A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Word of the Day: Slip

My latest commission is writing catalog descriptions for a manufacturer of mantels and other architectural pieces. It's a bit of a challenge, because the mantels are in some cases a mix of period styles--not clearly definable as George III or rococo, for example. I'm going to stick to describing the individual elements and stay away from strict attributions.

I was refreshing my knowledge of period detail--dog leg moldings, descending bellflowers, reeded columns, plinths, palmettes, and so forth, when I came across a term I didn't know. A "slip" when speaking of a fireplace is the veneer of the surround. (The "surround" is the part between the fireplace itself and the mantel. The vertical sections of the surround are called "cheeks.")

Now I know how to refer to the art tiles decorating the fireplace in my den. This is the only fireplace in the house that I actually use. I have four others, with stone mantels, but they were originally intended for coal and have been blocked up. This one is mahogany with a funky and elaborate overmantel, very Victorian. It's got shelves and a nice beveled mirror, elegant proportions and no fussy carving.

Most of the tiles in the surround are plain.The tile at each of the four corners of the fireplace opening is a rosette, and the one in the center of the slip features the bust of a sweet girl in profile, wearing a bonnet.

The fireplace is not very efficient, so when my central heating is running, I avoid using it. It heats the room, but in order to do so it draws warm air from the rest of the house and throws it up the chimney, replacing it with cold air sucked from under the door. Still, I plan to have a crackling fire or two during Thanksgiving week, when I'm having company. It'll be nice to curl up on the Chesterfield couches with people I love and haven't seen for awhile. It'll be nice to be really, really warm for a change--as long as I don't move too far from one spot. And it'll be nice to look at the girl in the bonnet and know that she's decorating the slip. I've been wondering what that thing was called for about fifty years, and now I know.