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.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is That a Painting Under Your Kimono?

This afternoon I attended a little party one of my neighbors threw to celebrate 30 years living on Elliot Street. Bob McCarroll, nominally the Treasurer, is more like the Dean of the Mattoon Street Historic Preservation Association. One of the first to invest in the neighborhood when it was rehabbed in the 1970s, Bob worked for the city planning board and has run the Mattoon Street Arts Festival for years.

Next to the doorbell Bob had stuck a photograph of the exterior taken before renovation. Sagging porch, peeling paint, cockeyed clapboards, the whole bit. Inside were similar pictures, posted near the portions of the house they depicted. Broken fixtures, a stairway littered with trash and dirt. It looked like a crack house. In fact, it had been a crack house.

The person who had bought it in that condition, and Bob after him, worked hard to bring the house back to something like it must have looked when it was first built. Painted and papered, rubbed and polished, overflowing with furniture, paintings and bibelots in the fussy manner so common to the Victorian era, it's show house material. For the occasion, Bob had added a bowl of champagne punch and several beautiful cakes on the dining room table, plus a mysterious object shrouded by a silken kimono.

Bob is active in his church, city affairs, and many historical and cultural organizations. As might be expected, he knows lots and lots of people. It seemed that all of them wanted to join him in celebrating this anniversary.

When the party was well underway, Bob called for everyone's attention. He explained that, after the last Arts Festival, the neighborhood association had given him a painting to be commissioned by Susan Tilton Pecora, a local watercolorist. After much debate (his house? his lakeside cottage? the cherry blossoms in the park?), he had decided on a view of the Henry Hobson Richardson church seen from Mattoon Street during festival time.

He then introduced Susan and whisked the kimono off of the mysterious object, unveiling the finished watercolor. I had a very nice conversation with the artist, not about painting but about the various dogs we have adopted. I had some pink punch and some pink cake. Then it was back to the twenty-first century to write write write and keep the wolf from the door of my Victorian money pit.

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