For the instant inspiration, I am indebted to historical fiction author Susan Holloway Scott, who blogs at Two Nerdy History Girls, where she shared an excerpt from the travelogue of Sir John Carr. That worthy fellow visited Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.during the Peace of Amiens (1803), and described what he found (in small part) as follows…
“After winding through graveled walks, embowered by the most exquisite and costly shrubs, we entered the elegant temple of Cupid, from which the little favorite of mankind had been unwillingly, and rudely expelled, as appeared by the fragments of his pedestal…”
Which word did I pluck from that bouquet? Embowered, which OED defines as “surrounded as with a bower, wreathed in foliage.” The examples provided include:
1757 J. Dyer Fleece
i. 10 The little smiling cottage, warm embow’r’d.
1824 W. Irving Tales of Traveller
I. 317 Seated in the embowered porch of his small parsonage.
1830 Tennyson Recoll. Arab. Nights
iv, in Poems
50 Imbower’d vaults of pillared palm.
1870 N. Hawthorne Eng. Note-bks.
(1879) I. 254 There are ranges of embowered windows.
Each of those images is so lovely, so peaceful and pleasant that I soon realized why I regard this word with such affection. My life is embowered by the verdure of rural Maryland. I measure my seasons by the planting, growing, harvest and fallow around me, by the bulbs in spring, the roses in summer, the asters in fall. And the beauty of the word is such that it also lends itself to metaphors: May your lives be embowered by love and joy in this holiday season.