And climb the stairs to the beach...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eight Little Books

I have eight little books, all but one hard covered, purchased or received as gifts back in the late 60s or early 70s with which I simply cannot part. I don't look at them often, but I know they are there on my bookshelf should I ever want to. They probably measure 4" x 7" or so and stacked up on top of each other they aren't even as tall as my coffee mug. But they are little treasures of mine and I like having them around.

They are full of quotes, some profound, some not so much. I have always loved quotes. I frequently use them in my writing for inspiration or to better explain something I just can't seem to explain on my own. I have done calligraphy for years, although not recently, and was always hunting for the perfect quote to be calligraphied and framed. These came in really handy for that period of my life. Before I took any calligraphy classes, when we all had posters on our walls, I would copy the quote onto a large piece of paper and paint or draw the appropriate picture, making home-grown posters. I would hang them in a prominent place to remind me where I was going, how I would get there and why I wanted to make a particular journey in life.

As I started writing today's post I thought I had lost one of these little gems and was surprised how I panicked. But, it was there, just hiding between a couple of larger books and I was very relieved.

One of these little books, the only soft covered one, is called "Grooks". A Danish fellow named Piet Hein wrote and illustrated it. In my dorm room, on the wall over my bed, I had a copy of one of his I'd recreated as a poster. It certainly kept me going then, and often I think of it now when things are not going along according to my expectations.

"Put up in a place where it's easy to see the cryptic admonishment T.T.T. When you feel how depressingly slowly you climb, It's well to remember that Things Take Time.

One of these books is called "You're My Friend So I Brought You this Book". It's inscribed on the inside cover in the following manner: "Happy Birthday Sue Love, Me". I love the book, but I have no idea who "Me" was or is. That's a little sad. Another one which I purchased for myself in 1969 entitled "On Friendship A Selection" I wrote inside the front cover:
"Bought in honor of and with love for: Kim Hansen, Sue MacKinnon, Rob Grabill, Cher Hunter and a new friend and first in OWU, Ed O'Brien. May the friendships of them all be always important and always increasing in my heart."
I know this was back in 1969 because I was a freshman in college and I had just met Ed O'Brien. Apparently I purchased it at the bookstore on campus, probably terribly home sick and glad I had a new friend. I was very dramatic in those days.  I am still in touch with everyone on that list with the exception of Ed O'Brien who was just a cute upper classman who was really nice to me, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House, as I recall who I dated a few times and completely lost track of, probably shortly after freshman year. I remember he wore a suede jacket with fringe and had hair longer than most. We had lots of long deep conversations but I am pretty sure he wouldn't remember me at all. I might not remember him if I hadn't written it in this book.

And who could forget Rod McKuen? That raspy voiced guy who sang about Jean, Jean. I had one of his records, I had his song book, and I had this book of his poetry. Honestly, looking at it now, he wasn't much of a poet at all. I was young and if I wasn't in love I wanted to be. His poems were perfect for those dreamy days of youth when I knew nothing about anything, especially love, but thought I was such a deep thinker.
One of his poems: Let me stay more with you. There's so much I have yet to learn. Do you like the colors green and blue. Let me stay a while more with you."   Oh Lord. Why did I buy this book? 

Helene Sherman was a Sudbury artist who published a book called "Words of Light" when she was in her 70s.

She was an illuminator, much more than a calligrapher. Her work is in fine arts museums as well as in the Smithsonian. She taught at Harvard, among other places. She died at the age of 88 in 1996. When I bought this book, I was probably deep into my calligraphy phase. I remember my calligraphy teacher telling me that because doing calligraphy is art and you draw each letter, focusing on the miniscule, you must be very careful because sometimes you lose track of the word you are writing and will make errors in spelling, etc. Helene made such an error in one of the poems she included in this collection but I guess her editor missed it. I love the poem because I am a writer of poetry and I love music. But clearly, Helene lost track of the words and got caught up in her art. Still, it's one of my favorite little books. It just made her more real to me, knowing how easy it is to make that kind of a mistake. I always keep the red ribbon book marker on this page.
"For the Common things of every day, God gave men speech in a common way; For the deeper things men think and feel God gave the poets words to reveal; For the heights and depths no words can reach God gave men music, the soul's own speech." Helene inadvertently wrote the word "say" instead of "feel" when writing about the poets.

Some of these books have notes in them I have written or just an asterisk indicating something resonated with me when I read it. Some have a name written next to a quote, telling me that particular quote described or reminded me of that person. I wrote my oldest and dearest friend's name next to a James Russell Lowell poem:

The years between
Have taught me some sweet,
Some bitter lessons; none
Wiser than this-to
Spend in all things else,
But of old friends,
Be most miserly.

I have a cousin who was the hippiest of San Francisco hippies in 1969. He was an artist, just a few years older than me and he came to my little home town to visit one summer. It was really something at that age to have a cousin who was so exotic. He traveled the country in his long hair and hippie clothes with his dog, Happy, spreading the word about not needing to earn a living or any of that mundane stuff. He was on his way to join a caravan of people of all ages heading to a communal farm in Tennessee the last time I saw him.  He stopped in Ohio where I was in school and I felt like a celebrity was visiting. It was the  "dawning of the age of Aquarius" and here was a guy, bigger than life, and he made an impression on this conservative, sheltered New England teenager. There were a couple of quotes with his name on them, but one that was attributed to Jay Bevins was: "Being a friend to dogs and men is a good day's work." That was very appropriate since his dog and hanging out was pretty much his whole life then. Today he is still a struggling artist, probably qualifies for Medicare, and I bet he has a dog. 

Other quotes were outlined and underlined. Most of them were about friendship and relationships. But some are spiritual about man's relationship with our creator.  A favorite of mine by Victor Hugo is" Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees." I have been there. Haven't you?

Well, I have gone on with this musing, perhaps a little longer than I should have. I suppose I should leave you with something funny. That's what I would like to do, anyway. For humor, I'll go to my little book of Grooks.

Grook on Long Winded Authors

Long-winded writers I abhor.
and glib prolific chatters;
give me the ones who tear and gnaw
their hair and pens to tatters:
who find their writing such a chore
they only write what matters.

Have a great day,


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