Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Shortest Day, Blankets and Books

I love the shortest day of the year, do you?

"The shortest day and thus,
by implication,
the darkest week."
Ronald Blythe

Do you know Ronald Blythe? I think of him as a British Father Tim, resembling Jan Karon's dear parish priest, but not a character of fiction--then again, not many Karon fans think of Tim as fictional, do we?

Word from Wormingford is my favorite Blythe book, and it has stayed on my bed table since November of 1998.

Blythe uses illustrations by the World War II artist John Nash. Blythe was a close friend of Nash's and his wife Christine. I especially love the above illustration, as I am very fond of art with window views.

Here's more of Blythe's words written on the shortest day of the year, and I think you'll understand why I love them:

"Now I have to read.
Reading has always been my way to the Way,
always my way of knowing anything."
Ronald Blythe

That just hits the nail on the head for me. If there's one thing I know for sure it is that the Word led me to Christ, and the Word is the only way I find my way along life's path.

In my time away from blogging after we lost our darling dachshunds Otis and Milo, I turned to the Psalms for comfort. But I also turned to my collection of Christmas books, devouring them for comfort and escape, letting simple stories ease my heart.

Here are two that I took to bed with me this month of long dark nights, actual dark nights that fell early and dark nights of the spirit when I longed to pet the silky ears of Otis and Milo, missing from my bedroom.

Anything from Miss Read comforts my spirit and No Holly for Miss Quinn is a book I save for December each year. It's good, it's easy, and it's not stuffed with sentiment that would reduce me to mush this month.

"She recognized her own limitations.
She liked her own company.
She liked the tranquility of her natural surroundings.
She had more than enough people
around her during office hours,
and Holly Lodge she hoped 
would be her refuge from them.

She spent most of the evening by the fire,
relishing her solitude...
her posting was done.
A box containing Christmas presents,
to be given by hand to Joan
and other local friends,
was on a shelf in the kitchen cupboard.
The milkman was going to deliver
a small chicken in two days' time,
ready for her modest Christmas dinner."
Miss Read

Miss Read's books are illustrated by the famed and beloved artist J S Goodall.

I have one of his wordless books, An Edwardian Christmas, that I use each Christmas for my personal Advent Calendar.

Phyllis McGinley's poems were a part of my newlywed years and I needed their acerbic wit, spot on as much today as they were in the 1960s and 70s. McGinley was known as "the best writer of light verse" in the US in those days. I loved her because she was both a city mouse and country mouse, extolling the virtues and flaws of both with tongue in cheek.

City Christmas
Now is the time when the great urban heart
More warmly beats, exiling melancholy.
Turkey comes table d'hote or a la carte.

Our elevator wears a wreath of holly...

There is a promise--or a threat--of snow

Noised by the press. We pull our collars tighter.

And twenty thousand doormen hourly grow 

Politer and politer and politer. 
 Phyllis McGinley
 I remember being one of the capable wives and mothers of those years when I read McGinley. We put on our panty girdles, took a bus to the city and marched to the office, then went home and donned a frilly apron. We were feminists and homemakers.

What? You think only young women today are true feminists? Honey, we were demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the 1960s too...not that we always got it, but then women today don't always either. It will come if we insist and teach our daughters to insist and our sons that it's the right thing to do.

I don't often get on my soapbox so I'm a little tuckered out 
and it's 8:33 p.m. right now as I'm writing this on the shortest day of the year so I'm heading to bed.

Which brings me to one other thing I love....blankets.

100% wool blankets, to be precise, those comforting covers that get put on my bed November through March.

They have to have satin covered hems.

Satin to hold in my hands the same way I did when I was a child to soothe myself to sleep. Just the same, only I don't suck my thumb now. 

This red one is my favorite. I've had it for decades and it's shrunk through washings and dryings. I look forward to the day each fall that this beauty goes on my bed.

I've only had this lighter weight green blanket a few years, bought on eBay, made by the same company that made my red one. 

And the Fairbault Woolen Mills still make them but you might need to look at eBay for the beautiful ones like mine.

The one in the gorgeous illustration at the top is a St. Mary's blanket. Isn't it beautiful? Can you imagine pulling that one up to your chin on a frosty winter night? I'm looking for one like that too. 

Tonight may be the longest night this year but there are still quite a few ahead before Spring arrives. So grab a good book and a blanket and go to bed early. 

I am. I'm already 46 minutes past the time of my being offline rule so goodnight and sweet dreams, enjoy the rest of December.

Love to you,


  1. Hi, Dewena! I loved to read this lovely post, and your photos are so delightful.
    I love to read too. I am so sorry for the loss of your dogs.
    Wishing you a peaceful Christmas✨

    Ida(from Norway)

    1. Hello, Ida from Norway! What a nice surprise to hear from you and visit you too! Thank you for introducing yourself,

  2. I too love Miss Read. I've read them all and realize that I need to own them. I will look on amazon. our library has them but not all I think. and I usually re~read several every year.
    they are as comforting to me and as real as Mitford.
    and oh!
    the vintage picture in this post! how I love it. and the sharing. the discovery of Blythe that I have not read before but will look for now.
    I have loved this and will visit it again often.
    I especially love your cozy bedroom in that light. the lamps lighted and the night sky showing from the windows. I love the IDEA of wool blankets but have never been able to have wool. it makes me itch! LOL. it sadly does.
    even as a child I had sheets and quilts because of that. now of course there are the soft micro fiber blankets for strange people like me. and I see that my comment has almost turned into a post in itself. as always. :)

    1. You know I always love it when your comments turn into posts, Tam. That's what this little obscure blog is for. I remember that Miss Read was the first author we realized we both had in common when we met back in 2012. Can you believe that her books were some of those I left behind when we moved to Florida? What was I thinking? Thankfully, my dear son and daughter-in-law saved them and many others and returned them to me when we moved back to Tennessee. I have loved reading them again.

      They gave me my first microfiber throw for Christmas! And I love its silky warmth when snuggled on the sofa at night. Actually I even throw off my wool blankets in bed about halfway through the night because RH likes to keep the house so warm now--in his old age, ha! Since he doesn't have as much padding as I do, I can't fuss.

  3. Just found this blog, had been reading your other one and love it as well. So very sorry for your loss of Otis and Milo - the only happy thought I can give is that they're playing together again.
    On a brighter note - No Holly... I don't think I've read that one (have so many of the Miss Read), but, I just found a hardback on Amazon and ordered it this morning. I do love all of that series.
    I hope your day warms up, I'm a bit south of you in Alabama and we're supposed to get into the high 40s today - I'm quite pleased about that.

    1. Hello MimiG! So nice to meet you! Thank you so much for your thoughts about Otis and Milo. I had to start reminding myself to picture them happily playing together with all the other dear doggies we've lost over the decades, otherwise grief overwhelms me.

      I know you will like No Holly for Miss Quinn, so glad you're ordering it. Let me know how you like it, please.

      Last night was the first night in two weeks that we didn't have to leave faucets dripping! And today most of our snow and ice should melt. Hope both Alabama and Tennessee don't see too much more of that bitter cold this winter, some we needed, but enough's enough!