Earlier this year, I drove to Lenox, Massachusets to visit Edith Wharton's estate. Driving through the Berkshires is always a pleasure. I had never been to The Mount before and it was magnificent. It is just off of Route 7, on a little side street.

From the entrance, one can only see the stable and a small house.

Mount Stable

It is not until you walk down a wooded pathway for about a half mile that you see the Mount gradually appear.

Path leading up to The Mount

The path is very serene, but I wouldn't suggest taking a leisurely stroll at sunset. The mosquitos are carnivorous and you will be their prey! As I walked further up the path, I saw the Mount! I had envisioned something quite diferent from what I initially saw.

Back of the Mount

This is the actual front of the Mount, although most people think the garden side of the house is the front. As I walked through the whitewashed stone wall, I could see a garden in the distance. Inside the stone wall is a courtyard, which would have been where carraiges parked.  The house is a brick structure, painted white. Although the house was built on a grand scale, the front door is quite plain with straight lines.

Plain door

When I entered the house, I was fascinated with the spaces in which Edith Wharton lived and wrote. Her first book, The Decoration of Houses, which was co-written with Odgen Codman Jr., was about architectural design. The Mount was built 5 years after the book was published. One can imagine, quite correctly, that the Mount is a masterpiece of design.

Edith Wharton collected the finest tapestries from around the world, to adorn the walls. One example is in the parlor:

Mount parlor

One of my favorite rooms at the Mount is the parlor, where the tapestry above is located. Edith Wharton did some of her writing in this room, and I imagine she entertained guests here, also.

Mount Parlor 2

The rooms are adjoined by a hallway (on each floor) called a "gallery" which feature sculptures on pedestals. Artwork also adorns the walls. Here is a photo of one of the sculptures on a pedestal in the first floor gallery.

Gallery Foyer at the Mount

This house is grand and opulent, so it surprised me to see that Edith's bathroom is quite small and plain. I'm sure that at some point there was a vanity in between the sconces. The view out the window overlooks the landscaped gardens.

Edith's bathroom

The above picture was taken at night.

Below is a picture taken the next day. You can see the landscape outside the window.

Edith's bathroom2

The gardens outside of the Mount are reminiscent of the ornamental gardens of 18th century England. Here are some photos of the landscape architecture and gardens at the Mount:

the_mount_garden

Wharton gardens

These photos are beautiful, but they can't capture the scents and sounds. I felt very peaceful when walking the grounds. Whatever may have been troubling me in the "real" world escaped my mind. While I was at the Mount, I felt removed from the world and all its problems. That is why I describe the grounds and the pathway leading up to the house as serene.

As the sun was setting, I took a walk down to the Wharton's pet cemetery. Yes, they cherished their dogs and buried them in graves, with gravestones.

Toto's grave at the Mount

Miza's grave at the Mount

Source: savethemount.org
Source: savethemount.org

Miza is in the center of the photo. Miza's grave is the one above this picture.

Modele's grave at the Mount

Edith Wharton's husband was also a dog lover. His favorite dog is said to have been "Jules." Below is a photo of Teddy and Jule on a horse.

Source: www.helpsavethemount.org
Source: www.helpsavethemount.org

... and here is a picture of Jules's grave

Jules grave at the Mount

I will end this post by showing a photo of the Mount, taken at night. It has quite a different feel at night. Quite spooky, actually!

Mount in the dark

The time that I spent at the Mount was very enjoyable. I learned a lot about Edith Wharton and her relationships with husband Teddy Wharton and their good friend, Henry James. I will add a separate post about her life and works.

This was a beautiful weekend and I kept every window open for about 10 hours. Most of the day was spent out on the front porch listening to birds singing while studying and reading. My indoor cats sat on the various window sills, pseudo-hunting. Poor kitties... they want to pounce on those robins and the damn screens are in the way!

The breeze moved the curtain onto the other side of the half-table, creating a silhouette.

When a brown recluse spider came down from its web and landed on my laptop, I decided to head indoors, but not before taking this picture of my garden table:

A bird has a nest inside this little birdhouse. I thought it would never happen, since it is not high off of the ground. I enjoy studying outside, but soon it will be too humid.

The semester is coming to an end and I am determined to be well prepared this time. I will have papers and projects completed this coming week so that I can devote the last remaining weeks studying for exams. Therefore, my kitchen table looks like this:

I am working on a paper (rather, the idea of a paper) for my 'Major Works of Drama' class and don't want to choose a typical topic. Therefore, I am researching 19th century women who wrote 'closet' dramas. Of course, I will discuss the patriarchal constraints under which they lived and wrote. The following books are excellent research materials:

During my evening bath, I always read in order to wind down and get into relaxation-mode. My current bathtub book is "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf. A few years ago, I had to read it for a class. Now, I am revisiting the novel on my own terms! I am enjoying it much more the second time around.

Lately, I have been thinking that I don't do enough of anything beside studying and writing. My husband is stuck in another state working (indefinitely, it seems) and I am alone with the cats. To keep from getting (more) depressed, I have decided to do something I used to enjoy... cross-stitching.  I began a project when I was in New England, but I put it away and haven't worked on it in 8 months. It is a scene of Old Sturbridge Village .

This is what I've done thus far.

... and this is what it will look like when it is finished.

