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Book Review : The Joys of Country Living in Full Bloom

October 09, 1986|C. A. WEDLAN | Wedlan is a Times editorial desk assistant.

Stillmeadow Daybook by Gladys Taber (Harper & Row: $14.95)

Gladys Taber "shakes with excitement" at the sight of snowdrops; espies neighbor George furrow the land, and she is moved to declare "a man who plows rides the world." She is the kind of woman who embraces the countryside for all it's worth. We wouldn't have benefited from Taber's printed response to the country if she and best friend, Jill, hadn't had a bellyful of city living.

When the two city-bound families would try to have some fun, say venture forth to a picnic, the outing was just that--trying. They decided to get a toehold on the countryside. Sufficient gumption and down payment secured an old Connecticut farmhouse and acreage that began as a weekend retreat and wound up as the permanent homestead. Eventually two city apartments were traded in for the one 1690 farmhouse, Stillmeadow.

Taber's written account of the swap proves they fared well in the bargain. All of that was way back when. By the time we catch up, rustication is in full bloom. Taber and Jill are the sole occupants of Stillmeadow, along with nine dogs. The grown children, a grandchild, neighbors and friends troop in and out of Stillmeadow, an irresistibly cozy homestead.

We have visitation rights for a full year. We're privy to Taber's unmuffled senses taking in country-dwelling details in and out-of-doors. Her sketches highlight inconsequentialities skipped over, if not trampled on, by most folks. In Taber's estimation it is the unnoteworthy that is striking, worth the mentioning, worth living for. Even the little incidences are welcome. When the yardman was unable to keep an appointment, he rescheduled with a note of explanation that ran, "Car refused to start, and ducks caused accident. Will be over Thursday." An unattended yard is worth a note like that, at least to Taber's way of thinking.

If her way of thinking is withershins to the world, it's a fine direction. We follow that direction cyclic-wise. The chapters are broken down by months. Each month fairly dehisces with its peculiar seasonal offerings. The months also are cram-packed with tender reminisces, forehanded sagacity regarding national concerns (the book, originally published by J.B. Lippincott in 1955 remains timely) and occasional guileless swipes at the latest wrinkle.

Taber does something few manage, at least in print. She provides a sense of solidity and goodness and comfort, with her feet squarely on the ground, knowing intimately the good ground around her; grounds that are forever taking a beating. She gives us a clue to her style of faith: ". . . just the ability to garner the perfect moments." "There is always one moment in a day when I think my heart will break." " . . . when all the meaning of life seems distilled and caught up and you feel you can never, never bear to leave it." The trick is to notice, to get on the downwind side of that moment, stand still and sniff hard.

Taber simply regales in the rigors and raptures of daily doings country-style. She is no apologist for small-town or country living. That is the only omission in this book and a welcomed one at that.

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