creative ramblings & reverie

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Writing Spaces

We're moving, in a week, and I'm trying to clear my writing space (above) to prepare for another.  Many treasures have surfaced, including letters from all eras of my life.  One of the hardest things to give up (other than the light itself, lying dappled late afternoons across my generous table, was the old Random House dictionary which I gave up this morning to Goodwill.  I wrote about it fondly several times before, in the following instance inspired by W.S. Merwin's poem:

At my elbow on the table
it lies open as it has done
for a good part of these thirty
years ever since my father died
and it passed into my hands
this Webster's New International
Dictionary of the English
Language of 1922
on India paper which I
was always forbidden to touch
for fear I would tear or somehow
damage its delicate pages
heavy in their binding
this color of wet sand
on which thin waves hover
when it was printed he was twenty-six
they had not been married four years
he was a country preacher
in a one-store town and I suppose
a man came to the door one day
peddling this new dictionary
on fine paper like the Bible
at an unrepeatable price
and it seemed it would represent
a distinction just to own it
confirming something about him
that he could not even name
now its cover is worn as though
it had been carried on journeys
across the mountains and deserts
of the earth but it has been here
beside me the whole time
what has frayed it like that
loosening it gnawing at it
all through these years
I know I must have used it
much more than he did but always
with care and indeed affection
turning the pages patiently
in search of meanings
—W.S. Merwin

Ever since my own father died I have had his dictionary too, not Webster but Random House.  He used to keep it laid open on the blue cupboard in his den, to consult while typing letters or a page or two of his novel on weekend mornings (coffee cup sometimes knocked off the typewriter stand by the carriage return, unloosing a great flurry of cussing), or wandering in with Scotch and cigarette and double crostic book in hand during some summer evening, barefoot, in one of his fish- or ship-printed shirts bought on the Kona Coast.  For years I kept that dictionary in my tiny kitchen in the apartment on Parma Way, under the window with the cheery painted Mexican parrot hung there to overlook whatever I was cooking.  Laid open too, always, the words left free to roam around (at random) and mingle with the childhood aromas of frying meat, oregano.

And another time, upon leaving another house that gave me space for writing.

My new writing space will be charmed in quite a different way, with views like these from its windows—

Will what I write be consequently different, with doves and evergreens instead of quails and oaks?  With sun in the morning, not afternoon?  With the ocean only a walk away?  Always in search of meanings, I will explore with interest and great hope.

images:  Christie B. Cochrell

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