Runway, eat your heart out....)

By way of complete disclosure I must admit that despite all this flurry of needle plying, my chief love during my teen years was actually barricading myself in my bedroom to read ... and then writing my own poetry and short horror stories. In high school I pressed an English teacher into being the advisor for a writing group and we published our own poetry on the school press, allowing the public inside our hearts and minds for a peek at our very private and very angst-ridden work. Ah, youth...

I'm a baker so I always have eggs at the ready on the counter.
In my twenties, my domestic experiments brought me into the kitchen where I routinely baked my own bread, made my own soups from scratch, tried my hand at fying doughnuts,  picked fruit at a local farm to make jam, and learned as much as I could from Julia Child  about cooking with wine and from Gaston Lenôtre  about pastries you had to waken at 2am to put together so they'd be ready to consume by lunchtime.  I was also schooled by a friend as to how to make a mean dry martini and received an invaluable lesson on opening wine with an antiquated corkscrew which I still own and affectionately refer to as Monsieur Chaque fois [i.e., Mister Every Time] since it has never failed me, even with the driest most recalcitrant corks.  That same friend also taught me how to open champagne: not with a vulgar bang but with a lovely smothered *pop*, by cajoling the cork from the neck with a crisp white napkin. Both were lessons I took to heart.

My Ashford spinning wheel from New Zealand.
When I was in my thirties, a close childhood friend was responsible for my foray into fiber arts.  She owned a spinning wheel and a loom and I was besotted with the look, sound and meditative quality of it all. I enrolled in lessons, starting on the maddeningly difficult drop spindle and graduating to the relatively easy wheel.  I say relatively easy because the first few tries were very like rubbing your stomache and patting your head at the same time. But soon the rhythm felt just right and I was confident enough to send away for my own wheel, amazed at the size of the box when it arrived and further dumbfounded at my being able to put it together by myself.  On weekends in the spring I would visit a local farm to help with birthing the lambs or to watch wide-eyed while grown sheep were flipped unceremoniously on their backs to get shorn.  I would lean over the fencing and point to the fleece I wanted, and within an hour or so the beast would be divested of his lanolin-soaked coat, springing happily into the nearby field and no doubt feeling quite light on his feet after the sheering.  The fleece would be weighed and soon I'd be heading home with 18 lbs of wool to scour, comb, and spin into soft dark brown balls of yarn.

The first year in my own garden.
Within months of purchasing my cottage I spent an inordinate amount of time turning the front, side and rear property into the gardens of my dreams.  While I have never presumed to call myself a gardener-with-a-capital-G, I do enjoy all the pitfalls, joys, despair and successes inherent in amateur gardening and have found comfort in the rhythmic progression—and attendant chores—that the seasons bring.  Cleaning up in Spring, preparing soil, starting seedlings indoors, and then tending, weeding and enjoying them throughout the Summer; putting the beds to sleep in Autumn and then waiting and planning for the next year during the long Winter months.  Around this time I became more and more interested in drawing and painting, thanks to the inspiring images throughout Edith Holden's Edwardian diaries, and I enrolled in a watercolor course. Soon I was sketching and coloring humble representations of my own flowers, placing them in my journals to keep track of my garden's progress.

As I think back on this reconstructed history, it becomes clear to me that I have my mother and grandmothers to thank for imbuing my daily life with their mastery of these skills, and introducing me to so many of the tasks I still love... ironing, knitting, gardening, cooking. Observing them as they worked, benefitting from their advice, seeing the results of their patience and talent, were the inspiration for how I tend to spend my leisure time. By their example they showed me what pride and pleasure can come from a well wrought dress, a well cooked meal, a beautifully knit scarf, or a vibrant fecund garden.

My 'career', I'd decided early on, was to be content. (Not the answer your average guidance counselor wants to hear, but there you are.) And over time I came to realize that the pathway to this contenment was to hone the skills and feed the interests that gave me the most pleasure.  I did go off to work, of course, in order to support myself, and my employment history runs the gamut: from industrial photographer to church secretary to librarian to professional singer. I even body-sat for a local mortician when he and his wife needed a night out. But my heart was always in my home, wherever that might be at the time: a basement apartment, a rented bungalow by the bay, the upper floors in a friend's Victorian house, the ground floor of a two family tenement, or my own little cottage.

Wherever 'home' might be, when I walked through the door I feel I can breathe again and let my creativity express itself in ways that not only comfort me but also make the most sense in terms of my personality and interests.

And that is what domesticity is to me, really: the art of making your home the place you most want to be.

11 November 2013

Autumn is in the House

I was looking around here the other day and realized all the little ways
Autumn fills the house at this time of year.

Not the least of it is the abundance of root vegetables
that seems to overload my weekly market share.

