Favorite Things ~ September Edition

Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow... ~Tom Jones

In the old Victoria magazine, one of my most cherished departments (among a crowd of loved ones) was Favorite Things. I always saved Chimes for last, and I religiously denied myself so much as a peek at the main body of the magazine—with its ravishing spreads of Old Masters-esque photographs and seasonal quotations from the likes of Bronte and Keats flourishing across the pages in sinuous script—until the proper details of the setting were in order: tea, a favorite chair by the window and a little bite of something lovely. (If it sounds like I used to have a party for my new Victoria, then I can only say that it deserved it.) But Favorite Things was always fair game. I could lose myself in it on the way back up the driveway from the mailbox and stand propped against the kitchen counter while my family bustled their commotion around me in an oblivion of utter impunity. Favorite Things was always my gateway to the rest of the magazine, even more so than Nancy Lindemeyer’s lovely letters, which I usually read next. It set the stage, so to speak, and called forth a host of memories and ideas suitable to the season that approached. There was a magic in that column that threw a rainbow tint over the month in question, intentionally highlighting its unique little pleasures and joys, comforts to be indulged in, and the subtle shades of distinction that make a kaleidoscopic variety of a year.

(I am well aware that the new Victoria carries the same feature. But it is not the same. It’s lost the magic. For me, at least.)

It is in memory of this, and perhaps in token of the fact that the start of each new month is always a ‘beginning the world’ for me—and never more so than September!—that I have decided to commence a Favorite Things feature here at Lanier’s Books. There are so many miracles to celebrate as our year revolves: small wonders to mark and keep; mementoes to pocket in tribute to a month’s unique identity. Bits of lovely that happen to make my heart happy at a given time.

It’s all so blessedly new when we turn the page of a calendar. And even more blessedly familiar. I’d like to welcome the changes while honoring the unchanging rhythm that undergirds and makes of all our brave adventuring into a month, at heart, a homecoming.

I had the inestimable pleasure of hosting this lovely little lady for the past year as a memento of a dear friend across the sea. Her name is Mariette and her manners are just as decorous as one might expect. While I was more than happy to return her to her family upon their return from abroad, her place has felt empty, and I have been half-heartedly looking out for a replacement.

Imagine my joy, then, when I spied this dainty creature in an antique shop. She appealed to me so endearingly with that modest expression of hers that I bought her on the spot and brought her home. Her name is Babette. I just love the way that a new spot of pretty can make a whole room feel fresh.

Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

William Wordsworth, September

Amid the longed-for September rains and the sweet decay of leaf mold, the mushrooms always start popping up like magic overnight. I love all the little colonies and clusters along the drive, some so elegant with their slender, white stalks and velvet caps, and others squat and brown and droll to the point of being ridiculous. They are all friends.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

E. B. Browning—Aurora Leigh

I believe that for the rest of my life, September will always make me think of Maine, and one sunset in particular that seemed to sum up the full beauty and sacredness of a week of much-needed solitude with my beloved. We hid ourselves in a clapboard cabin on a remote, spruce-fringed bay, and watched the land turn mellow around us every day. And every night there was a display of fire and gold in the sky and its reflected vanguard on the sea that took my breath with the love of God. This one was at the Bass Head Light.

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

John Updike, September

Was I the only one that gained serious wardrobe inspiration from the "Land Girls" feature in Victoria magazine, September 1998? I still go back to that one each fall just to stir up ideas for a favored look of mine. I call it "English-farmgirl-chic" and it's all tweeds and head scarves and sensible shoes and sweaters. The Land Girls were simply gorgeous to me, and Victoria honored them well, in my opinion. But it wasn't all about being absolutely stunning in overalls and Wellies. They were an amazing army of women that held the lines on the homefront during WWII and literally kept England from starving while most of the men were overseas. I spoke with a lady in her eighties once who had run away from her home (and her chores) as a girl to join the Land Army. After a few weeks of grueling labor in the fields, she ran away from the Land Army back to her mother's kitchen in Manchester!

