” When you say in fiction: ” He bowed his head in shame,” it is likely to be a lie. Or “he gripped the chair until his knuckles were white.” When you write such a thing about a character, ask yourself: “Did he really do that? Have I ever seen anyone do that?”…. When you have written a story and it has come back a few times and you sit there trying to write it over again and make it more impressive, do not try to think of better words, more gripping words. Try to see the people better.”
– ‘If You Want to Write’ by Brenda Ueland
Both my husband and I are fascinated with garrets (or attics) in older houses. But getting up to these spaces is such a mixture of surprise and annoyance. In the past craftsmen would build a staircase on site. This meant that it was often very steep and didn’t accommodate a person’s whole foot.
(Photo- Hudson, NY real estate listing)
Related Nibs posts-
Staircase & Books
Small Scale Decorating #10
Fashion Classics- Nancy Drew’s The Hidden Staircase
“What I mean is that one’s whole life is an autobiography, don’t you agree? Whether it gets written or not doesn’t make a difference. What goes into it, though? That’s what counts.”
– Elizabeth George, ‘A Banquet of Consequences’
“Go into the most scruffy, unkempt, impoverished manor house in any part of England, and you will find an abundance of cut flowers in almost every room. While mice eat the books and mushrooms grow out of the paintings, flowers- on the piano, in the window, on the sideboard- hold up their heads in defiance of fate.” – ‘ English Country’ by Caroline Seebohm & Christopher Simon Sykes, 1987.
This quote captures the enthusiastic embrace of flowers which comes with the warm weather. I don’t know about you but this spring couldn’t come fast enough. I’m planning to fill my clay pots with all kinds of herbs and bring in garden flowers to arrange around our new home. I hope you’ll find some spring inspiration in the pages of my latest issue of ‘The Country Mouse.’
(Photo- Martha Browne)
It’s always fun to find new ways of storing books. As I was wandering around a friend’s place I couldn’t help but smile when I came across this display of books above the modern canopy bed.
(Photo- Martha Browne)
#37- Interior Design- ‘Upstate’ by Lisa Przystup, 2020.
“My husband and I spent eight years happily orbiting the universe of our Greenpoint railroad apartment, but then a strange (yet wholly expected) thing started to happen. With each clamorous trash pickup outside our window and every pointless 311 call I made to complain about the same minivan playing music at 3 a.m., the walls of our apartment began closing in and, like many before us, we looked to upstate New York…”
(Photo- Sarah Elliott)
#36- Nature- ‘On Animals’ by Susan Orlean, 2021.
“We went to the farm one last time to clear it out for the new owners. It was a hard goodbye. I’d always dreamed that someday I would have animals all around me, in the house, in the yard, watching me in the garden, dotting the landscape, crowing in the morning, lowing in the moonlight, barking at the wind, and I had had that there. I had reveled in the animals’ friendship and their strangeness; the way they are so obvious and still mysterious; their colors and textures, their fur and feathers; the sounds and smells of their presence. I liked the way their needs set the rhythm of every day, and how caring for them felt elemental and essential. Living among them, as I had on the farm, was just as satisfying as I imagined it would be.
When the house was emptied, I took one last walk around. As I made my way through the trees and across the fields and down to where the coop had been, I collected a few things that could remind me of the farm forever and perhaps betoken some place in my future that would feel the way it had: a piece of quartz, a pine cone, a knob of moss, and one perfect chicken feather.”
Note- My husband and I have recently sold our own farm and are in the midst of packing up our belongings. Our emotions are raw. The hardest thing for me was knowing my donkeys were not taking the journey with us and the new owners had no interest in them. I called every person I knew and didn’t know until I found some compassionate people to adopt them. The donkeys are still here until the trailer and its driver come. I picture it in my mind how painful that day will be. How frightened they will be in the confinements of the trailer. And how I will cry watching them depart.
(Photos- Martha Browne)
The Classics c. 1910-1920
Note– Photo by Swedish photographer John Alinder from this book.
#35- Interior Design-‘The Maine House’ by Maura McEvoy & Basha Burwell, 2021.
“Here are houses created by the people who live in them, distinctive for their ingenuity, originality, and fierce individuality. Here are spaces that personify the artists whose work is made better through struggle, a Mainer’s point of pride. Here are cottages resolutely unchanged- where to silence a slamming screen door would be to strip the place of its soul. Here are warped floorboards and lovingly worn camp sofas sat on by generations of the same family. Here are homes where a life well lived is defined by spirit, creativity, and longevity. Here is a kind of visual wealth that money can’t buy. Here is The Maine House.”
An old cotton sail cloth hangs from the ceiling.
(Photo- Maura McEvoy)
Related Nibs posts-
The Maine Issue
Summer Cottage In Maine
The One That Got Away
Learning To See
Decorating@Nibs- Place Settings
Fireplace Mantel #12
…’Cyclops’ by Albert Watson, 1994.