January 2016

Cum Grano Salis

Cum grano salis. With a grain of salt. The phrase has kept me company for years. Within days of leaving our Brooklyn brownstone for this house outside the city, I painted it over the door that leads from the kitchen down to the boiler room. It was up on the lintel before I even hung curtains or finished unpacking. Somehow, it seemed more important than knowing where to put the couch or find the toaster.   New to exurbia, my husband and I were in a strange house on unfamiliar turf. Continue Reading
Holly Tree, Holy Tree & Sukkot

In an earlier post I registered dismay at the sight of the annual Christmas wreath hanging from the foot of the crucifix in my local parish church. A careful reader familiar with the lore of holly wrote to ask: Would I still object to the placement of the wreath if it were made of holly? Yes, I would. And perhaps the reader would, too, if he had seen it. There is no way to know. Personal sensibility comes into play. Individual taste. Continue Reading
Still Touring

The Twelve Days of Christmas are over. But the Christmas season does not end officially until Candlemas, February 2nd. That leaves time to revel in images that have delighted me all of my life. The magic of their pictorial agility never flags. Their graphic intelligence—linear and compositional elegance, or what the old Italians called disegno—displays sensibilities that are rarely matched anymore in standard seasonal illustration. In part, that is because Christmas is no longer a spur, commercial or personal, to high imaginations. Continue Reading
Christmas Cards, A Tour

They get into your blood after awhile, all our sugared Christmas images—candied madonnas, honeyed bambini, angels that look like Vienna choir boys. One more cottage-in-the-Shire, with glitter on the snow-covered roof and a lantern in the window, and I will need an insulin injection. This 19th C. lithograph below came just in time. It dates from the days, long-forgotten now, that smart-mouthed cubs—little incorrigibles—could find a lump of coal in their stockings. That was before self-esteem was sacralized and any offense against it risked being reported to social services and deemed actionable. Continue Reading