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  TIME FOR ANOTHER STILLMEADOW REVIVAL
     

Old houses, I thought, do not belong to people ever, not really, people belong to them.
   - Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Daybook

    Back in the 80’s there was a revival of interest in the Stillmeadow series of books written in the 50’s and early 60’s by the popular Family Circle columnist Gladys Taber. So strong was the hold she had on thousands of readers that after her death in 1980 Harper and Row and several other publishers reissued  a number of her Stillmeadow books,  accounts of her years at Stillmeadow,  a 1690 house on 40 acres that started out as her summer home and became her full time residence for more than two decades. To this day, with almost all her work out of print, Gladys Taber has some of the most loyal fans in the world.  The Friends of Gladys Taber has almost 600 members, women and men,  dedicated to keeping her work alive. They put out a quarterly newsletter and have a conference once a year. We agree with them that her books should be reissued again. Gladys Taber has just what our worrisome world  needs  now. There is enough unpretentious wisdom and deep good humor in her writing to lift the spirits of just about anybody and everybody, from Wall Street to Butcher Hollow.

  Like Emerson, Thoreau and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Gladys Taber has the gift of seeing the miraculous in the ordinary. “This farmer’s stoop, I think, is not from too much heavy work,” she wrote, “but somehow has an overtone of the farmer’s relation to the earth, he and the earth have a kinship and he naturally bends a little toward it.” In the same book, Stillmeadow Daybook, first published in 1955, she tells how “…one day this week there was an unusual commotion as two strange dogs, speaking a strange dialect come down the road and leaned against our fence and made communist statements.”

  Gladys had the capacity be as simple and down home as any native country person. At the same time, she possessed a vast intellect, along with a deep passion for English Romantic poetry.  Keats was “Johnny” to her; she writes about  him like he was her own son. When she holds forth on Shakespeare, she does it while she’s hanging blankets on the clothesline. In another place in Stillmeadow Daybook , she mentions that she is reading Edwin Way Teale,  the nature writer whose house and land we featured in the last issue  CTOldHouse.com. She calls Teale “a modern day Thoreau.”  She spices up her pages with quotes from Edna Millay, Rupert Brooke, Walter DeLamere, and even Ezra Pound. She blows my mind when she mentions The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the earliest days of white settlement in Connecticut. I was beginning to wonder if anybody else but me outside the world of Cooper studies had ever read it. Gladys had.

  When the writer T.J. Banks lost her husband to a car accident, she turned for comfort to Gladys Taber’s book Another Path . On her blog, Banks shares the sentences by Taber that helped her in her grief:  “Undertows are tricky, so is grief. You try to swim in a slanting course, so the experts tell me, and you gain a little distance towards the shore as you stroke not against but across the pull…It is possible to be happy even if one is lacking a mainstream. It is a different kind of happiness but it can be obtained.”

  As she is for many people, Gladys Taber is very alive for me, even though she’s been dead for thirty-three years. Many readers remark how they believe she was talking to them, personally. This is exactly how I felt when I first read “Life is not waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.”

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