a gift I gave myself


The kitchen is quiet this morning, and the world outside is white with snow. Yesterday carols rang out as we made coffee, settled by the fire to open stocking gifts, moved near the tree for what was under it in bright bags, tied with ribbons, and then began the preparation of one meal after another — poached eggs with hollandaise and smoked salmon; roast duck with cornbread and dried fruit stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower baked with tomato sauce and parmesan (Karna is vegetarian), buttermilk biscuits, John’s trifle. This morning, in the quiet kitchen, I was thinking about the year to come. I have new silver bangles to add to my others, a book about Helen Frankenthaler, a device so that I can turn the light in the greenhouse on and off remotely (this is so welcome because of the times I’ve gone out in the dark to turn the switch on, shining a little flashlight, hoping that cougars are lying low), a painting by my granddaughter, my favourite salted chocolate caramels.

The gift that called to me this morning was the one I gave myself. Or at least I chose it myself, at a craft fair in November, when we stopped by a table covered in the most beautiful and unusual books. Blank books, with wooden covers. Coptic-bound, with waxed Irish linen thread, the signatures wrapped in gorgeous papers. Each one was gorgeous and completely different from every other one. It was hard to chose just one but I did, this one, its cover made of yellow cedar and Peruvian walnut:

wooden book

Fields of Blue, Green and Gold. Each book was named but this one was the one for me. The woman carefully wrapped it, Furoshiki style, in green silk. The package was so beautiful that I said to John that I’d put it away and it could go under the tree. Because to be honest it felt indulgent to buy something for myself so close to Christmas and also to buy something sort of frivolous, though blank with possibilities.

And now it’s been opened, the green silk folded and put aside to wrap something else in when the time comes. What now. What will I do with this book? I think I’ve written before that I don’t keep a journal. I have, in the past, when I’ve been travelling. When I was in my early 20s, I was a little obsessive about keeping one and when I read them now, I wonder at that young woman with her finger firmly on her own pulse, recording every flutter, every bird, every plant, every cup of tea by the big fireplace in the cottage she rented on Inishturbot, in the guest bedroom of the friends in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, in the old Victorian heap in Wimbledon where she worked as a dogsbody for a charitable foundation helping psychiatric patients find new footing. But now? An aging grandmother in a house in the woods during a world pandemic? Ha.

In a way this blog is my journal. I sit at my desk when there’s a puzzle to work out, something I want to describe and record, a list I want to put down so I don’t forget. But now there’s a book as I am about to enter my 68th year, absolutely perfect with its rich papers and smooth wooden covers, and a new year ready to unspool on the horizon. A gift I gave myself, bindings carefully stitched with thread I might have chosen, and a first page waiting for my pen to give it life.


6 thoughts on “a gift I gave myself”

  1. Lovely as usual, Theresa. My mouth is watering as I read of the delicious meals you prepared. Buttermilk biscuits and roast duck with cornbread and dried fruit stuffing, oh my!
    I’m sitting here planning a meal for Dec 31st: champagne cocktails, scallops on the shell, scampi risotto …
    I wish you and your family a new year 2022 filled with continued love, happiness and good fortune.

    1. And best of everything to you, Juliet. We’re living through such a strange time and somehow the old constants are very comforting–cornbread and trifle included. Let’s hope for a better 2022.

  2. Your blog makes me hungary! Duck, cauliflower cheese, smoked salmon, and John’s trifle. Do you deliver – we are only 2000 miles away! Still, I did a fair job with turkey, cranberry sauce and sprouts, with apple crumble and custard to follow. And we get it all again today! Then, it’s back to baked beans on toast and HP sauce, though I still consider gourmet food fit for a king. I look forward to your mouth watering new years banquet. Cheers, John

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