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2004-02-10

Angelina Weld Grimké
B. 2.27.1880 Boston / D. 6.10.1958 New York City
Seclusion

When last I meant to write, I had just awoken from a morning dream about real estate. Somewhere in Lower Manhattan I’d found where the City had moved a bunch of big old brick apartment buildings. Swept from their foundations, they hulked haphazardly on a stretch of sand and lawn. One, at least, was still occupied. I entered, started to climb. The staircase swayed as if the treads were on ropes, I had to climb using my hands. On the top floor, my destination, was the apartment of a young woman, white girl, whom I’d passed downstairs, meeting with the other hopeless tenants; she’d seemed to have the most to lose. She’d been living alone in what I now discovered to have been the most enchanting elegance and comfort. She owned gilt-framed mirrors, occasional tables, wall sconces, patterned rugs, and two pairs of matching Louis XV armchairs which were set against facing walls. Rose, gold, bronze, lilac combine here to underline the dominant impression: nothing tatty, nothing new, all bargains. I was thinking, After this
cathedral ceiling in the living room, too, with skylight
every other apartment she’ll ever have (and here I pictured box rooms, gray air, low-slung seating) will be such a let-down from this
and then I noticed, rising to meet it, fine-twigged crown and topmost branches curled in contact with the panes and plaster, two-plus stories high, her tree.
Paradise
The woman had grown a tree, a real one—bark, limbs—winter-bare now, in the middle of her living room. How would she ever move it?

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