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, January 04, 2007

Point O' Woods

One of the items I found in my birthday box yesterday was a jigsaw puzzle. Every year I buy one for myself, wrap it, and put it under the Christmas tree from me to me. This year, I hadn't bought any gifts at all, so I skipped the puzzle. Ali and Lindsay were paying attention, though. They added a puzzle to the box of edible treats which was my birthday present.

I immediately spread the puzzle out on the kitchen table, and Amir, friend Donna, and I have been putting it together. Tazzy contributed a bit by putting teeth marks in a piece that dropped on the floor. (Taz would never take anything off a table, but once something hits the floor, it's fair game.)

I never look at a jigsaw puzzle without thinking of a place called Point O' Woods on the Connecticut shore. When I was a child, I often spent a week there during the summer. My mother's best friend, Teresa Scibelli, used to rent a cottage at Point O' Woods every year, and she'd invite my mother and sister and me to visit. Teresa always rented the same place. It was called Howes Cottage, but what I heard was "House Cottage." It seemed an odd name, but this was the late '50's, early '60's, and kids didn't question much back then.

A cottage on the New England shore, of course, isn't necessarily a small, rustic affair. "Cottages" are what they call those mansions in Newport. Howes Cottage wasn't a mansion, but it was a huge, rambling edifice, situated on a bluff. The Scibellis were a large clan with lots of friends, money didn't seem to be a problem, and women and children didn't do anything but hang around in the summertime.

In one of the parlors of the cottage was a round table, and on the table was always a jigsaw puzzle. Anybody wandering through might stop and put in a piece or two, usually no more than that. I don't remember any marathon puzzle sessions. Nobody ever seemed in a hurry to complete it.

I never look at a jigsaw puzzle without thinking of that round table at Point O' Woods. To me, a puzzle represents the ultimate in luxury. It takes up a lot of room, and it takes up a lot of time. Space and time are increasingly valuable commodities these days. Doing a jigsaw puzzle always takes me back to an era when we had plenty of both, and took it for granted besides.


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