Sunday, January 4, 2015

Just Beyond the Page

This is Jean-Honoré Fragonard's painting, A Young Girl Reading, 1770.  The reader is enraptured with her book but her mind is soaring with vivid imaginings born on the pages.  I see her as a lass on the brink of womanhood who is about to leave a life of quiet domesticity for a world she has thus far, only read about.  My dear sister bought me a blank notebook with the painting's image on the cover.  The pretty pages are lined and gold-tipped and perfect for jotting down ideas and quotes.  I will take her with me as I head back to work tomorrow after one of the most peaceful vacations I've ever had.

I made a point of staying home a lot and immersed myself in reading - real escapism in the form of Grace Livingston Hill novels.  Critics of Livingston Hill reject the spiritual rhetoric the author interjects in her stories.  But I actually found it comforting, especially after having a particularly spiteful December at the office.  Livingston Hill also includes lots of fashion descriptions and domestic details in her books and I latched onto those too, especially the homey fine points.  The Substitute Guest, The Gold Shoe, and Astra all put me into a wintery nesting mood, helped along by the prettiest little dining room chandelier my future son-in-law gave me on Christmas Eve. 

As fun as puttering about my home was, I also had a mind to the future.  I am writing a book and must find a way to wend that work around my day job.  A newspaper gig I've had for three years has ended and new freelance work is yet on the horizon.  I do still love coming here for naturalness and a bit of creativity.  It's where I write most authentically.  Like Fragonard's reading miss, I have imaginings about my new year that bob just beyond the pages of the books I read this week.  And as I head back through the familiar doors of my job tomorrow morning, my golden notebook will accompany me to capture buoyant dreams for home, work, and love in the new year.


Here are some Grace Livingston Hill highlights from this week:

"It takes a canny soul to read her own heart."

"The very chime of the cathedral clock in some dim recess (of the house) seemed like fairy bells."

"They just live in it, like sunshine!"

"The girl saw a sprigged china bowl, the steaming fragrance of whose contents made her know suddenly that she was hungry.  There was a plate of delicately browned buttered toast, a tiny mound of ruby jelly, some crisp hearts of celery, and the cup of tea."

"He stocked up his refrigerator with all the delicacies he could think of for midnight suppers and quiet meals by themselves."

"This home even the brief glimpse he had, showed that there was still beauty and love and good fellowship left upon the earth, still a real spirit of Christmas to be found if one looked in the right place for it."


  1. This painting is a favorite of mine. I found your blog some months ago and, last night as I was letting all of life's current woes (and there are many) start getting to me, I found myself perusing your archives and reading your posts helped to calm me. A middle-aged single mother myself who is facing the search for a job for the first time in over 20 years, I have enjoyed reading your writings as I can relate to many of them. Your 12 days of feminine Christmas were lovely. So after all that, I just really wanted to say thanks.

  2. That painting is the first one I discovered as a child at the huge National Art Gallery. I knew this girl, like me, loved to read. I love the idea of returning to work with a steadying influence of calm, comforting days at home. Love GLH, too, and have always found her work inspiring and uplifting. Wonderful thoughts, Donna!

  3. You have done it again! You have brought tears to my eyes as I too face my New Years trials and fears. By the way, at Paula's house last night even Chuck commented on your essays and how they move him. Now work on that book!! ❤️

  4. so beautiful donna. my favorite line is about how he stocked the refrigerator. it elevates the ordinary doesn't it. i adore that! x

  5. Best wishes with your coming year.

    Thank you for these quotes. I would have shied away from her writing, for the religious additions... But it must be easy to zip past those, to find gems, like you have posted here.


  6. It sounds as though you have adjusted very well to living alone, something I have yet to achieve, and may never. Still, how you fill your days at home provides the encouragement I need. Concentration for reading alludes me but that's why your column provides just the right dosage. Thank you. I enter another world when I read your work.

  7. You are all so dear! Melodee, I will be holding your hand cyber-ly. Saw this on the internet: "Beautiful Girl (or Woman), you can do hard things...As always Gail, you are welcome here. Thank you Tessa, Janet, Deb, Kay!

  8. Beautiful lines! I'm back to work tomorrow too…sigh

  9. Great news!Icannot wait to read your book!What about will it be?