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Sunday, December 21, 2008

winter solstice


On this shortest day of the year, we look out through the front window, between peeling porch posts, over the humble spirea's snowflake blossoms, and on to the neighbor's spruces across the road. I love the farm in all the seasons, but winter is the best, and this day must be the bestest as it's the winter-i-est of them all.

Inside, on the sofa in front of the window, oh dear, the fabric is starting to fray on the edges. I can never replace this fabric. Even if I could afford it, I doubt I could find anything like it. Horsemen trot along in a perpetually fruited orchard while farmhands pick pears. Quite fitting for the farm. (There's another image with detail, below.)

Some women meet here on the sofa too, though you can't see them. The couch belonged to Grandma Olive, a woman unknown to me except in stories and objects that traveled many miles and decades to get here. She was like Martha Stewart, with the same impeccable standards for design and beauty, and also lacking a bit in warmth. She died when I was four. My mom's dad (stepdad actually, her dad was far away, but her stepdad adopted her) remarried another woman after Olive died. We called her "Aunt Edith" - a wealthy, distant woman who is also represented on this sofa in the cushion she needlepointed with a daffodil. Edith didn't have children of her own (though she had one stillborn), and my memories of her are chilly and sharp. I don't have much to judge Olive and Edith with, except stories filtered through my family and a few memories of feeling inferior to rich relations. So why do I treasure their objects? These cushions are stuffed with down feathers, so soft you have to fluff them after sitting. Every time I do that I see Edith's chauffeur fluffing them when he came in before breakfast to ask when she needed the car. I'm still that wide-eyed preacher's child in a corner taking it all in, but no longer wishing for a life not meant for me. Years have changed the tools I use for measuring and observing. I know my own sharp edges that need softening, and I see how people's life choices are sometimes made out of pain. Olive was divorced young, she struggled with a temper, and when we packed up Mom's house I found tender letters she wrote to Mom lamenting her own failures as a mother and grandma. Also I can see how Edith's inability to have children might have turned her toward travel and material things for meaning. Even so, there is life in the stitches she made.

Now I lie back on the sofa while I meet Lesley on the phone, in the laps of Olive, Edith, and my mom - and feel all of us warm and soft.



















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x o x o x o x o x

Today's Christmas decoration:


These Matroyshka stacking dolls observe from the piano, behind Grandma Olive's sofa.

45 comments:

Donica said...

What an incredible winter wonderland you have just out your front door! Amazing...

Susan said...

Ruth, I felt as if I were there with you looking out the window at the beautiful snow and snuggling into the soft down cushions being embraced by the women in your life. You're so right about our vision becoming more clear as we get older and knowing that the circumstances in our lives shape us. I'm glad that you can look back and understand what you couldn't as a child.

My mother's name was Edith.

Kerri said...

Memories are special! You have a great storytelling ability!

Love that winter wonderland you have, too!!

Ruth said...

Donica, I remember you riding the tractor in the winter wonderland one year - that's the last time that's happened.

Ruth said...

Dear Susan, I think we were in each other's homes this morning, taking in each other's memories. I loved your post so much, and it will stay with me this week. It's amazing how our lives are shaped and so different, yet we come together as friends with shared feelings (and names! all the Susans and now Edith).

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kerri! And your world is found in a drop this morning.

Anet said...

The story of the comfy sofa is a wonderful one. It looks pretty good for being that old. The fabric tells a tale itself, what more could one want from a sofa?

I've always wanted some nesting dolls. I remember my aunt had a set and I was fasinated with them as a small girl.
Merry Solstice Ruth and enjoy the winter!

Sharon said...

Beautiful. You're right about that fabric Ruth it's amazing.

Loring Wirbel said...

We have a beautiful sunny day today but it's -3 degrees. With 30 mph winds. brrrrrrrrrrr

rauf said...

What are you reading now ? My friends ask. i say not much, my vision is fading, have difficulty in reading. i think i have to change my answer. Now i will say i am reading Ruth's posts. i don't need books any more Ruth when i get to read Sync. i don't want to insult you saying it went like Saul Bellow. No comparison. There are pictures like paintings and entire post painted with words. Everything visual. "Heimet' was an epic 18 hour German film. Towards the end, one character Glshizst i think, sees all the dead characters meeting in the living room. A more glamourised visual is at the end of recent film Titanic.

Are things made to last these days ? i don't think so. Your grandma believed so. Thank goodness she was not fond of throwing away things just for a change or to make more space. i think we are getting obsessed with space and throw away good things. i am clinging on to a few things which occupy space. i know the younger generation would throw them away after i am gone.

Peter said...

I just love reading your stories!

Quite a family, yours - and the Lloyd Webbers!

Julian Lloyd Webber, thanks ! Cello is certainly one of the nicest instruments invented. Have you listened to Julian playing Bach (G-string, Arioso, Ave Maria...) and the Beatles?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Anet. I was thinking of you especially today for Solstice. It's so cool how you are teaching Noah - and the rest of us - about indigenous stories of the earth. Happy Solstice to you.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sharon! Stay warm and cozy.

Ruth said...

Loring, it was sunny here for a while, that winter sun with snow is the best. But WOW, that's too cold. I'll bet there will be some magnificent stardust tonight.

Ruth said...

That's very sweet, rauf, thank you. And oh! You reminded me. A woman visited our farmhouse the year we moved in, she is a sort of psychic. She sat here for an hour or so and then said, "I could never live in an old house like this, there are too many voices!"

I hope Ruby and Moin will not throw your treasures out! They should keep them for their own future families. But you have another few decades to enjoy them yourself.

Ruth said...

Peter, bonjour! et merci. :)

About Julian playing Bach and the Beatles - no! Thank you, now I'll look for YouTube videos. Hmm, Julian Webber and Julian Lennon.

