Like many bibliophiles, I indulge in a perverse snobbery where books everybody else is reading are concerned: I wait to read it when the buzz has died down. So I only recently took up Dominique Browning’s wonderful 2010 book, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness.
Any woman of a certain age could identify with Browning's musings, like this one: "I have come to dislike anything that demands constant attention, whether it is dogs, dishwashers, or finally men. I like things that are independent, and that need you only because they want you, not because they'll have a breakdown without you." I have always admired the meditative quality and quiet humor of Browning’s writing, particularly her essays in House & Garden, of which she was editor-in-chief. That highly prestigious job is the one she refers to in the subtitle, and it was its loss that permitted the writing of this enormously successful book. One of its ripple effects is Browning's popular blog, Slow Love Life. Don’t you love a happy ending?
I took the book with me on a a weekend eagle-watching trip and enjoyed a few leisurely pages at a time while enjoying the first coffee of the morning, passing under a canopy of fiery leaves as a car passenger and languishing in the hot tub of a rustic chic B & B. Learning that she loved the home she eventually had to leave so much that she sometimes kissed its walls resonated with me. She writes, "It took me ages to create my home — 25 years, and all the years before that of daydreaming about how I wanted to live. This was the home I thought I would grow old in. It was a forthright, dark, wood-shingled, center-hall colonial revival, nearly a hundred years old. It was supposed to be my Forever House — the home you think you will never leave, the house you love beyond all others, where you’ve recaptured only what made you feel safe and happy in your childhood and left the rest behind. The Forever House is where you’ve passed along the values you admire to your own children — and filled the rooms with laughter and tears."
If you've ever been through the real estate wars, you will get a giggle over what her real estate agent said when touring the house before putting it on the market: "This is terrific. What a gorgeous kitchen. You’ve decorated it so beautifully. Now you’re going to have to clear all the counters. Vases. Books. Knickknacks. Get rid of all that stuff. I mean, it is just beautiful. Beautiful. I love what you’ve done with this house. Make sure you put it all away.”
Slow Love inspired me to go (slowly) backwards and read Browning's 2003 book, written in the wake of a divorce, Around the House and in the Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement. In her words, it is "about the way a house can express loss, and then bereavement, and then, finally, the rebuilding of a life."
Wherever she lives, you can be sure that Browning's nests -- and her observations about feathering them -- will be as lovely as they are timeless.