The maids are long gone who dusted the porcelain and fluffed the down. Bone-white pressed linens on pillows and perpetual shine on mahogany are visions of the past. A few of my grandmother’s things are here on windowsills and in corners, some broken—the Staffordshire cow and calf with a horn missing, a gap in a piece of trim on the Hepplewhite, the lip of the Baccarat decanter chipped, a threadbare velvet ribbon streaming down like a wilted vine from the needlepoint stool where a fine 19th century bustled lady picks flowers in accumulated dust. It is no longer fashionable to be counted among the 1%, though courting fashion has little to do with why we live here on this piece of land, with no hired help, and time-worn buildings.
Here they are, lovely whatsits transported from a fine house, yet belonging in this old farmhouse with us, though I do not love them well enough. In my way, I kiss them all—the crystal arcs on the hip of the decanter, rising like a tide in waves along the sand, one by one. Such a fine edge on each scallop—perfect ellipses, lip upon lip, then the smooth neck, and finally the jag where someone (maybe a servant) banged it on the mouth with the stopper or a glass, and perhaps cognac bled to the floor. I love her, that maidservant, and the lady who yelled at her too.
Somebody loves us all, Elizabeth Bishop said. What a privilege. See how someone planted the trees—to stand, long-necked, perpetually being, shading—and simply and dotingly witnessed.
Mr. Baccarat decanter with a broken lip seems to watch
the maple sap buckets on the trees