Friday, January 27, 2012

The Ultimate Civilized Life - Happy 150th birthday to Edith Wharton

I would be remiss if I did not mention the 150th birthday of my idol, Edith Wharton, which was on Tuesday, the 24th.  She lived the ultimate civilized life. 

Have you ever been to her home, The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts?  I was there in 2009 and it is simply divine.  I had wanted to visit for many years and finally as a celebration of a professional accomplishment, I booked myself a trip to the charming village of Lenox.

The Mount
I spent a couple of different days at the estate.  First I was there to watch Xingu, a play based on a Wharton short story.  It was made even more fabulous because it was intimately performed by The Wharton Salon in The Mount's drawing room.  I was almost beside myself with joy!  You could easily place yourself in that era surrounded by gracious of that room.  Afterwards on the tour, I stood in her bedroom and tried to imagine what it must have been like.  As you probably know, that was her favorite place to write, sitting in bed and blithely tossing the completed pages on the floor for her maid to pick up.  I actually have my most creative thoughts in bed, too, though I like to write in the dark of night with only a flashlight to guide my thoughts.

Another day I was in her stables, which is where they hold lectures.  It was quite lovely to look out over the grounds and listen to scholars.

I haven't even mentioned her gardens.  Gardening was one of her great loves and the gardens at The Mount are stunning.  In fact, she once said, "I am a better landscape gardener than a novelist".  Very traditional, very ordered and symmetrical.  I adored the allee.  It was raining both days I visited, so I didn't have the supreme pleasure of walking through her gardens, but I clearly remember standing on the terrace, off to the side, calling my husband back in Florida and trying to describe the out-of-body feeling I was experiencing.  I just wanted to stand there forever and look out over the wooded shores of Laurel Lake.

I am inspired every day by the divine Mrs. Wharton - her life and her writing.  I have a photograph of her home as the wallpaper of my laptop, so I can gaze at it in moments of stress and turmoil and be taken back to a more gentler, civilized time - Wharton time.


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