PARASOL LEAVES

SPRING–what a magical time it is here in Connecticut. Oh yes, I do know that it is magical any place in the world that knows the glory of changing seasons. May Sarton captured it so beautifully in her poetry, especially my favorites, “Metamorphosis” and “Mozart Again” (included in From May Sarton’s Well).

It was an specially good day for me when I was able to start it by photographing this red maple with its tender new leaves still dripping in the morning mist  (p. 53). Knowing that as soon as the sun broke through, a breeze would start, the leaves would bounce and I would be unable to get a sharp image. The next day the leaves would be bigger, thicker, stronger. That delicate phase of spring’s unfolding would be gone. It is truly satisfying when I am able to capture a fleeting moment with my camera.

 

MAY SARTON’S CENTENNIAL

If she had lived this long, May Sarton would be 100 years old this May 3rd. She died in York, Maine, July 16 1995. That beautiful seaside town will celebrate her legacy with their Sarton Centenial Celebration, May 3 – May 6, 2012.

I am excited that I’ll be part of the symposium. Not only will I have the opportunity to meet again with a few of the close friends of May’s that I met at the celebration of her 80th birthday in Westbrook, Maine twenty years ago, there will be interesting and fun events to attend. As a participant. I will give a multi-media talk about May Sarton and the creation of our book, From May Sarton’s Well, with slides from two of my visits to her home, Wild Knoll in York, at 12:30 on Friday, May 4th and repeat it on Saturday, May 5 at 8:45. Also on Friday, at 3:00, I will be a member of the panel for “Conversation with Writers and Friends”.

This photograph is one that I made during my visit with May in 1983. My friend, Anne Alvord, my camera and I accompanied May and her lovely Sheltie, Tamas, on May’s morning walk a loop around Wild Knoll.

It would be fun to have an opportunity to meet some of you who have read this or other of my blogs. Here is a link to the Sarton Centennial Celebration:

http://www.maysarton100.org/2.html

 

MAY AS MUSE

 

Luna MothYou may wonder why this image is showing up in my blog. What does it have to do with May Sarton? What does it have to do with my photographs?

May wrote a lot about the muse, about who and what inspired her to write, particularly poetry. May Sarton, the person and the writer was certainly a muse for me in my photography and while I was creating From May Sarton’s Well. During that process her influence was direct. Now her influence is subtle, and has become part of me. Her’s is among many influences that have become part of me.

She is among many creative people who have lead me to try a new medium—painting, and then to combine that with my photography. New digital technology has made this possible. “Luna Moth” started with my photograph of one of those ethereal insects that was clinging to a pasture gate. I decided I wanted a more poetic background for it. So I painted this moonlit scene and scanned it. I extracted the moth from my original photograph and–in different sizes and positions—digitally combined the moth imagesand my painting into this piece. I know that May’s spirit, as a muse, helped lead me to create “Luna Moth”.

 

Creation Itself

It is early March. According to the calendar there are over two weeks of winter still ahead. I am itching to see the burst of renewed life in spring that, for me, brings forth a burst of creativity. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) is one of the very early wildflowers of spring, and one of my favorites. I love the way the leaf embraces the bud, protecting it from cold rain and frost. That is what I wanted to capture in this photograph of Bloodroot. It is on page 122, introducing the chapter “Creation Itself”.

May Sarton’s poems and frequent comments about the creative process continue to help me understand my own need to create. Why does a day spent in various aspects of housework make me restless, frustrated and edgy?

May wrote in At Seventy: A Journal (and I included in From May Sarton’s Well), “If you are a writer or an artist, it is work that fulfills and makes you come into wholeness, and that goes on through a lifetime. Whatever the wounds that have to heal, the moment of creation assures that all is well, that one is still in tune with the universe, that the inner chaos can be probed and distilled into order and beauty.”

 

 

 

Recovering Published In Japan

This photograph, “Reading Her Mail”, appears on the cover of the Japanese translation of May Sarton’s journal, Recovering, published by Misuzu Shobo, Ltd. in Japan. It has fooled (not intentionally on my part) quite a few people, including that publisher and Sarton herself. When, I showed May this image along with many other of my photos that I considered using in From May Sarton’s Well, I noticed she seemed puzzled, perhaps thinking that some things about it were familiar, others strange. It was not her Victorian chair, it was not her dog, Tamas, the room was not hers, but the woman’s hair was very much like hers and the chair was similar to hers. Actually, the photograph is of my mother in her home with her Brittany spaniel.

In 2002 I received a letter from the Foreign Rights person of Misuzu Shobo, Ltd. requesting my permission to use my photograph on the cover of their edition of Recovering. I immediately guessed that they assumed the woman in it was May Sarton herself. Evidently they did not check the “Photograph References” in the appendix of From May Sarton’s Well. It was because of May’s puzzling over this photo that I decided I should include that section in case other readers wondered if it was May reading her mail.

