LONELINESS OR SOLITUDE?

May Sarton often wrote about her need to have periods of solitude in order to be able to write. So, too, there were times when its shadow side took hold. As she said in Journal of a Solitude, At any moment solitude may put on the face of loneliness”341-60214.

Some of the photographs I used in From May Sarton’s Well came from my own files, while others I made especially for the book. Quite naturally I found a few images I had of my family members suited my purposes. My mother appears on page 117. (See “Recovering Published in Japan” in my Reflections blog.) Eric, my oldest son is in three of the illustrations, including one on page 106. (See “Childhood Time”.) While traveling in Utah with my husband and both sons, Nick, the younger one, lead us along a trail, just far enough ahead to seem to be alone with his thoughts. I don’t think he felt lonely but the scene (it appears on page 27) seemed right for this quotation. Yes, my husband made it in too, on to page 99. That’s another story.

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.

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.)