Friday, April 22, 2011

Caryl writes: Begin Here

Those are the first two words from one of my favorite authors, May Sarton, in one of my favorite books, “Journal of a Solitude". Sarton, by the way, wrote more than 60 books--fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s books--well into 80s. She and her friend Helen Bevington (her "Maryl" to Sarton's "Caryl") were brilliant chroniclers of Second Lives. In Solitude and “Plant Dreaming Deep”, Sarton, dissected her rich inner life from the solitary vantage point of her New Hampshire house and garden. She realized, however, her quiet satisfying life in New Hampshire had its dark side. "I became haunted by something I read years ago to the effect that when the Japanese were in a period of peace they only painted fans," Sarton wrote. When she found her creativity and passion waning, she moved to a rambling Victorian house on the coast of Maine where her writing room looked out on the sea and the woods and an infinite sky. Begin anywhere.

Helen Bevington, Sarton’s longtime friend, was a creative writing teacher, lecturer, essayist--and nomadic soul. In one of her books, "The Journey is Everything,’ she recounts her many wanderings from New Mexico to New Zealand. After the deaths of her husband and son, Bevington was often on the move: everything was journey. She writes about travels of all kinds . . . “in books, in memories, among people living and dead, a light-hearted search for Eden on this planet but a more serious search for survival in the troubled decade. . . .” according to the book jacket notes.

By the time you read this, I will be on my own journey to India, my fifth trip in as many years. This time I am going to the tribal villages of Orissa well off the “Incredible India” tourist path. I am fascinated by textiles, the artisanal kind where every stitch is made by hand, the dyes are natural and the cloth organic. Mostly, I am attracted by the people, predominantly women, who make them and the stories behind their crafts. Last year, I bought a quilt from Sophia, a young Muslim woman who lives in a clay hut near the border of Pakistan. The quilt covered with embroidered bits-- broken mirrors actually -- took her more than a year to make. Sophia was grateful for the rupees I paid her but also for my appreciation of her handiwork. And I was grateful for this artifact of a disappearing culture that now rests peacefully on my bed sparkling in the sunlight

The traveler takes a notebook and writes: Should we have stayed at home wherever that may be?
---From Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel”

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