The house I stitched can be found in the center of this photo. Do you recognize it? My treetops aren't quite finished yet! I usually stitch on linen, but this project is on 18-  count Aida cloth. I think stitching on linen makes a smoother appearance.

It is getting late, so I bid you 'Goodnight!'

I love all of New England. I would happily spend the rest of my life in Connecticut. I wish we could live in Madison!

OK... now for the good stuff:

After not seeing my husband for 4 months, I had a surprise for him. I told him to get in the Jeep and that I would drive us to an undisclosed location... 5 hours north. His only responsibility was to keep good music on the radio. We arrived at the mystery place at around 3 PM:

We had to be somewhere at 4:30 PM. All he knew was that we would be driving up a steep mountain on snowy roads. YIKES! But... our Jeep handled in well. Where... you may wonder... were we destined to be at 4: 30 PM??

Surprise!!! We went to Trapp Family Lodge. Do you recall the vonTrapp family of "The Sound of Music" fame? They left Austria and settled in Stowe, Vermont because the mountains resembled their beloved Edelweiss. Well, that was our mystery destination.

What would two people (who do not ski) be doing at Trapp Family Lodge... one of the top 5 ski resorts in the world... at the height of ski season??

Going for a horse drawn sleigh ride.... of course!!

Even though it was 14 degrees... with a wind chill making it feel like it was 5 below... we went for a ride in an open sleigh! We were dressed in layers, with scarves wrapped around our faces and two down blankets covering our legs. Not exactly toasty, but it took the frostbite potential down a couple notches.

My husband was very happy about my surprise and was impressed with how I managed to keep him in suspense until we walked up to the sign in the first picture. He thought I wanted us to cross-country ski. Maybe next time...

After the sleigh ride, we went into the Lodge and had mulled cider. I loved how each mug of cider came with a cinnamon stick and slice of orange. My husband was a bit worn out from the frigid half hour ride, but he survived!

The next day, we drove to Hardwick, Vermont to visit one of my favorite independent bookstores: The Galaxy Bookshop. I have written about it in a previous post.

I discovered this bookstore in 1993 when I was riding along the back roads in the Northeast Kingdom section of Vermont. As I mentioned in a previous post, the bookstore is in a former bank, so it has an interesting interior.

The Children's section is inside the vault! I brought my twin boys here when they were small. They would sit in there and look at books for 30-45 minutes at a time, while I browsed. When I took this picture, I could remember so clearly how they would hang out in there. Now they are 16...

I love the window design and the granite floors.

The next day, I took my husband to Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, VT. Next door to the cider mill is a winery that sells supplies. My husband makes his own hard cider, so he was thrilled to get some white wine yeast. It is hard to find that stuff!

His favorite section seemed to be wherever coffee was brewing. I don't drink coffee, but he need regular doses throughout the day in order to function! Case in point:

On the way back to the highway for the ride back to Connecticut, we stopped by Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters.

Neither of us are ice cream eaters, but how could we resist?

The most interesting things I learned while there was that Ben and Jerry decided to take a $5.00 correspondence course to learn how to make ice cream. Then, they bought a $25.00 ice cream machine and opened up their business in Burlington, VT in a tiny retail space. To drum up business, they bought a bus (pictured above) and would drive around giving out free samples. Their little business grew. Now, that is impressive!! They've since moved on...

My husband dubbed our overnight excursion our "second honeymoon." I agree.

You have reached the end of part one...

I am going to write something that you, my dear readers, may not need to know. I prefer baths... long, leisurely baths. (My bathtub is pictured below.) On those days that I don't have to hurry up and get out the door, I take my long, leisurely baths. When the water starts to cool, I let some of the water out of the tub and add more hot water. During these hour-long hot baths, I read.

My bathtub

My current bathtub read is titled,  "Vision in the Sky: New Haven's Early Years, 1638 - 1783," written by Myrna Kagan . It is actually a children's book, geared toward 10 years and up, and written for a reading audience of local New Haven school kids. It doesn't matter! It is a wonderful book and her writing style is such that I feel as if she is telling me a story ...while sitting on my couch! It is a cozy read.

Kagan refers to New Haven's streets and landmarks and writes about how they have evolved during the past 371 years. So, unless you are familiar with New Haven, you might miss part of the fascination!

I have been interested in New England Puritans for many years, but one mostly reads about the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony. So, it was intriguing to read about those who left Boston in the 1630's and migrated to New Haven to start "New Haven Colony." My hometown of Wallingford, CT was a part of New Haven Colony in those early years.

Here is an example of Kagan's relaxed writing style. In this paragraph, the author mentions my hometown:

"You might ask what, exactly, the English got in the way of land. They had bought, or practically had been given, the land that is now the towns of New Haven, East Haven, Branford, North Branford, North Haven, Wallingford, Cheshire, Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge and Orange. Probably, you and many of your friends live in one of these towns. Wouldn't you agree that Mr. Eaton and his friends paid a very small sum for this great tract of land whose worth is so great today it cannot be calculated?" (Kagan 40-41).

Myrna Kagan can come to my house anytime to tell me stories of New England's early history. I think she is a magnificent writer! I will read more of her works.

Work Cited:

Kagan, Myrna. Vision in the Sky: New Haven's Early Years, 1638 - 1783. 2nd ed.   New Haven: Hillhouse Press, 2007. Print.