Mantle

Wild French Camargue horses splash into their white reflections. The sun is setting, the sky and sea turn pink, coral, orange. What will it be like? How does the sea smell, how loud the thundering hoofs? I’m sure that it will be breathtaking. I say, “it will be,” because I intend to see it in person.

William Ireland’s Camargue found a place above my mantle this week, and these horses greet me as I reflect at the end of a long day. Their promise affects me already. I’m inspired to plan the trip slowly but surely. Perhaps a Photosafari from Marseille. Maybe a side trip from a tour of ancient ruins in Provence. The more time I spend with these horses, the more I want to be in motion.

I clear the mantle just below Camargue. Yes, I’m one of those people. I change mantle decor, preferring variety over perfection. After hanging the work and putting only a couple of items back, something is missing, but I am convinced it’s something I don’t already have. Candlesticks, maybe crystal or light wood, but somehow different than what had been there before. A search for worthy accessories begins.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m into antiques, and unique pieces, and I’m often luckier online than I would be hoofing it through the local mall. I head on over to my standbys: Chairish, 1st Dibs, Ruby Lane, and Etsy.

Hour one rolls into hour two. I begin to believe the chances of finding a match are stacked in the house’s favor. So many options to go through, even with the best filters. I filter items to my price range, but periodically find something gorgeous only to see its price expressed in thousands.

I scroll on with that sense that the winning item might be just ahead. Random Reward. My mouth is dry from holding my breath in anticipation. Shouldn’t there be a cocktail server coming by to take a drink order? The three-across and five-across image displays on these sites even resemble the one-armed bandits of Vegas and Atlantic City.

I watch images I’ve already come across popping up a second and third time, blended back into the results. Considering how efficient I am at scrolling, these could qualify as subliminal messages. “I’ll take an icy cold coke and those Val St Lambert crystal candlesticks, please. I don’t know why, I just really feel I need them!”

I’d like to say I wrap it up on my own, but I run that iPad until the battery dies. The next day, standing in front of the Camargue, inspired by their motion, I decide to get off my tail and trot to some local stores. In store three, I find candles poured with a spiraling pattern. I hadn’t set out for that. Still, the sense of upward motion seems more interesting than the solid tapers. Minutes later, they are mine.

Now we were getting somewhere. Emboldened, I head further west to a mall where I hope to find many stores offering home furnishings. Maybe some mainstream candlesticks will do, now that the candles are unique.

When I arrive, though, I am greeted with a venue much diminished. I realize with sadness how long it’s been since I ventured here. I’ve been to malls east of me which are closer to the DC metro area, but not west, deeper into suburbia. Of the pre-pandemic five department-store anchor tenants, all that remains is a Macy’s without any home furnishings or crystal to speak of, and a JC Penney. No Pottery Barns, Crate & Barrels, Ballard Designs, or other home decor stores. Many storefronts are empty. Even some of the escalators aren’t running.

The lack of stores and inventory make hours of online candlestick roulette seem like a dream shopping excursion. I decide the only upside is that I’m actually getting exercise finding nothing, instead of sitting in a chair finding nothing. Eventually, I drown my sorrows in a cup of cinnamon sugar Auntie Anne’s pretzels that I would strap on like a feedbag if I could. I take my spiral candles and make my way home.

Back at the ranch, I stand before the horses, holding my spiral prizes up to see whether I can claim anything from the day. I’m struck by how well they work together. These horses, or at least the painting of them, has a sense of movement and action. It’s one of the things I love about this piece. The candles’ ever-upward spirals move with the horses. There is no weighing down here.

My body and my mind are also in motion thanks to the miles I’ve walked over hours. I reach for a set of my own antique rosewood candlesticks, where dark carved dragons wind their way from bottom to top. The spiral candles slip into the bases, a perfect fit. It’s not at all what I imagined at my sedentary beginning. It’s much better.

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