How shimmer the low flats and pastures bare,
As with her nectar Hebe Autumn fills
The bowl between me and those distant hills,
And smiles and shakes abroad her misty, tremulous hair!

Lowell, An Indian Summer Reverie

September is my favorite time of year to camp. Nights just chilly enough for a campfire and days long and languid enough to feel like summer and something sweeter. I always forget how many stars there really are until we take our Silver Turtle out under a September sky and remember what a staggering miracle of wonder it is just to be alive. I can never quite fully recapture that sensation under a proper roof.

Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Blessed September, my friends!

20 Responses to “Favorite Things ~ September Edition”

  1. Elisabeth says:

    I remember the Lands Army issue of Victoria! And I remember the delighted feeling when I actually got my hands on a precious copy. I think my love of photography may come in part from that magazine. I’m glad you revived the Favorite Things feature: I can’t imagine a better hostess for it.

  2. Jessica says:

    Oh, how perfectly lovely! Reading this is sure to be a highlight of each month for me… 🙂

  3. Bek says:

    Love this idea,Lanier! I believe that I will wait with almost as much anticipation for your monthly “Favorite Things” as I did for the original.

  4. Lisa says:

    This is a very beautiful post. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this feature!

  5. That was so lovely that I sent a link to two friends!Yes, blessed September!
    One is going to do a seasonal celbration of poetry and tea: Poet-Tea!
    Can’t wait. Thanks for blessing me when I clicked on to welcome Autumn.

  6. eileen says:

    I am a new blog reader and am enjoying what you have published! I also love to see your book recommendations. Seeing City of Bells on your book shelf makes me smile. Do you have a favorite Elizabeth Goudge? I just finished Green Dolphin Street today and it makes me want to cry and be joyful at once.

    I read your comment about the British Women who tended to the work at home during WWII. It made me wonder if you have watched Foyles War? It’s excellent!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Hello, Eileen! It is VERY difficult to chose a favorite Goudge. ;)But, if pressed, I will always say “Pilgrim’s Inn”. But “City of Bells” runs a close close second, tied with “The Dean’s Watch”.

      And Foyles War? We love it! Probably my favorite mystery drama ever. 🙂

  7. Susan says:

    Our family was just at Southwest Harbor for a week, and enjoyed that same view at the Bass light. Imagine my delight as I was scrolling down on this beautiful post, to see that lovely place again. Thank you for your images and words, and the underlying spirit of gratitude and joy.

    On another note: I’m sorry I never was a reader of Victoria back in the day – it sounds wonderful.

  8. Monica says:

    Enjoyed this Favorite Things post! A beautiful September to you!

  9. jodi says:

    Hello, friend. I enjoyed everything about this post. Have you ever read the British version of Country Living? I feel the same way about it that you do, or did :(, the Victoria magazine. The Updike poem was delicious. It seemed to capture everything I love about autumn. Oh, and if you’re interested, Bron made a little film over at Curious Acorn. “The bee, his hive, Well-honeyed hum,” *Sigh* P.S. You’re one of my favorite things.

  10. Loved your posting…. been thinking similar thoughts…… and I myself have been browsing through my old treasures copies of Victoria’s September issues. I think that was my favourite month of issues…. loved the sense of coming back into the circle of the heart and home.

    Like you, for me September is new beginnings. I get stirred up for a new season (and I still love the sense of a new school year, even though I haven’t been a formal student for ages). I get excited about new pencils and scribblers and new books to crack open with anticipation.

    Guess this month… this season… are two of my favourite things. And it would appear that your blog is becoming that too!

    Here’s wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places……….

    • claudia adams says:

      I loved this post…made me want to sharpen pencils and check my supplies of pen and paper!! It is also time for “an apple a day”. I welcome the end of summer…it stayed too long this year!! Happy reading to you….I have to have a little visit with Lucy Maude soon.

