I recently spoke with a work colleague who helped me recall that turning point in the early 1960's when color plates began to be common features in newly published books. My early visits to the local library had provided me with a chance to handle such books on the New Acquisitions cart. For a considerable amount of time, however, my book pleasure was still derived from black print on white pages, occasionally enlivened by the earnest efforts of illustrators and playful typographers.
My image of the writers themselves came from the dust jackets of their books. Smiling up at a camera from behind their typewriter, they looked unlike my parents or my aunts and uncles. They looked like adults who thought about their lives, who probably spoke about them around a dining room table in the evening, and who took pleasure in writing about them. They looked like adults who might be willing to take an interest in my life if they ever learned that I had taken a reader’s interest in theirs.
When Marc and I visited the 200-year-old farm house once owned by Edwin Way Teale, we spent time in his study, kept by his wife Nellie exactly as it had been when he died in 1980. The walls of bookcases, the solid desk, the rocker by the fireplace all bespoke a delight in the life of the mind, the life of words, the steady rhythms of observation and reflection. We later took pictures of the rustic writing cabin he had built by a pond on his property.
When you acknowledge the role writing plays in your life in the way that Teale did, you dare to dream. He and his wife bought their Connecticut farm house when they were turning sixty. It was their intention to concentrate their observations as naturalists, to become acquainted with this particular plot of land over the years ahead of them, to create a record of a place on this earth where they would live their days’ beginnings and their nights’ ends – together.
I’m getting ideas.