A Happy Book

And so we are off.  The boys are back at school and I am home again in the quite with only the rustle and woofing of the dogs to disturb me.

I received an email, the subject line of which was “Be Well in 2012” and I originally thought the sender was “The Universe.” Ominous, once opened it turned out to be from The University of Kansas.  Nice, but less profound.

I could use a little profundity as I have had a few projects come to an end and rather than feeling relieved, I feel adrift.  Two volunteer projects sit on my desk like bags of snakes.  They twist and curl, slither and hiss just here at my left elbow; I keep thinking I have their sacks firmly tied, but they make me anxious just the same.

And, our new year feels more like mourning than morning.  Over the holidays we were seeped in death, dipped again and again and again.  It did not diminish the joy of the carols, but often made them seem a little too loud.

As joyous as the season is, and as much as it touts beginnings, it is the end of things as well.

To shake off the snakes and escape the gloom of my musings, I set out to see the world.  A great find came, as great finds often do, on a dusty shelf in a thrift shop.  It was waiting there for me, without its wrap (and not needing one as our weather has been fine), knowing that I would find it and its meaning in good time.

Ludwig Bemelmans’s The Best of Times is a compilation of his articles for Holiday magazine recounting his travels through Europe following World War II.  Mr. Bemelmans took his title from Dickens, and, indeed, it is not always a rosy view.  But to me it said, “Go.  Don’t wait.  You never know.”

All images by Ludwig Bemelmans from The Best of Times, Simon and Schuster, 1948.  The title is taken from the introduction.  “I set out to write a happy book.  The mood was somber, then as it is now, but I disagreed with the opinion that was screamed at us from the radio and the front pages…”

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18 thoughts on “A Happy Book

  1. LOVE Bemelman's illustrations. . .thank you for sharing. A great post, as always.
    Wishing you all good fortune this new year.

  2. Delightful illustrations. Not only has my Monday begun with a smile just because Mrs. Blandings was in my Inbox, but the bag of twisting snakes awaiting my ride to a meeting this morning seem a little quieted w/ remembrances of that time when my boys headed back after break & I was "free" to begin the year anew and renewed. May happy travels await us all this new year!

  3. I understand your feelings–the older I grow, the more remembering I do, which invariably leads to thinking of what is ending. It takes a great deal of energy to focus myself on trying new things but I find it worth it. What a find that book was! I know you will enjoy it and hope you will share more with us. Thanks for making the effort to share your life. Pat

  4. Ms. B, your projects and the way you execute them always give the rest of us hope that some day we might just wake up one morning and be able to do the same. January is a great month to clear the decks. Often the hardest task is just rising to the occasion. Happy New Year

  5. I think the comments so beautifully presented, Mrs. B.,are shared by a great many people. After a year filled with challenges, 2012 is bringing with it a feeling of trepidation. Hope and optimism is often dashed by a multitude of disappointments (paraphrasing Dr. Johnson). The Bemelmans book certainly brought back alot of nostalgia for me as well and that itself brought some cheer. Wishing you a continued outlet for your musings and creativity in 2012- M.

  6. Hi Patricia, Yes, things end but in their ashes life sprouts anew with different beginnings. I know what you mean about the slithering heads…I do love the Bemelman illustrations!! Be well. Mary

  7. Hope, honesty, optimism, courage, honor, friendship, living simply and fearlessly… all these things are still alive. 2012 is going to be a wonderful year.

  8. Listen to what the book said to you. "go". Smack the snakes on the head, be done with them, have a fabulous year!

  9. So so happy for the new year, which I know will be full of strength, courage and determination. Oh as well as adventure!


    Art by Karena

  10. Beautiful & poignant illustrations dahhling… loved "the bag of snakes twisting & hissing on the desk!"

  11. I love him. In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines…

    I think I can relate to you with the term "adrift." I'm working on not always jumping into a new project. Mindfulness is my mantra (for the next 2 weeks 'til I get sick of it, haha.) You could always just put the snakes in your hair and forget the blowouts.

    Sending you warm thoughts for the new year. Xoxo

  12. Love the Bemelman illustrations. The Bemelman bar at the Carlyle is currently topping my must-do list for the next trip to NY.

  13. I've come back to read this one again as I appreciate much of what's offered.

    And if there is a chance to GO!, I hope you will.

    I'm forever grateful for worlds both beyond and within that are opened when travels take us to places that are known and unexpected.

    – MC

  14. Oh the things you find, what a wonderful book! I love Bemelmans, his illustrations and his stories. A very nice start to the new year, enjoy!

  15. Thanks for the lovely melancholy post for the New Year! And the Bemelmans drawings and reminder of how wonderful he was, off to Bookfinder.com to get myself a copy, grace a toi, merci!

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