  11. I had a comment all written last evening when suddenly it whisked away to where ever such things go.
    This particular issue of Victoria magazine is one of the few I have left after several moves. Having dragged back issues clear across the country in 1998, another packing inspired me to take all but a few favorites to the local library–I wish I had kept more of them.
    The article about the Land Girls is a favorite and that type of clothing suits my way of life. [Surely the outfits and models prettied up for the photo shoot are rather more fetching than those dedicated young women appeared at the end of a hard day.]
    The items featured in ‘Favorite Things’ were beyond my price range, but seeing them often alerted me to a similar find in a charity shop or inspired me to a rearrangement of what I already owned.
    Autumn is my favorite season–even as I brace for winter, albeit a gentler winter here in Kentucky than that of other years in other climates.

  12. I have a few old Victoria magazines out to peruse when I have some free time. I had to get rid of my original collection before making a move to another state but I’ve been able to find some these past few years at thrift stores and library sales.

    Was thrilled to find a few years worth at a favorite thrift store for a dime each last year. That was definitely a “God thing” when I needed encouragement.

    Looking forward to reading what you write each month. 🙂

  13. Mary K. says:

    I used to think I was the only one who looked forward to Victoria magazine and did just as you did, wait until I had a cup of tea and no one else around to open it and pause over the lovely pictures and quotes. I too, never could afford anything on the Favorite Things pages, but loved to look at them and dream and look in my own home for what I had that was similar or in a second hand store for something like it. I do subscribe to the new Victoria, I am so glad to see it back, no it is not the same but it’s still one of the most lovely magazines out there. I also love English Home, it is a beautiful magazine and makes me wish I had access to travel, but at least I can enjoy the view from here at home. Thank you for your blog, I have just discovered it and will be back soon to see what else you have to say.

  14. Maria says:

    Lovely, lovely. I’ll look forward to your Favorite Things the way you looked forward to that of the “authentic” 😉 Victoria.

  15. Judi says:

    I just popped over here rather late this month and am delighted with your Favorite Things–September Edition. Every bit of it. The photos. The poems. The memories. I still have every issue of Victoria from the very beginning. I mourned when Nancy Lindemeyer left her post as editor. I missed her touch, but kept the issues coming. Then I mourned again when they stopped publishing it. And was so happy when it returned more true to its founding days. Anyway, thank you for a lovely post. Tomorrow I intend to copy the September poems into my visual journal to mark the coming close of September. 😀

  16. Maria says:

    p.s. Thank you for sharing the delicate grace of Mariette and Babette. I feel certain that they’ll be exchanging miniature correspondence on scented, floral stationery.

    Your last photo reminds me of these lines by Leonie Adams:

    ….Between the birch trees’ gleaming arms,
    The faint stars trembled in the skies….

    The skies lay like pale-watered deep.
    Dusk ran before me to its strand
    And cloudily leaned forth to touch
    The moon’s slow wonder with her hand.


  17. Maria says:

    Lanier, this is my last comment on this post, I promise! I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy roving through older posts at your site sometimes when I get a quiet hour. I generally start with a word that’s on my mind, type it into your search box, and then am off and running. Earlier this week, typing “Mitford” (as in “Mary Russell Mitford,” not Jan Karon :-)) introduced me to baby versions of Master Pip and Mr. Wemmick at the laptop…utterly adorable…how you carried me into that charming day! This morning, typing “sister” led me to reading your beautiful The Gift of Music and Chicken-sitting, then about Sweet Peas and Winter’s Charms. Thank you so much for all these treasures from former years, as well. Now I’m off to begin my day…with a place of quiet beauty in my heart.

    I’ve never read another blog that made me want, so strongly, to print it all out, photos and layout exactly as shown, on thick creamy paper with a hand-torn edge, have it bound, and curl up in my armchair with tea to read it, leaving it always within easy reach on the side-table. To what can I compare it? C.S. Lewis’ tomes of letters come the closest for sheer homeiness, whimsical charm, and out-of-doors and indoor old-world delight. You are a dear blessing.

  18. I, too, love the old Victoria and have saved most of the copies. When the magazine came back, it sure didn’t have the old magic. I cancelled my subscription after one year. I think I’ll go look at a few copies before bed. My favorites were always the “England” edition. What a beautiful and unique magazine. It had everything a blue stocking could want!

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