Thursday, October 22, 2009

On a Perfect Autumn Day

The poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, wrote one of my favorite poems. I quote it so often, I see my family and friends take a deep breath when I start. It is called, God's World, and begins,

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!

Well, today was a day with bright sunshine and glorious color--and what beckoned me was a trip to Stone Barns.

For years, I've walked the Rockefeller property in Westchester County, always looking with great admiration at the French style stone barns in the distance. Several years ago, an organic farm and ecological center was developed on this property and now Stone Barns is open to the public. (You pay a small parking fee which is refunded if you spend $15 for lunch or in the gift shop). How can I be so fortunate, I say to myself, to live so near such a unique place?

Their kitchen garden alone is a delight to visit. You must drive carefully on the winding roads as you might encounter a chicken sauntering across the path. But who would speed at Stone Barns? So many things to see. Sheep, Black Angus grazing on the hillside, snow white turkeys, and so many other pastoral vistas. Stone Barns does have a renown restaurant, Blue Hill, but there is also a small cafe with an ideal lunch for a warm, fall day when you can sit outside at long tables. Everything is made from produce on the farm. A two-inch high frittata and a salad could not have tasted better. And the tiny chocolate chip cookies which came home in my bag probably won't make it past teatime.

The gift shop at Stone Barns has a well-edited selection of books including many cookbooks which emphasize it's mission. I always find stocking-stuffers for children--unique things like a woolly ram finger puppet. I once bought bright orange sweatshirts in wee sizes for newborn twins. They worn them on their first pumpkin picking outing. The shirts are decorated with a carrot, which is the emblem of Stone Barns. Today, I indulged in a mandarin and lavender scented candle made by Paddywax. The container, itself, a little work of art from recycled materials. Yes, I will save it and find a way to use it. Have no fear, it will be recycled yet again.

On the way home, along roads lined with rustling leaves, I am reminded of another of Edna's poems: Afternoon on a Hill. Forgive me if I have overused it in my writing:

I will be the gladdest thing Under the sun!

What is there about a perfect autumn day that so inspires--can it be it is simply pure perfection? Have you a time to share?


  1. What perfect timing! I was just thinking how nice it would be (there's that word again!) to see a new post in your lovely journal, et voila!
    I didn't have to stir from my curbside-rescue armchair to experience a magical autumn moment. I have several maple trees in my front yard, and one is always trying to catch my eye when I settle into that capacious chair. This past weekend, I glanced out my picture window to see it in full golden glory...the sun was at just the right angle to illuminate each leaf like a gem, honey-amber colors danced with brassy gold tones as the light wove in and out of the wind-tossed branches. I stopped reading--I think I may have even stopped breathing for a second there--and just let the afternoon wash over me. I thought, "How many more autumns will be allotted to me? And how many golden moments like this?" So, I put aside the book, the laundry that needed folding, and just turned my face towards that tree and drank it in. Nectar of the gods, indeed. Autumn never fails.

    Happy, happy golden days to you, dear Nancy!
    Karen Marline

  2. Oh Nancy! Nothing beats Autumn (and I capitalize all of the seasons) in my book! My birthday, the hauntings, the color...This weekend I make my 27th pilgrammage to Orchard House. Last year, my dear friend Karen, joined me and what a time we had! To see her face look upon Orchard House for the first time was a highlight in my life! Hopefully, Massachusetts will be at the peak of color. Love its soft rolling hills and small ponds. Hopefully, I will smell the leaves burning or a wood stove going..Sleepy Hollow Cemetery will be leaf covered as I trek to Authors Ridge. Just as Jo said "Christmas won't be Christmas without presents", Fall isn't Fall without Concord and Orchard House. Thank you for your great post that came at just the right time, Nancy!


  3. What a lovely post, Nancy, and the other comments are lovely too. Autumn is also my favorite time of year.

    I'm so happy to have found your lovely journal. I feel a re-connect with my favorite magazines of all time.

    Thank you!

  4. Like you, I am savouring these autumn days. On my walk yesterday I stopped under a tree and looked up through it to the filtered sunlight, watched a leaf drift and sway to the ground and scuffled my way through a pile of dry leaves.

    Thank you for the trip to Stone Barns. It was like reading a page from our beloved Victoria magazine.


  5. Beautiful post, Nancy! I love autumn too with all its glorious colors everywhere.

    You have inspired me to drive more slowly and savour the autumnal beauty surrounding us.

    Thank you!

