Monday, December 22, 2008

"Stayers-at-Home" or Further Snowbound Reading

And so we are forced to be again today -- "stayers-at-home."  The snow outside our door and up our walk and stairs took a grown man the better part of three hours to clear, including the sidewalk above, as we aren't the kind of neighbors to leave off a thing where our own convenience ends and the more general welfare starts.  Now if that makes us sound better than we are, consider that the grown man doing the shoveling was neither of us: the homeowners.  As my grandmother would have said, "we had a man in."  I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I am awfully glad it was Gary the handyman and not me out there this afternoon.  (If you live in West Seattle, and aren't feeling up to the task of digging out, I'll be happy to pass Gary's number on to you.  He's a good fellow and as handy, as it turns out, with a snow-shovel as he is with a rake.  Bless 'im.)

The phrase "stayers-at-home" I take from Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of Pointed Firs, specifically the story "A Winter Courtship" therein.  the story is a slight one, told between two elderly parties on a wagon ride between  North Kilby and Sanscrit Pond, Maine, one frozen December morning.  I've just reread the story, which is charming.

Sarah Orne Jewett is a reliable pleasure to read and reread, and strangely still unknown to many contemporary readers who might otherwise know the classics of American literature well.  Her novels and stories, and even her poems as it turns out, are just the sort of tartly sentimental reading, it seems to me, called for at this Holiday Season; deceptively simple stories of good people, in a granite hard place, salted with humor and solid American optimism, told in a spare and reliably satisfying prose.  Not every story ends as happily as "A Winter Courtship," but they're all satisfying, each in it's way, hard cider or soft.

Her books are perfect reading for just such days as we're having now.

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