Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Back to the books

Recent realization: when one leaves town, one has twice as much to do when one returns. My last two days have been wildly busy, what with: selling books (yippee!), buying books (woo hooo!), talking for hours about all things books with old friends and new friends (in particular, thanks for stopping by today, Bob and Nellie!), balancing checkbooks and paying bills (insert neutral comment here about necessary but dull life maintenance), talking to my realtor-pal and driving around looking at house-possibilities (if we buy a place with bookshelves already built in, what will we do with all our other bookshelves?), catching up with family and friends on the phone and via email (eats up hours...), unpacking from my trip (eleven, count 'em eleven new paintings last week), getting older paintings ready to take to the gallery tomorrow morning (I will have six paintings in a group show, the opening is Friday night in Blue Hill, if anyone local wants more detail than that, please email me), sorting new book-ticket acquisitions (thanks, Aad!), reading the collected stories of Sarah Orne Jewett (they are so good they make me cry), and of course daydreaming about my week last week.

Which involved the following: mailboats, ocean, islands, barking seals on ledges, eagles and osprey, voles, tame songbirds, the very last of the lilacs, beach roses, blackberries in flower, stony beaches covered with sea glass, hay meadows full of wildflowers, salt air, fog, high thunderstorms with brilliant sunsets behind them, a tiny cabin with no running water and no electricity, candles and kerosene lanterns in the evenings, outhouses, fireflies after dusk, millions of stars after the waxing moon set, a toasty little woodstove, cold lunches and hot suppers, old photographs from the past 100 summers on this one particular island, and generally feeling lucky and blessed and about as happy as I could ever be, being me. Painting every day, all day, out in the sun. Also lazing. What a week. If it sounds like heaven, it is, it really is. My version of heaven, at least. I will allow for others. Maybe someone else likes Malibu. Or Tahiti. Me, I'll take a rough little Maine island any day. Pictures to follow soon. Particularly of the outhouses.

I think I'm reading the Sarah Orne Jewett stories because I feel like I just spent a week living a hundred years ago, and her prose helps me return there, to that same time and place. Her description is so quietly wonderful, and so much a part of this landscape, the way it was and still is in little pockets (which are not overcome by development, the way much of the Maine coast is). Willa Cather called her a master, and she sure was right.

Summary of my week off, and this week: I'm happy, so I'm happy to be back.

Welcome back and it sounds like a great break. I've just finished Robert Coffin's paeon to the Maine islands, so especially enjoyed reading your description. I've only read Sarah Orne Jewett's Country of the Pointed Firs- does she have stories in addition?

Hi Dan, thanks... yes, she wrote many many short stories, the most famous of which (justly so) is A White Heron. If you google it, the complete text is available online. I have a softcover edition of her collected stories, I just finished reading it two nights ago: "The Best Short Stories of S.O.J." published in Maine by Lance Tapley, 1988 (a truly great book, but marred by several typos and a garish dark pink cover, sad to say). The Library of America series has a good collection of her stories, too.

The ones that really knocked my socks off in the Tapley book: The King of Folly Island, The Only Rose, and In Dark New England Days (about a family curse, and as good as anything Poe wrote, but more understated in its use of creeping horror).

Glad to hear you liked Coffin - he is so effusive and warm, you can't help but get caught up in his world, and want to be there yourself.
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