Wrensong Farm said...

Happy Winter Solstice, Ruth! That was a wonderful story about the couch, pillow and your family. Even though they didn't seem warm in person they obviously had a warm heart inside them....easy to see in the beauty of the couch fabric chosen and the beauty of the daffodil pillow. Thanks for sharing!

Babs (Beetle) said...

What a beautiful winter view you have! I am waiting patiently for snow, but none as yet. Maybe once I have my new camera we;ll get some :O)

What lovely memories, better understood now. As we grow older, we understand that life causes some people to be less warm than others.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Tammy. When you spend time with your animals, I'll bet it's "what you see is what you get" right? Too bad people are so complicated, although it makes the joys greater I think when we go through difficulties and learn to understand each other.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Babs! No snow in the UK yet? Not only do we have snow, it is also extremely cold tonight: 3F/-16C and lots of gusty wind. Not a fit night to be out, that's for sure. And it was too cold for pictures today, except through the window. Are you getting a camera for Christmas?

Moi said...

i love all your ornaments Ruth....these are sweet.....remind me of the movie, TransSiberian (a neo-noir starring Ben Kingsley)......have you seen the movie? We watched it recently online on Netflix..a very well done thriller where matryoshka dolls have a special significance.......

i remember you mentioned you enjoy film noir.....so guess, you may like it....it's worth a dekko....:)

and regarding the newly weds "featuring" on my blog right now......serendipity is exactly the word that came to my mind when I first chanced upon them ........made my weekend completely! :)

Moi said...

And the winter at its best....I can't even begin to gush, Ruth....I had a very unproductive three-weeks phase with my camera primarily coz I myself was going through a phase I could have done without but this ice storm has "jolted" me out of the funk .....I am so ready to hit the outdoors despite freezing temperatures and blustery winds....and that's exactly what i did the whole of yesterday and today.....my facial skin right now is stinging but it's a HAPPY sting :)

Stay warm, Ruth and that's a beautiful fabric.......I love the way you love all things old and precious.....that reminds me...I bought a hand-made box today with beautiful fabric and sequin work and embroidery for a friend today........probably I should put up a pic of the box for you some time.....:)

Prasad said...

aaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!! snow again!!! must feel wonderful!!! some day um gonna be on tht snow throwin snow balls on everyone! :D

Ginnie said...

My eyes are full of tears, Ruth, after reading this touching post. I knew Olive a bit more than you and perhaps Edith a bit less. They both would feel pride in you and who you are and how you appreciate and honor them, I know. Thank you for this tribute. And...I am really loving your Christmas Gallery!

Ruth said...

Moi, no, I haven't seen that film, it sounds interesting. Ben Kingsley is such a good villain, is he the villain? Oh I hope the matroyshka dolls aren't like the doll/dummy in the Twilight Zone that came alive. Or Chucky. haha. Seriously though, I'll check it out on netflix.

I'm glad you got jolted, Moi, and I hope it keeps going. The hand-made box sounds lovely - hand-made gifts are the best.

Ruth said...

Hi, Prasad, and guess what? 4-6 more inches expected tonight! But it's too cold for good snowballs. Has to be a bit warmer so the stuff gets packy (that's the technical term).

Glad the show went well!! How exciting - I was thinking of you and Nautankey.

Ruth said...

Oh thank you for that, Boots.

A little more than a week and you'll be here snuggling! :D

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, what a lovely story. It's funny how we view our experiences over time.How we interpret what we see and hear.
The wintry view into your front yard is beautiful. Winter wonderland indeed.

raining sheep said...

Ruth I just wanted to wish you a blessed holiday season and all the best in the New Year. I am on a little blog holiday so I will catch up with you on the other side of 2009.

Sandy said...

OH,...what a wonderful post. The scene out your front...beautiful. And the story of the couch and what a beautiful couch it is. You sure have a way with words. Have you thought of writing nonfiction stories about your life.

Expat Traveler said...

Winter solstice came so fast, I forgot on the day! I'm happy it has come and gone and now I'm looking forward to more sunshine! Beautiful photos, love the dolls too.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, wow, bestest, Ruth your writing more like me everyday, stupid wars,lol, then I read the rest of the post, not so much like me. Being a visual person I love how you write with words and pictures, very beautiful.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

What a perfectly storybook winter view you have out your window!

Ruth said...

Hi Cathy, thank you. I wonder if you find winter inspiring for painting?

Ruth said...

Ok, Raina, thank you, I'll see you soon.

Ruth said...

Hi Auntie Sandy, I would like to submit writing, but I am lazy and haven't done anything about it. Blogging is the easy way to do it.

Ruth said...

Welcome, Expat! I forget the solstice half the time too. This year I am using a calendar that reminded me. Thank you for your nice visit! Enjoy the snow in BC too.

Ruth said...

Bob, you entertain me with your writing every post. You have a terrific sense of humor.

Ruth said...

Yes it is, Pamela, thank you for visiting. We do enjoy the farm in winter.

Prasad said...

LOL packy!!! thtz some technical jargon ur throwin ;)

and thanks! the show did turn out to be good! :D

Gwen Buchanan said...

so many people on the couch... memories linger... words stay in that corner of the brain that never sleeps... visions appear.. just like A Christmas carol... the Ghosts of Christmas past have come

iamnasra said...

Its so lovely to get greetings from you ...thank you so much ..Hope you will enjoy your X-mas ..have great one

Nasra

Ruth said...

I'm glad, Prasad!

Ruth said...

Dear Gwen, how beautiful. I think everything and everyone stays in our brains, you're right, for us to remember, or not. These people are here with me whenever I want to remember.

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear Nasra. I hope the year ahead is full of joy with your new husband.