Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writing Cabin

Can the autumn leaves of New England be captured by black and white photography? It was an issue for naturalists like Edwin Way Teale who saw their writing published in the years before color photographs appeared regularly in books and magazines.

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.


Anonymous said...

I got a strong visual yesterday: I passed a small colonial brown barn on my way home. It sits about 75 feet back from the main road and is near but not attached to a colonial home of the same color. This is what I believe to be part of a little village: there is an abandoned church across the street and the former schoolhouse nearby is now a home. As I was sitting at the light, I looked over at the quiet barn and I pictured the brown barn doors slowly swinging open. There you were behind them, with a warmly-lit workspace behind you reflecting the barnboard interior...a desk, chair...all the stuff that makes up the life you want all comfortably situated.

John said...

Yours are words I want to hold on to. The encouragement that comes when someone recognizes a truth about another person and takes the time to put that recognition into words is worthy of grateful remembrance.

sandra said...
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