I grew up in the Connecticut countryside of the 1950’s. Carefully tended farmland surrounded our spacious Victorian home, lovely, gentle Jersey cows grazed peacefully in lush pastures alongside a spirited, black stallion I came to call my friend. My sisters and I drank fresh milk with thick cream clogging the narrow necks of glass bottles; and in the spring the banks of a meandering stream turned blue with Quaker Ladies.
My Russian grandfather, from many generations of orchardists in the “old country”, and a true bee whisperer kept his bees between the joists of our barn and collected honey with no protective gear. I was his helper in the garden and in the small orchard he kept behind our barn. Memories linger, always, of warm honeycomb blissfully melting in my mouth, bees circling grandfather’s head, some alight in his thick white hair, blue eyes twinkling and this sweet, warm, golden offering as he smiled down upon me.
But the Connecticut I loved changed with the advent of suburban sprawl and shopping centers and my soul became restless and dissatisfied. It is not surprising that, years later, I found my way to Vermont and the wonder of being surrounded by meadows and forests once again permanently lodged in my heart.
I met Tasha’s son, Seth at a neighborhood party. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I was missing a gray striped cat, and wondered if he’d seen her anywhere. “Hmmmm,” said he, “a cat fitting that description had recently wandered into his mother’s barn and perhaps it was my kitty. Would I like to take a look?”
“Yes, of course, I would,” I said.
So, one snowy afternoon he came by to walk with me up the long drive to Tasha Tudor’s unfinished house. I was invited to tea (of course I was invited to tea) and Tasha admired a hand knitted sweater I was wearing, which I had finished off with a crocheted edging around the sleeves. To make a long story short, Miss Puss (as Tasha had named her) was comfortably ensconced on a pillow in Tasha’s lap and pretended she didn’t know me. I had not the heart to claim her and just said, “No, that’s not my missing tabby cat.” Miss Puss spent many happy years living with Tasha and many happy hours on her lap by the kitchen cookstove. When our paths crossed, we always nodded politely to one another and went about our respective business.
As one of a few students Tasha taught, I remember winter afternoons around tea time and a warming fire in the cookstove, lessons on light and shadow, techniques using pencil or watercolor, quick sketches of objects and seated guests, ways to develop shades of green using colors other than green out of a tube of watercolor paint. Tasha often said that getting the right shade of green was very difficult. In spring and summer garden tours after tea to pick a spray of some lovely blooming thing to sketch and paint was often suggested.
Over the years, as our children grew, I learned to make dolls and marionettes, paint, garden with abandon, spin and weave, and care for, with my children’s help, all the animals - goats, sheep, dogs, kitties, birds, geese and ducks, and a few horses. As a matter-of-fact, our Tasha Tudor and Family business was born one snowy March afternoon over a cup of tea while we were perusing a stack of garden catalogs. Think of that!