Eden is that old-fashioned House

A poem by Emily Dickinson with a lovely thought of home found its way to me recently:

Eden is that old-fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away

I daresay there are many unsuspected “Edens” in our lives. Our children, the little devils. Our husbands, the rascals. Our dogs–okay what happened to the steaks I just left out on the counter? Our churches. Our beauty parlors. (Did I just say “beauty parlor?”) Our book stores. Our coffee shops. And yes of course, our homes, be they Emily Dickinson’s old-fashioned house or a mid-century modern apartment.

NY Apt Bedroom
My bedroom in New York, dressed in Leontine Linens, which I love. The bed was designed 12 years ago by Atlanta designer John Oetgen, recently re-upholstered in red velvet. (Cue Belle Watling!) The metal thing on the ceiling, a sort of makeshift baldequin, came from the Paris flea market and made it here thanks to a less-than-thrilled but nevertheless accommodating Delta Airlines flight attendant.

Whether from the sprawling house at Rancho La Zaca, or from far-flung travels, or from the grocery store–maybe especially from the grocery store–I’m always oddly happy to return to my little ol’ Upper East Side flat, always there for me.

I write this also with the awareness that for many in this world home is a shack in a slum; or a tent in a refugee camp; or for the folks in the tornado-stricken Midwest and Gulf Coast, something that was there yesterday and blown away today. My heart goes out to them, and the gratitude for my “Eden,” is all the more.


  1. Dear Frances, I feel the EXACT same way about my home! I’ve lived in a whole bunch of places…never knowing what “home” felt like until I came to the place in which I live now…my Eden. I look so forward to welcoming you here! Thank you for sharing and also for the nod to your awareness. The reality is that Eden can be gone in an instant (for whatever reason). So, we must enjoy every moment that we do indeed have!

  2. Totally agree. When the news commentators suggest for that area to be aware and ready to take cover, I wonder where they would take cover. There isn’t a structure left.

    Thank you for sharing what is on all our hearts, may be give to the Red Cross either with blood, donations or our local churches efforts to help those in need.

    1. Thank you, Anna Ball. For those interested, here is a link to an interview with someone from the Red Cross with further suggestions on how to help. If you want your efforts to be more directly local, a Google search of “How to help in Harrisburg” will turn up several sources as well.

  3. how sweet your passage is! didn’t think we could ever get our abode back to where it was before H. Katrina, but here i am sitting in my eden, and it’s actually better than it was before. i am thankful everyday for what i have.
    angel from mississippi

    1. Oh Angel, how happy I am – we all are – for you and for everyone who has re-built from Katrina.

  4. Such a great image: an unsuspected Eden. How often are we pining away for someplace when we have a place – or places – that are given to us to bless us (and the others around us).

    Today I stopped and sat for a few moments on a bench that I typically only march by when doing in errands in town — what an experience to simple “be” there, see a bird drinking from a fountain and experience the familiar surroundings from the different angle such a small act of stopping and sitting provided.


  5. Oh!!!! I say beauty parlor too and will forever. Just a little Southern thang.
    I’m in my Eden, too. Murrells Inlet, SC. When you have an Eden, travel becomes unnecessary, but it sure makes being in Eden a daily joy. Of course, I’m 70 years old.

    1. Carolyn you whippersnapper, I am pretty sure they still have beauty parlors in Murrell’s Inlet, and that definitely qualifies it as an Eden. And I’ve actually been there, so I know:)

  6. I have just had a lovely visit with Duvall in Chapel Hill. we talked about your recent comments about your Mama….just the right light touch…so many people miss her….Tarboro and Calvary Churchyard…..the perfect Eden

  7. Frances, we’ve just spent the weekend in New Orleans with our daughter who is getting married in Highlands, NC, in May. She and her fiance are buying and renovating a little double shot-gun — a sweetheart with 20-ft ceilings and NOLA charm. The four of us scraped and painted and gardened for 2 days straight. Copying you and Bee Cottage, there is a birdcage chandelier in the dining room! And after reading your blog, I’m going to have the Emily Dickinson (our family favorite) poem framed for her as a wedding gift to hang by the front door for their first home/Eden. As always, thank you.

    1. Emily this is so lovely, and I love the image of all of you working away on the New Orleans shotgun style house. Please send a photo! I know it will be wonderful, and Emily Dickinson would be so pleased.

  8. I’ve had many “Edens” along the way, but none more precious than my wife, Helen, a reliable Eden to live with and learn and Loved since October, 10, 1971.

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