Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Lit from Within
A few years ago, I was in the hospital for an extended stay and the unhappy recipient of what I learned to call potassium bombs – IV’s containing the necessary mineral that stung like mad going into the needle in my wrist and nearly took my breath away. They were brought to me every evening for several nights and I dreaded them. To get me through, I dialed up my friend Katherine, who distracted me with stories from her household. Like what kind of seafood her fish broker husband brought home, how it was cooked, who ate it, and whether there was wine, flowers, or candles. I survived the Blitzkrieg with my friend’s verbal portrait of domesticity and descriptions of her delectable family fare.
It’s these little coup d'oeils of life that I try to catch in other people’s windows on my evening peregrinations and I’ve been fortunate to see some lovely ones: a hostess in a gold damask sheath lighting tapers for a dinner party, a man of the house rolling out blueprints at the dining room table in front of a brass lantern I imagined he moved from the sideboard, a young woman carrying a large folded antique quilt in her arms as she padded across shiny hardwood floors to drape it just-so on a bannister. Would she bring it up to bed because of the cooler September air? I’ve seen babies being rocked, two tots climbing onto their father’s lap before a flickering blue TV screen. Little sketches of homey domesticity which linger in my mind the way Mary Cassett's paintings do.
Some sitings involve the beauty of candlelight. How I long to find twisted candles described in my favorite Nancy Drew, The Sign of the Twisted Candles. I'm always searching for signs of them in the older houses I pass. They’re so elegant and old fashioned. Recently, a friend told me she sniffed a jar of Yankee Candles’ November Rain and declared it made for me. Is there anything more satisfying when the dishes are washed up and stored, than to light a jar candle with a delicious scent and place it on top of the stove in a clean darkened kitchen? Recently I bought three small pink candles in “Rose” and pulled out a small crystal holder that belonged to my grandmother. It will light AND scent my way to the powder room before bed.
At dusk one day last week, I was outdoors taking in sheets from the line, when I turned to go inside and was suddenly and pleasantly surprised to see my own home lit from within. The under-the-counter light threw a shadow of lace from my curtain across the bare kitchen wall, a little bloom softly floated down from the magenta orchid to the table where it rested forlornly beside the sugar bowl, and the electric penny candle I "light" each evening, illuminated the cat from behind and etched in silhouette her pointy ears and half-moon head onto the glass door, where she sat silently watching and blinking into to the falling darkness.