Landscape with Rising Sun, December 1, 1828, 8:30 a.m. Artist: Joseph Michael Gandy (British, London 1771–1843 London) Date: 1828 Medium: Watercolor over graphite on white wove paper Dimensions: sheet: 4 3/16 x 6 3/4 in. (10.6 x 17.1 cm) Classification: Drawings Credit Line: Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2005 Accession Number: 2006.46

Landscape with Rising Sun, December 1, 1828, 8:30 a.m. Watercolor by Joseph Michael Gandy. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.46

Despite the assertions of Mr Eliot, I find December to be the cruelest month. In each of the past five years, December has brought me drama if not disaster, usually on a grand scale. After the immediate crises passed, I tried to figure out what I could learn, really, from the things that happened.

Scandinavian tradition puts the start of Jul at the solstice, and here we are: at the moment when it’s traditional to stop the spinning world to consider where we are, where we want to be, and what we really want. (Hint: It’s not a toaster.)

I write a lot about authenticity, and after The Noble Train, I thought about how authenticity isn’t just in what we wear, or carry, or eat, or how a day is run: it’s also in who we are. The way some of us are made, we cannot be other than who we are. It’s akin to the real thing: you know when it’s right, and it matters.

Finding the real and the true isn’t easy– brass ladles, shawls, love, yourself– it takes time to develop a good eye, and honesty often hurts.


Taking apart the things you’ve made isn’t easy, but sometimes that’s the only way to get them right. Mr Hiwell learned that setting linings and making mittens. Sometimes the things you must take apart aren’t tangible, but are concepts, organizations, or beliefs. That work is much harder than undoing and redoing a sleeve seam or taking apart and recutting a box lid, or frogging a stocking.

If you’re a consistent reader, you know I won’t tell you what to wear, or carry, or eat. I’m much more interested in helping people figure out what questions to ask than I am in giving answers. It’s what we don’t know, and the assumptions we overturn as we learn more, that makes living history– and living– worthwhile to me.


So while I don’t encourage you to reduce your actual house to stone walls alone, I do encourage you to question your house of assumptions, and the why of the things you do.