In 2002 I received a letter from the Foreign Rights person of Misuzu Shobo, Ltd. requesting my permission to use my photograph on the cover of their edition of Recovering. I immediately guessed that they assumed the woman in it was May Sarton herself. Evidently they did not check the “Photograph References” in the appendix of From May Sarton’s Well. It was because of May’s puzzling over this photo that I decided I should include that section in case other readers wondered if it was May reading her mail.

The picture is on page 117 in the chapter focused on”Time”.

 

The Joys Of Life

May Sarton said “ One thing is certain, and I have always known it–the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change.”

How right she is. I made this photograph of a pair of Great Egrets on a cove of the Connecticut River,
probably at least thirty years ago. My husband and I were canoeing, I was in the bow, and signaled to him that I wanted to photograph these two graceful birds standing in the arrowhead, so we drifted silently toward them. In this, my third exposure, one took flight, then they were both gone, but the memory of the sight, and the gift they gave me with this photograph is one of joys of my life. Since I was a child I have taken joy from the beauty of the natural world.

Sarton did not consider herself a “Nature Poet” but throughout all her books, whether poetry, novels, journals or memoirs her love for, and the joy she received from the natural world is a strong thread. That is a large part of what drew me to her writing when I read Plant Dreaming Deep in 1971. It is very apparent in her writing that the natural world is one of those joys in her life.

This photograph appears on page 47 of From May Sarton’s Well.

The White Horse

I made this photograph on color film, because the scene down the road from my home appealed to me. However, later when I came upon May Sarton’s comment in her memoir, Plant Dreaming Deep about solitude being “a way for waiting for the inaudible and invisible to make itself felt” I thought that if I printed that image in black-and-white it expressed the feeling of her comment. The photograph appears on page 29.

There were two primary reasons that I decided that my photographs in From May Sarton’s Well should all be black-and-white. First is that black-and-whites tend to be more poetic than color photographs. They ask the viewer to add his or her own experience and thoughts to the image. Secondly, because I processed my own black-and-white work and  so I had complete control of in making the final print. (Although I did loose considerable control of the quality in the course of printing them in book form.) In addition, at the time the book was published, 1994, it was far less expensive to produce a book in black-and-white than in color. Papier-Mache Press, the original publisher, wanted to be able to sell the book at a very affordable price.

A Kind of Ecstasy

May Sarton helped me become a far better photographer than I would have been if I had never read her work, especially her journals, especially her comments about light. In this quote from The House By the Sea that faces this––my photograph of a pink lady’s slipper––perfectly describes the situation when I tripped my camera’s shutter. I shared her “kind of ecstasy” as I focused in on this elegant wildflower and captured that moment when the dappled sunlight bathed the blossom and petals, creating a rim-light and shadow of the lower stem. A moment later, the flower was in deep shade.

“The flowers on my desk have been lit up one by one as by a spotlight as the sun slowly moves. And once more I am in a kind of ecstasy…”– © May Sarton.

On Solitude

I think some of the quotations about solitude that I selected for the chapter of that heading are among the most powerful in the book, and probably most readers identify with one or more of them. Solitude and its dark side—loneliness—are frequent themes in May Sarton’s writings, especially in her journals.

I was in Waterford, Connecticut on a beautiful, windy, sparkling winter day, with some time after giving a lecture nearby. So I decided to go to Harkness Memorial State Park on the shore of Long Island Sound. This solitary walker seemed to express the richness of solitude to me—a person accompanied by his, or her own thoughts, uninterrupted, nobody judging him or her.

(The photograph appears on page 31 of From May Sarton’s Well.)

Childhood Time

“Childhood is a place as well as a time.” Those words of May Sarton open Part I of her novel, The Magnificent Spinster, and the chapter “Time” in From May Sarton’s Well. In other passages in this chapter she talks about some of the pressures most of us have–too much to do, too much pressure, no “time to think…to be.”

Sometimes I worry especially about the time pressures on children. There are so many things that keep them busy, sports, homework, social networking, electronic games. I wonder if many children today are allowed a place—especially an outdoor place—where they can be children. Too many parents are afraid (often unnecessarily) to let their children wander on their own outdoors and find a place that they can be alone with their thoughts.

This is my oldest son, many years ago in the woods near our house. I think the value of the place and the time he had to be a child now shows that he valued it. He has helped make it possible for his own sons to have a place and a time to be boys. I am glad I had this photograph (one of the oldest ones in the book) to use to accompany this important quote of Sarton’s. The photograph appears on page 106.