The Table in Early Spring

Spring Table nest with rock eggs

In New England, as it has everywhere else, cold, gray weather has long overstayed its appointed time. So in putting together a look for a table for a lunch event last week, it didn’t seem quite right to smother the table in pastel flowers. And since the geography of granite and rocky beaches, woods and quarries here on Cape Ann is so dominant anyway, I just let the geography win.

The color scheme of the table centerpiece was gray and white, with the green element provided by moss. And dirt. I can’t forget the dirt that made its way onto the table from underneath the moss. One guest more or less had her plate sitting in a trail of the stuff, but she was a very good sport about it. It was a bit like a more refined version of an early spring picnic in the woods.  The place cards were made from rounded, smooth beach stones that looked like speckled eggs, and snowdrops, made from crepe paper, poked from the moss, mimicking what was taking place outside.

Early Spring Table

It felt decadent, as one guest at the lunch put it, to sit down on a random Tuesday and have lunch together with a collection of creative, interesting people, most of whom didn’t really know the hosts — or each other. Food writer Heather Atwood hosted the meal at her painterly house, Howlets. She not only made the delicious meal, she provided the color with her early spring soup, made up primarily of root vegetables that she found at a nearby farmers’ market and cooked until they were just tender with a bit of bite. To see those beautiful colors collected in a bowl and set against so much gray and white was enough to make a winter-starved soul break out in song, like something from a medieval rite of spring.

The whole experience was so invigorating, from the company to the setting to the food, that, far from taking a post-meal nap, I felt like writing a book or trying my hand at oil painting after everyone gathered their coats and left. Not that I did either of those things. But I certainly felt like it, and that is as much as I could hope for from lunch on a random Tuesday afternoon in March.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; — Song of Solomon 2:11

Table From Above

Early Spring Table Details...

photo: Heather Atwood

photo: Heather Atwood

In the Field: Waterlogged Vintage

One of the places I love to check out here on the North Shore of Boston boasts a great selection of piles of old stuff. The only problem: at least a third of this stuff is outside, in all kinds of weather. Just like the fabled mailman — in rain, sleet or snow — except these antique pieces aren’t wearing government-issued rain gear and are left to fend for themselves in the New England precipitation, deteriorating more in just a few weeks than in all their previous hundred years. I’ve seen some really great pieces slowly fall to bits outside the store, the price too steep to justify the purchase — and by the time the price comes down, the piece is in such terrible condition that no one bothers.

A very cool chair, left outside to rot.

Still, I go to this store, because, in spite of its overpriced stock and poor approach to inventory management, it represents what junking is all about. An old building filled with old stuff, with just enough room for customers to poke around aisle by aisle, hoping to spy something interesting at least, desirable at best. Continue reading