Friday, January 30, 2009
Winter, winter burning bright
The wind tore over Long Island Sound and ran across the frozen lawns of Harkness the afternoon I painted this. It felt impossible that the snow-covered picnic tables ever would welcome families wearing shorts and eating potato salad and complaining about the heat, but they will, and soon.
One of the great pleasures of moving back home is going to the places that I loved and haunted growing up. Harkness is one of them. We went there as a family, when we were kids, and we played hide and seek in the beautiful Victorian gardens. Sat on the stone benches on the gazebo, under trellised grapes, and talked and laughed, surrounded by box hedges releasing their peppery scent into the warm dusk.
I went there as a teenager, with friends and boyfriends, and we hid and talked and made out under the arching limbs of the copper beech trees, wider around than we could reach our arms. In one of the best pictures ever taken of me, I am swinging by my knees from one of those branches, my long, long hair flying out behind me. David Desiderato took that one.
Harkness saw hard times then, but we kept coming. The gardens fell into disarray. The buildings seemed to slump. My parents divorced, and still, we came to Harkness, for Labor Day, and Mom's birthday, and picnic dinners by the water.
One of Mom's last birthdays, we went to Harkness. We brought Chinese food, and we laughed and talked, and my siblings' children were there, a new generation.
Mom is gone now, but every time I visit Harkness, I think of her. She belonged to a garden club at one time, and I remember watching her arrange flowers for a competition inside the mansion. She knew the names of the flowers that grew in the gardens, and she knew our secret spots, and loved the open plains and the beach and the Sound beyond. It was a special place for her, and so, it will always be a special place for all of us.
Thanks for reading.