  6. Oh Nancy-How I love your blog! Yesterday, I recieved 47 issues of your Victoria magazine,& am having such a wonderful time savoring each one. well, I love them all, but ended up reading in one of them for most of the night! Just seeing the new stack of them made me so Happy!Lastnight I randomly chose one of them & began reading-& what a lovely coinsidence it was for me to read your "Dear Friends"article, in September 1996 called"Nice" Matters.I remembered your recent post instantly as I read this.It was so much more vivid & real to me, perhaps, because of being able to read in your blog! I am so pleased that you are writing here, it is just wonderful!

    Fall is my favorite time of the year, It is so beautiful, taking in all of the glorious colors & cooler weather, even the smells in the air,of a crackling fireplace,boxes of Apples I have inside, waiting to be made into something delicious. The smell of the bread I was baking- so relaxing.It is my Birthday Month too.

    I don't really celebrate Halloween as a Holiday- but each year in the fall I take out a picture I have of the Victorian house of my dreams.,with my other Fall decorating items. It is called "the Owens house" & was where the movie was filmed called"Practical Magic", with Sandra bullock.-Anyway it is my dream victorian home. I found out a couple weeks ago, that your beautiful Victoria magazine featured this movie & Home in the October 1998 issue! I don't have a copy yet,but was just amazed that it was really featured in a Victoria.

    Another unreal coinsidence was yesterday I was reading on Karen/Marlene's RTL site, where she was writing about a place she was excited to be attending.I saw the name- "Theadore Roosevelt" and was immediatly reminded of our favorite place to go in the summertime in North Dakota called "Medora".I told the group all about it, and made the comment that the place is so beautiful and memorable to me, that-"It should be featured in a Victoria magazine"!- Low & behold then a reply from Karen/Marlene group moderator said that is was, that she had just read about it in a Fall issue! Anyway- She was right ,it was featured in the September 1994 issue-- ha, again I don't have that one yet-- but how awesome to discover two of my favorite things were featured in Victoria, I had no idea!-{both in a two week span}!. I love your magazine Nancy- It's content never fails to soothe my soul. I honestly have such a passion for reading victoria & relating to each and every one of them, as if I am sitting with a very good friend- probably better as your magazine is always a comfort to me, and I can experience reading them over & over again. Thank you Nancy for your magazine being such a huge part of my Life!Love,Valery

  7. Hi,

    I remember an issue of Victoria having an article on Edna St Vincent Millay in it. I remember a male reader writing in to tell you she was his favourite poet. Her words inspired me at the time, and it was good to see some of them again. Autumn is a great time of year. When the weather is starting to turn crisp. Unfortunately our hot Australian summer is upon us and will be here sooner than I would like. What can we do though, the season come and go as they please and we can't keep them from doing so as much as we would like to. Just loved your post. Thanks,

  8. And also from Edna: My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night. But ah my foes, and oh my friends, it gives a lovely light. I count two "Oh Nancy's" (yes, one was mine), a "dear Nancy", and a few "love your post and blog" with exclamation points. Oh Nancy, we are so happy you are blogging!


  9. @Donna - can you tell us more about Orchard House? That's the home of Louisa May Alcott, no?

  10. You have described a perfect Autumn day, just delightful. I would add going for a walk and kicking up the leaves to the joys of an Autumn day.

  11. Yes Nancy. But first I have to tell you that when I read Little Women very many moons ago, I was bit too young to capture all the concepts - I only knew the story was about girls and was romantic (my first book was abridged with great illustrations). I thought the girls lived in Illinois! When I told my mother this she said, "Oh no. That story took place in Concord, just two towns away and we can go there Saturday!" Speaking of moons, I was over one!

    Orchard House is where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. The family (without Beth who had died earlier) lived there happily for 20 years. Everything is in tact and if you saw the Winona Ryder film, the house will please you enormously as you will recognize it. Recently, the Friends of Orchard House added a floral carpeting which they told us was true to the house during Louisa's time. But the structure went through a period of alarming decay about 10 years ago. The foundation was falling apart. Hillary Clinton stepped in and helped repair it! The home and grounds are such a treasure and I have never been there when there wasn't a good sizeable group taking a tour.

    Sister May's (Amy in the book)artwork graces the place including my favorite object, a carved wooden bread board in the kitchen. The artwork on the walls in May's room have been preserved and are under plexi. Bronson Alcott's chart for the girls' chores is in the parent's bedroom. Louisa's hair combs grace her bureau and her half moon built in desk still has her pens on it.

    The dining room is charming and laid with the family's dinnerwear. I imagine Hannah in the adjoining kitchen fixing breakfast in that great Christmas morning scene when the March sisters gave up their meal to the Hummel's.

    Naturally, I made Karen have the entire Concord experience and took her to the village where I "believe" the shop is where the girls bought Marmee's Christmas gifts. The village is enchanting and we ate lunch at the Concord Inn, which has been there for over 100 years. The waitress must have sensed that we were heartfelt explorers because she led us to a window table with comfortable velvet chairs so that we could survey Concord from the top of the square. She then attended us with a shy knowing smile...

