April 06, 2008
In the bookcase beside our bed is a shelf of books particularly suited for morning browsing, a temptation difficult to resist on those days when a more leisurely start is possible. Such as today.
J and I had spent Saturday evening preparing the house for Sunday visitors. A cake had been baked and iced; plates, cutlery and napkins had been deployed; a fire had been laid in the fireplace and sat awaiting the invocation of a match — for spring here is still taking its own sweet time to ripen, with the first magnolia blossoms opening to an April which is still more lion-like than lamb.
J had chosen a morning swim as her reward for completing our advance preparations; my reward was to roll over and consider the bookshelf close at hand — from which I eventually selected the revised edition of The Letters of E. B. White.
I love to dip into a volume of collected letters, hoping to find one written on the same calendar day. I consider this a gentle form of bibliomancy, and the selected letter often resonates with the day to come. What, then, might my day have in common with that described by E. B. White in his letter dated the 6th of April, 1952?
Writing to James Thurber from his office at The New Yorker, White gives Thurber advice on what to do when attending the birth of a lamb (apparently one chops off the lamb’s tail with an ax) and shares news of a party which the Whites had given in honor of William Shawn’s being named editor of The New Yorker.
132 people! With “dancing of a sort” and a “contrapuntal literary and emotional atmosphere, […] the kind of goings on that made you feel that the door would presently open and in would walk Scott and Zelda.” J and I had planned a more modest gathering for our own Sunday afternoon, but maybe with the right kind of music a “contrapuntal literary and emotional atmosphere” was still within reach.
White’s letter closes with a lovely run of sentences which helped align his North Brooklin, Maine of 1952 with my own stormy Deep Cove day in 2008:
Spring is making litle sashays about coming to town, but it has been a fairly unconvincing demonstration so far. It’s what Maine people call “crow weather.” I still think Maine speech is about the most satisfactory.
“Crow weather” — a most satisfactory Maine term indeed; well suited for this stormy Deep Cove day with friends just beginning, which will end with us all sharing a Reine de Saba cake before a crackling fire.