August 2009

"No furniture is so charming as books…"

So said Sydney Smith many years ago. In my research to provide a link for Mr. Smith, I came across the rest of the quote (which was quite new to me!)….”even if you never open them, or read a single word.” Bless him for understanding.

But if books can be furniture, my home was beginning to resemble a cluttered Victorian parlor (and I am more an Arts and Crafts/1920s sort-of woman). We found ourselves maneuvering around the piles of books that were in front of the shelves of books that had little heaps of books upon them. I am very comfortable around stacks of books, as you can see from my bedside tower…tho’ that had grown too high even for me, as it reached the “falling on one’s head” height.

And so began the Sorting of My Books a few weeks ago. It was dusty and wearisome work, but also lovely when I came across a forgotten treasure, and also satisfying, as I sorted each book into its appropriate pile:

To Keep

To Give Away

To Auction

To Go Elsewhere

In my studio, in the living room, in our bedroom I made these piles and as every book was taken off every shelf over the days, I was surrounded by more stacks than ever. But there came a moment when the Elsewhere books were taken to their appropriate rooms, the Give Away books were snug in their brown bags to be taken to the library on the next trip to town, the Auction books were piled neatly by my computer to be photographed for ebay, and all of the rest were (for the first time in their lives with me) sorted into categories and placed on their freshly washed shelves.


And days later, there are many auctions humming along (all
homeschooling books-vintage and otherwise) over at ebay and all
the antique books with lovely illustrations are in my studio-
close to hand for creative hours. The bedroom is peaceful with
long rows of biographies and memoirs and novels and even a
few restful inches of empty space-for now.

I suppose it all really began with this:

Because one can live with little towers of books dotting the
home landscape, but one cannot resist filling a five-foot long
basket with large and lovely books. I found this wonderful piece
of furniture on sale when I was shopping with my mother last
month, and tho’ it is meant to be a planter, I envisioned it “planted”
with books- and so it is. And the large books left much empty
space on our bookshelves, and thus the Sorting began.

I am by no means finished, but most of our books are atleast
now contained in some way. Tho’ we will not mention the *two*
four foot stacks of children’s books on the stairs awaiting the
Upstairs Sorting Out. Ahem.

This last photo (cell phone charging cord and all) is
of our library book basket (actually a vintage doll bed from the
thrift store), which lives in the kitchen. In my mind’s eye
I am picturing it with the addition of Hannah Coulter,
the book a few of you kindly shared with me in
the lovely sheaf of comments I have been so enjoying
reading this past week. There is a copy-checked in-
at our library and my husband will fetch it for me today.

I would surely add blog comments and good books to the list
of “receipts against melancholy” that dear Sidney Smith mentions
in this consoling and wise quote I was grateful to find…

“I once gave a lady two-and-twenty receipts against melancholy:
one was a bright fire; another, to remember all the pleasant things
said to her; another, to keep a box of sugar-plums on the
chimney-piece and a kettle simmering on the hob. I thought this
mere trifling at the moment, but have in after life discovered how
true it is that these little pleasures often banish melancholy
better than higher and more exalted objects; and that no
means ought to be thought too trifling which can oppose it
either in ourselves or in others.”


…lavender and rosemary and papery garlic stems,
with loving wishes for the friends who were married
this past Saturday.

Before I had Small Meadow Press, and before my husband
became a full-time musician, we spent a few years as
market gardeners.

We grew alot of garlic, and in the Autumn, would
take it to the Garlic Festival and sell it from our pretty
booth there. Baskets of it loose, and braids of it that
I had woven and decorated with herbs and dried
flowers and peppers…whatever the garden


I even designed a line of “garlic” notecards with hand-stamped
images and quotes about garlic. You might be surprised at
how many good things have been said about garlic
throughout the ages! And little did I know that
those cards were a glimmer of what was to

It was very, very good to be making something
with my hands again…and weaving thoughts and hopes
for our friends with the sweet memories of
past pursuits.

P.S. Do leave a comment, if you can take the time. I wonder if everyone has seen garlic braids and if you find them as pretty as I do (something about the white color and the paperiness and the earthiness)? Also, I will be honest and say that happiness seems to be winning out over depression in recent days, but it is a constant struggle and I am always cheered by your notes.