    I hope you liked this "tour" but if you ever want to see it for yourself, Karen and I will be your tour guide!


  12. Nancy, I can echo, wholeheartedly, what Donna shared about Concord. To walk through the house where Louisa penned her children's classic was heavenly! We came during one of their reenactment weekends-a "Soldier's Christmas"; Mr. Alcott (what a dreamer!) was there, as was his dainty little wife, all dressed in Civil War-era costumes. The actress who portrayed Louisa, Donna told me, has been doing so for ages and she has the vividness and sparkle one would hope to find in "Jo". Each actor handed us a small token to place in a crate we were supposedly filling for "soldiers" was a terrific way for the younger visitors to understand how charitable the Alcotts were, despite their near-poverty level existance.

    I learned that Louisa became a Civil War nurse and nearly lost her health tending to the sick; she had to be brought back to Concord to heal and the room where she convalesced has a fireplace...along the sideboards of which is a sketch by her artist sister, May, of a wise old owl (apparently a favorite bird of Louisa's). The topper was a little playlette presented by local children in the wee parlor area: these darling "little women," dressed in period costumes, portrayed a scene from Little Women. We all sang a Christmas carol along with them and the holiday delight was evident on every tourists' face as we trooped out to re-enter the 21st Century.
    As Donna mentioned, the whole town has a wonderful atmosphere of history: I wholeheartedly recommend that Victoria magazine fans visit it. Nearby Stockbridge Village and other historic sites make this part of Mass. a vertible history and literature-buff's paradise!

    Have a glorious autumn day,
    Karen Marline

  13. Oh, such nice and long comments! This is blogging at its best - give and take and real conversation about something lovely.

    I can feel the air and hear the sounds of fall in that bottom photo. I bet there were starlings chattering away in a nearby tree and perhaps the distant sound of traffic.

  14. Nancy, what a lovely descriptive post! We could almost feel as if we walked along. You managed to combine two of my many passions, trying to capture the change of seasons with words and with my camera.

    Since I live in southern Illinois, I am far away from Corcord and your eastern delights. But yesterday our skies were blue, the sun was shining, and our landscape was changing right before my eyes. I grabbed my camera (I am afraid I am still trying to play a poor Toshi) and out the door I went. I drove around our little town and went to our city park to capture every blazing scene I could find. We are the Home of the White Squirrels and I love to try to find the squirrels playing in the leaves. I took pictures of bright fallen leaves laying softly on green moss at the trunk of a very old tree. I found leaves floatly from the blazing trees and tried to capture them in motion. My husband sometimes asks me what I am going to do with my treasures. I just don't want to lose such moments and try to find some way to relive them. The Country magazine has published a just a few of my pictures much to my surprise. I was very excited when they used one of my stories about a stunning late season snow storm with my pictures. Mostly the pictures are put in my scrapbooks to enjoy when I feel the urge.

    One thing I always loved about Victoria was the snips of poetry you shared. An aunt turned me onto poetry before I could even read by reading adult poetry to me rather than nursery ryhmes. My favorite poet, among so many, is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. If I was given a choice of the subject for a high school paper, it was many times about her life work and her love for Robert Browning. It will not take much imagination to know that your May, 1992 Victoria issue with "Mr. Browning Comes to Call" and "A Browning Scholar's Dream" is my treasure. I keep it on a beside table along with a lovely book given to me by one of my daughters with Elizabeth's work and the love letters between Robert and Elizabeth.

    You see, you have a way of bringing out all these memories for each of us. What would our life be without the beauty, grace, and yes, bliss, Victoria taught us to embrace?
    Warmly and with thanks,

  15. After a two week vacation and subsequent three week bout with flu, I am finally back to blogland and catching up on your lovely posts. Since I live much farther south than you, I am just now the beneficiary of the autumn dance of changing and falling leaves. I loved reading about your perfect autumn day... from the meaningful poem you shared, to your visit to Stone Barns and bit of history, to the lovely lunch at Blue Hill... I must admit that the sights and colors of autumn always give me that feeling of warmth and home. I had my own perfect autumn day just this week, which I shared some pictures of on my own blog. On my way to a local Arts and Crafts show, I saw two of the most magnificently colored trees. I literally stopped my car in the middle of the road (which fortunately for me was lightly traveled) and began to take pictures. We have had very few sunny days lately and lots of rain; however, on this particular day the sun shone so brightly it caused the leaves to fairly glow with color. I got a few good pictures before someone drove up behind me. But the sight of them will be fixed in my memory. Thanks for sharing your day with us.