February Doldrums & The Land of Counterpane

Here in northern New England, we hit the winter doldrums come February. Too many cold days. Too much dirty, pockmarked snow.  Too much ice on the driveway. Too much time cooped up inside. The pellet stove has left a fine layer of black soot on all the windowsills, and everybody’s sick.

Recently, one of the first emails I opened at work was from a colleague who had decided to work from home because she wasn’t feeling well. When I emailed her back my hope that a day of taking it easy would keep the bug at bay, she responded that she just needed to work from the comfort of her own home.

For some reason, the image of Carina working on outcomes assessment tucked up in her cozy home brought to mind the memory of a poem I had once loved as a child. I couldn’t remember the title, just that it was by Robert Louis Stevenson and had something to do with a counterpane. The memory of how much I’d loved that poem was so vivid, I abandoned my email to search for it. I found the poem  right away on poets.org: “The Land of Counterpane” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

As I read those long-forgotten lines, I was suddenly overcome with joy–not nostalgia, but pure joy. How could this be? How could a simple children’s poem make me so happy on a gray February morning at the end of yet another week of meetings and deadlines and driving home in the dark?

Quite simply, I had been transported to my own land of counterpane, which is, at its heart, the land of imagination, where I am most myself and where anything is possible.

And Now for the Nostalgia . . .

The version of “The Land of Counterpane” that my parents read to me when I was little is from A Child’s Garden of Verses, published in 1929. I would return to it again and again to lose myself in the old-fashioned illustrations and the pleasure of words that rhyme. The fact that this well-worn picture book had been my mother’s when she was little brought an added dimension to the land of imagination.


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