January 1, 2010


2010 has a good ring. You can say “twenty ten” naturally, and don’t have to say the whole “two thousand nine.”  At a table for ten friends last night, talk turned to resolutions.  Two vowed to be kinder. One to be more tolerant. Only one said “lose weight,” which is a perennial for me and simply goes without saying now!  Ed resolved to protect his solitude for writing from the vicissitudes of our house.  We both want to read Dante’s Inferno in Italian. (This now that I’ve finally finished Proust—for years a seductive soporific on summer afternoons.) Workouts, genealogy and remodeling a kitchen were mentioned. And everyone wants to travel.

My main resolution is to work on creating more enchantment in the garden. I am reading The Secret Garden to my grandson and remembering vividly the childhood world of the garden, surely as close to Eden as we get.  I want more bolting poppy beds, more roses tangling in trees, more patches of lilies of the valley, more big-faced hydrangeas, more wildflower swaths.

We’re lucky to have Panciuto as our neighborhood restaurant in Hillsborough, NC.  http://www.panciuto.com/chef.html

Chef Aaron Vandermark cooks Italian food with the local North Carolina produce and cheeses. The highlights of his end of the year celebration were the chestnut soup and the five games of tombola we played.  The small restaurant was packed with local people.  Ed and I walked out into the chilly new year, recalling the Italian cenone, the long, lavish feasts we’ve had on this night in Tuscany. Cena, dinner, is enlarged by the amplifying suffix -one.  (Not to be confused with cenacolo, the last supper.)  Cenone–that is one big dinner!  And here, surrounded by wonderful friends, it was the same ambiance.

The Roman custom of throwing out junk into the street on New Year’s Eve has waned.  It used to be dangerous to walk along the sidewalks—a broken chair or unhinged suitcase might halt your plans for the evening.  But the impulse is strong at the end of the year to clear out, reorganize, start a new project.  I get the urge to rearrange furniture. Today we’ve dragged a chest downstairs and all of a sudden the dining room looks finished. I borrowed a desk from my daughter and now have more work space in my study.  I immediately hauled upstairs an armful of gardening books and for the coming winter days, I’ll be sketching and musing.

For reading and dreaming of gardens, I recommend Montrose: Life in a Garden (Duke University Press) by Nancy Goodwin. Montrose is a heavenly garden in Hillsborough, NC and can be visited by appointment.  I’ve visited all the great gardens in England, Wales, and Scotland.  Montrose is the most imaginative. After visiting for the first time, I had fantastical dreams for a week. The book fascinates not only because of its immense lore of knowledge and by its charming illustrations, but because of the austere and powerful prose style of Nancy Goodwin. If at all interested in gardens, you must be transformed by this book.