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.

Wasabi Peas

Today was my birthday, and it really did feel like my special day. Lots of calls and cards and attention. A friend who doesn't believe in astrology any more than I do, but who had found one particular site startlingly accurate, sent me my horoscope. 2007 is going to be my year, starting with this month! All the planets are in my house, everyone everywhere is going to bow to my will, I have only to visualize a thing and it will happen, and so on and on. Suspicious, I checked out other zodiac signs on the site to see if they were all this glowing, but no, it was only Capricorn.

Priya always takes me out on my birthday; this year we went to Northampton and had lunch at Bela, a restaurant I particularly like. When I got home, I found a carton full of goodies on my desk--all the things my son Ali knows I like. I could see fancy chocolate, Belgian cookies, rice crackers, a bottle of my favorite olive oil sticking out of the top, but I didn't have time to rummage through it because I had to rush back out again to the Downtown Ladies Book Group meeting. I was carpooling with Maggie and couldn't be late.

Amy was our host for the evening. We were discussing Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, set in Japan. In keeping with the Japanese theme, Amy served sushi, green tea, warmed sake, and assorted rice crackers. I don't eat fish, so I contented myself with sake and crackers. I picked as many of the wasabi peas out of the bowl as I could politely help myself to, but it only whetted my appetite for more. I found myself wondering if I'd have enough time after the meeting to swing by the store and pick up a bag of them. That's how it is with late-night cravings.

By the time Maggie had dropped me home, it really was too late to go out again. Convincing myself that a chocolate-dipped cookie would do just as well, I dug through my goodie box. And what should I find underneath the cookies but two bags of wasabi peas.

Big deal, I know. But it really does feel as though this year, my wish will be the universe's command.