Wednesday, February 10, 2016


call a professional

February.  Now is the month of my discontent.  I've been disgruntled about all kinds of things lately, and as usual, the only remedy is action.  Take action!  Take active steps toward any dream going!  And, since some of the things I'm dreaming about are outside of my scope of engagement, I've had to call in professionals.  Deep winter in Maine is the time of year for such people.  Things break down during deep winter in Maine (people too, but that's another story).  Around here, over the past few weeks, I've called in professionals to repair the furnace, the oven, and the roof.  The furnace needed a new igniter.  The oven needed a new temperature sensor.  The roof needed emergency repairs after a storm carried away many shingles.  The roofers say we need a new roof.  And possibly some chimney-work, while they're at it.  We are soon to be on their spring schedule, for both, after visiting the professional lenders at our bank.  Speaking of money, I also had to find a new accountant, since our old one just informed us he is retiring for good.  Professionals - what would we do without them!

In my life away from home maintenance, I've also recently hired a professional photographer to take pictures of a big batch of paintings.  And now I'm working with a professional designer to use the photographs to create a booklet for my upcoming solo show.  In each of these cases, I considered doing the work myself, and then realized that what I wanted to have happen was beyond my current ability and technical means, and I needed a professional.  Now is not the time for amateur work!  I sometimes hope my dilettante years are behind me, but then I look at the evidence - all around, much of it to the contrary - and thank goodness I can at least call on professionals when I need help.

Speaking of dilettantes.  As we do sometimes around here.  I still haven't finished Horace Walpole's Letters.  And at this point, I think I won't.  I'll let him live on in the eternal present of his correspondence.  A world I have come to love.  Although Walpole doesn't have terribly good opinions about professionals, come to think of it.  He hates physicians and refuses to be treated by them over the course of his life, with a few notable and disastrous exceptions.  He dislikes printers and booksellers (often one and the same) and their cabals and contracts.  Not to mention many authors, and historians.  And politicians... well, he feels about them the way many of us still do today.  Poets and artists, now, these are another matter.  I wish he had had a better opinion of his own dear self, however.  Near the end of his life, he writes:

"...when I came to rummage in the old chest of my memory, I found it so full of rubbish that when I came to set down the contents, some of which were imperfect remnants, I grew ashamed..."  (Volume IX p.473)

I know how he feels.  Even as I strive for professionalism in my own chosen fields.  But I'm meandering at this point, for lack of anything better to say.  Except, in the wake of Walpole, I am really missing the structure of a long winter reading project this year - something to occupy the cold late afternoon hours, after I've either worked or tried to work in the studio, and want to make the most of my time on this planet, by learning all that I can about the ways and means of its inhabitants.  That might be at the heart of my current discontent.  I haven't been idle by any means - all this maintenance - and much more besides.  Like, in the past week, applying for a juried art show, applying for a grant for painters (for art supplies; for help with the roof over my painting studio), and framing seventy paintings for my show!  Idleness is not in my nature, although I enjoy it if it occurs naturally.  But lately, with everything on my mind and then some, I often find myself awake in the middle of the night, thinking, "Am I doing enough?  Am I doing everything I need to be doing?  Time is passing!"  February thoughts.  Stronger than usual, this year.       

Hi, I wanted to share this blog post with you. I'm in love with new first edition and think only someone like you will understand!
Oh, I do understand... one of my favorite opening lines in all of literature, and one of my favorite books, to boot. Great dust jacket too. I have a first edition in my collection, and have bought and sold several others over the years.
I would love to see a photo of yours! I'm now looking for a good edition of West with the Night and any of Ann Lindbergh's diaries and letters.
I have a first edition of "West with the Night" too - but it's not for sale...! The reprint published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang is well worth having ("The Illustrated West with the Night"). And, do you know of Peter Beard's book "Longing for Darkness: Kamante's Tales from Out of Africa" Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)? It's a stunner.

The book search is endless - truly one of life's great joys!
I visited the Walpole collection "Lefty" Lewis bequeathed to Yale in Farmington, CT when I was in college and have dipped into the letters off and on over the years. How wonderful someone with so much money and passion chanced upon Walpole when young and began an epic journey of collecting and scholarship. He chased Walpole's descendants all over the globe to tempt them with needed cash into surrounding ever more pieces of Walpole's legacy to cart back to the U.S. His choice to publish the letters by correspondent rather than chronologically was an eccentric choice that I find a bit frustrating, but I am grateful all the same. When I visited Strawberry Hill recently, it was my first visit and I had such high expectations. The house has been saved from near ruin by a very recent infusion of lottery funds, but my heart sunk a bit when I found the lovely house surrounded by rather dreary suburban homes where the vast gardens once were and interiors barren of all the treasures and curiosities he wrote about in his letters. I suppose I hoped to encounter the spirit of Horace Walpole in his beloved house, but he only exists for me in his letters.
I'll have a look for the Illustrated west with the Night and Peter Beard's book my fabulous local bookstore I blogged about...Thanks for the tips. I also collect hats in case there are not enough old books in the world.
Anon, thanks for your wonderful stories, I have been neither to Yale-at-Farmington nor to Strawberry Hill, but hope springs eternal. I love Lefty Lewis's memoirs and have many of his occasional publications as well. Our local research library has the Yale set of Walpole, and I used to take out individual volumes, when I worked nearby but, like you, was frustrated at the arrangement, so over the past year I read a different, chronological set (see my posts below, nearly ad infinitum). Still, I covet the Yale set. It's my white whale. If I ever saw it for sale, I can't say what I'd do. Weep, perhaps? Wring my hands?

Elaine, thank you for your lovely comments. Blog-writing is much more fun when it's interactive! One of my favorite Jane Austen quotes comes to mind, re your collecting pursuits. From a letter to her sister, 1798:

"Next week [I] shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend."
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