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Green Acre #134: Through a Glass Sparkly

Life sometimes looks better in reflection. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

THERE WAS a little flurry of parsley in the garden yesterday, which I snapped up in anticipation of today’s bitter cold. That’s the sum total of this week’s puttering with plants.

Yet again there’s little to say about gardening in this quasi-gardening column, even less than last week, which led me to a consideration of doors.

So, let’s discuss mirrors.

Of mirrors we have many. There are eight on the ground level: ovals, squares, rectangles. At least two per room, some facing each other so the reflections are endless.

Most are overscale, bouncing light about and creating the illusion of space where there is little, this being a typical Capitol Hill row house, skinny and dark toward the center. They also reflect and seemingly double the size of the palms and Scheffleras and other shade-loving plants that winter indoors.

A very large gold-framed mirror on one wall of the dining room sits above the sideboard, reflecting a voluminous arrangement of dried flowers and leaves, assorted liquor bottles  and a large and eccentric lamp—a woman clad in some Egyptian wrappings who might be a man, considering the size of her feet.

Just outside, on the back porch, is a four-paneled mirrored screen, vaguely Moorish in design, that opens the space quite wonderfully while framing glimpses of the garden and flickering sunlight.

Another large mirror, ornately framed, presides over the kitchen stove. My architect friend Judith, a woman who generally scoffs at the merely ornamental, calls this use of mirror “courageous.”

I call it a way to give the little galley kitchen some air but am pleased by Judith’s thought.  Courageous sounds so swaggering, like flipping a car to free someone pinned, or jumping out of an airplane, or wearing a safari jacket for a safari, not to schlep to Trader Joe’s.

Judith, a modernist who prefers clean, sleek spaces, concedes that my kitchen suits the unconventional style of the house.

Courage, she tells me, has to do with cleaning and grease, at which I scoff. The kitchen is so busy with wallpaper and nonessentials that a little grease goes unnoticed. We have no upper cabinets on the stove side and no exhaust fan. We do have a microwave, inconveniently located in the basement and used for emergency defrosting.

Most things about this house are inconvenient, says my son-in-law, Baby’s Personal Prince Pete. But that is neither here nor there. Practical, in my view, always takes a back seat to visual pleasure.

Mirrors are also wonderfully mysterious, adding a welcome note of fantasy. Sometimes I daydream that if I just concentrate hard enough I can slither sideways into their sparkling world, nearly identical to where I am but slightly askew, the same but different in some interesting way.

Almost none of our mirrors are meant for primping. I have no interest in looking at myself, unless I’m going out and need to check my respectability.

Generally I don’t look so hot during the day. Working alone at home I sometimes find myself in pajamas at 5pm, hair still sleep-rumpled. This is not an image on which I choose to dwell.

My friend Susan developed a technique for feeling fabulously self-confident—and this is also neither here nor there, though associated with mirrors, and one of my very occasional important tips.

Susan tested a stack of full-length mirrors at Walmart, looking for one with the perfect fun-house effect of stretching her to model height (and, I might add, weight). She’d put on her makeup, get dressed and then admire herself in the mirror, all long and lean, then head out for the day.

The trick is, she said: Never look at another mirror for the rest of the day. Carry one of those tiny pocket items for restoring lipstick. That’s it.

As I said, neither here nor there. But interesting, eh?

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” sometimes writes about gardens, sometimes not.



3 thoughts on “Green Acre #134: Through a Glass Sparkly

  1. Carol says:

    Right on, and deliciously put!

  2. Thanks! But…that mirror is in my little kitchen – not the dining room – and it’s heavy, but the prince hung it fairly easily on a few hooks. The dining room mirror, though is a monster — maybe twice this size. That one, a $100 “steal” at Home Goods, took a full day to hang, what with bracing it so it doesn’t fall off the wall and take the wall with it. Thankfully I don’t have to pay for labor. At least in $$.

  3. Jean B. Gordon says:

    Stephanie: I read with great interest…. your article all about mirrors….I love the golden one in the dining room.
    How many people did it take to hang that one?
    This is a personal question….you did not mention your guest bedroom? How many mirrors do you have there?
    The photos in your articles are great….keep them going…

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