The Poet and The Farmer

 

This photograph (on page 133 of From May Sarton’s Well) accompanies a quotation from Sarton’s memoir, Plant Dreaming Deep about Perley Cole, the farmer she often hired to help around her place in Nelson, New Hampshire. In “A Recognition”, her poem that follows on the next page, she elaborates on why, as she says, “I am, I think more of a poet than I was before I knew him”.

May Sarton had great respect Perley, especially as she observed him pulling “some order out of this rugged land”. He worked in harmony with his scythe early in the day when the tough grass was still bent with dew,  “to prune, to make clear, to uncover”. She saw a similar need in her life and work as a poet.

The man in my photograph is not Perley Cole, but I was moved by the way he and his horse were in harmony carefully cultivating a field of young corn. They cut out the weeds to strengthen the crop.

~~~

P.S. By the way, I put an appendix—References—in the back of the book to give the source of every quotation and poem.  I hope this will inspire and help readers to continue reading Sarton’s works.

MAY SARTON AS A PHOENIX

The mythological phoenix lived to be ancient, then it would build a nest of twigs, sit in it and set it on fire. It would then arise from its own ashes and begin a new life cycle. May wrote at least two poems about the phoenix and commissioned a sculpture of the bird that now marks her grave in Nelson, New Hampshire. I include “The Phoenix Again” in From May Sarton’s Well in the chapter on Light. It could also have been in the chapter on Love, or Creation Itself. It refers to all of those.

I see May’s work as a phoenix. It has immortality that lives on beyond May’s physical life.

This photograph appears after the poem, on page 17, to celebrate the phoenix.

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.

 

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.

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.

Edith’s Blog

Here I am with May Sarton at the party she had after the “May Sarton At 80” Conference at Westbrook College, June, 1992. (Photograph by Martha Wheelock)

 

I would say that since 1971 when I read a book by May Sarton called Plant Dreaming Deep”, Sarton’s writings began to become part of who I was and who I am today. Although her life and her self was very different than mine, much of what she wrote about resonated with what I thought about life. Her influence on me grew as read more of her work and eventually came to know her personally.

May 3,2012 will be May Sarton’s 100th birth anniversary. There will be a celebration of that in York, Maine. For more about “May Sarton Centennial Symposium” go to: http://www.maysarton100.org/. I will be one of the speakers there, so I am thinking a lot about the writer and how I came to know her and collaborate with her to create From May Sarton’s Well.  I am starting this blog to share my thoughts and some of my photographs from time to time with you who drop in on this website.