Notes from Candice Ransom

The Winter of Our (My) Discontent

Inauguration Day.  Except for exercise class, I stayed home.  We have no TV and my husband took the newspapers with him to work.  But the Internet sprayed me with the day’s events.  People would not stop talking.  Talk, talk, talk.  By the time I went to bed, my stomach was in knots.

Saturday I left the house for Richmond.  I wanted a day away from politics and hoped another 50 miles from D.C. would do it.

The weather was gray and mizzly.  I wanted to catch the Jefferson exhibit at the Virginia Historical Society.  Most of Jefferson’s personal papers are archived in the Massachusetts Historical Society and select letters, books, and drawings were on loan. The show would close on Sunday.

I arrived too early and walked around.  Sometimes I think I might like living in the city, with its different houses, runners, dog-walkers, coffee shops, bookstores, quirky boutiques.  In the city, I could be left alone with my own thoughts.

If I believed I’d avoid other people’s conversations, I was wrong.  Even though no one spoke a word to me, their voices were broadcast loud and clear.  These photos don’t reflect my opinions, they only document what I encountered on one street.

These people intruding on my thoughts, pushing their agendas at me, made me grumpy.  I decided I didn’t like the city.  I don’t drink coffee and have no desire to work on a laptop in a coffee shop.  Boutiques are generally filled with things I don’t need.  Even the bookstores were disappointing (no real children’s section).

My feet hurt by the time I trudged back to the Virginia Historical Society.  But I felt lighter when I entered the gallery featuring Jefferson’s papers.  Much has been written about Jefferson and in recent years he’s become a popular target.  Many people think they know him, but in truth, no one does.

I was delighted by his drawing of the “Pigeon House,” no mere dovecote, but a dwelling I’d move into tomorrow.  I marveled at his very tiny handwriting in his Farm Book.  Unlike most of the founding fathers, Jefferson’s cursive is readable; his thoughts clear as a Virginia creek.  He was a writer and I am, too.

I stood a long time before his handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, the document that began the journey toward our right to free speech.  Those people on the sidewalk were entitled to their way of thinking, just as I’m entitled to mine.

Across the hall in another gallery I found a surprise: an exhibit of original  illustrations from recent children’s books.  My spirits lifted higher.  After viewing the art, I sat down with the collection of books.  Nothing soothes like sitting with a lap of picture books.

Frazzled nerves calmed, I drove home.  Okay, I like some things about the city.  Museums.  I’m overdue for a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Soon I’ll board the commuter train to D.C.  I’ll ignore coffee shops and political chatter and enjoy the part of the city that belongs to all of us, but can be mine for a day.






13 thoughts on “The Winter of Our (My) Discontent”

  1. I was soothed by your sharing of the museum experience. Sometimes when I am overwrought I just sit down at a book case and revisit some children’s books. The time becomes infinite and I look up to find I am in a better place in the world. One Morning in Maine or A Day on Maple on Maple Hill Farm and I am good to go again for awhile.
    As always, thanks for being a writer.

    • Sheilah, I do the same thing. I pull out old picture books, or my favorite middle grade novels from my childhood. I may not even read more than a page or two, but having them in my hand, remembering how much I loved those books enough to check them out of the library over and over because I wanted to own them (and now I do), carrying them to other rooms besides my office to give them a “tour” . . . yes, our books always bring us to a better place.

  2. Thanks for that beautiful photo of Jefferson’s handwriting. I’ve tried and tried to write something about his garden of peas, but have somehow not been able to figure it out. As you say, we don’t know him.

  3. Thanks for sharing this post. It has been difficult to find peace during the past months, but I to find quiet and comfort in my old favorite books from my collection.
    To mention a few – The Kobie series by you, Amethyst Dreams by Phyllis Whitney and The Journals of Lucy Maude Montgomery. I always know they will carry me away to a time and place of comfort, like dear old friends.

    • It’s kind of you to mention my Kobie books along with anything by Phyllis Whitney, one of my all-time favorite writers. I don’t have the Journals of Lucy Maude Montgomery, but I’m going to fix that right now! Thanks!

      I think a lot of us are hunkering down and finding solace in the things that have stood the test of time, old books, old friends, old places.


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