Squash, Swiss chard, onions, shallots, garlic bulbs, potatoes...
all find their way into stews and soups and casseroles,
filling the kitchen, indeed the entire house, with a rich scent of "Harvest".

Pots of herbs are also spreading their aromatic spell,
tucked safely into my kitchen planter
where they'll find shelter from the frosty nights.
Whether I can keep them alive until Spring is another story.
Fingers cross't.

And then there are the apples!
Cortland, Macoun, Macintosh

Every week I gather more, unable to resist their scent, color,
and the memories they trigger when I see them arranged in bowls:
School days, kicking through leaves, the aroma of cinnamon,
and the warmth our stove would spread throughout the kitchen.

There are bowls of them on the table, bowls on the sideboard, bowls everywhere.
But they won't be a still life for long.
Soon enough they'll find themselves inside all the delicious
seasonal recipes I love to bake this time of year:
Apple Crisp, Apple Nobby Cake, Apple Sauce.

Autumn is in the house, and it could not be a more welcome guest.

09 November 2013

Friends bearing gifts

Each Autumn I fill a lovely Flow Blue bowl on the dining room table
with a delicious assortment of fruit.
Both were generous hand-me-downs from dear friends.

 The fruit arrived one day in a plastic bag.
"Do you want this?" she asked.
I peered inside, thinking for a split second that it was real.
"Sure!" I said, happy to have all that luscious fruit in the house.

It was only after I reached in the bag that I realized what it was:
Vintage Waxed Fruit!
The fruit is so life like it's amazing.
(My grandchildren once tried to eat some of the grapes....)
Who knows how old it is... she didn't say and I didn't ask.  

The bowl made its way across the road one day,
cradled in the arms of my neighbor and friend.
"Do you want this?" she asked.
[My reputation for taking in cast offs is, apparently, widely known.]

She'd been cleaning out her attic and came over with the bowl,
and the large Flow Blue pitcher that matched.
Stunned, happy, disbelieving, I of course said yes.

And so, every year, these two beautiful gifts
come together — a symbol of generosity and friendship —
adding a lovely Autumnal touch to the cottage.

08 November 2013

Remnants of Hallowe'en

Time to take down all the little cards and masks....

 All the silly "Nevermore!" crows...

 All the mischievous witches...

And all the little pumpkins....

 ...that seem to find their way around the house at this time of year.

[Perhaps I'll keep the tiny green one around awhile longer...
we'll call her a Thanksgiving pumpkin for now.]

01 November 2013

Morning Rambles

When weather permits I always prefer walking the two miles
to my office each morning 

I'm fortunate that I live in a colonial town with countless streets, alleyways,
and homes that hearken back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

 Despite taking this walk nearly every morning, there is always something new to see,
always a fence I haven't peered over before....

 or a secret garden or rear dooryard that's hitherto gone unnoticed.
I love to mark the seasons on these morning strolls.
The appearance of pumpkins, bright foliage, and pots of crysanthemums in Autumn;
the bare trees limned against grey skies and snow-capped iron fences in winter;
the sudden emergence of green shoots, spring bulbs, and budding trees in Spring;
and then the heavy canopies of green overhead and the scent of flowering gardens
throughout the summer months.

But now? Now my path is littered with leaves of all colors,
some of them matted to the slick brick pavement with last night's rain

 Some eddying in whirls in front of doorways
as they get caught up in the blustery wind.

 The street I walk along is at a comfortable midpoint of a very long hill,
and so depending upon which way you look....

 you are either at the bottom of a steep cobbled path...

 or at the top of an even steeper road.

 The houses are built along the pavement,
with only the pedestrian path separating them
from what was once a dirt carriage road.

 The narrowness of the road becomes all too apparent when cars are parked along one side, and you try to drive one way whilst another car is approaching from the opposite direction. The inclination is to inhale and squint your eyes and hope you can pass safely without brushing against one another!

 There are lovely architectural elements to each home.
My favorites are the dormers that jut out over the pavement.
Easy enough to imagine myself having a chair in one of the bay windows
... a place to read or to simply watch life on the road below.

 There are favorite houses that make me pause and sigh a little.
A dear yellow cottage...

A grey house, sloped on a hill...

And a row of houses I call the Four Sisters.... 
all identical, save for the color of their dresses!

Occasionally I'll be bold and peer through a window.

Or imagine myself living in rooms in this old hotel.
(The climb at night would be a detriment!)

But how lovely to be lost in its labyrinth
of walkways and railings and to call it home.

There are houses on hills...

And grand houses set back a bit from the road...

And old street lamps to light the way on dark mornings.

It's a calming way to start the day, affording me a barometer of the seasons,
and a glimpse into a vanished past.