Monday, August 31, 2009

Hidden Spaces

In this cottage in Surrey, England, are various niches and cupboards and hidden spaces. A child would have loads of hiding places for treasures. To the left of the dining room fireplace is a small cupboard.  Inside is a note explaining its purpose:

This is a typical example of a cloam oven. It was heated by burning large bundles of kindling wood in the oven. When enough heat had been generated the ash was raked out and baking commenced.

The interior is all brick, igloo shaped (round with domed top), about three feet in diameter.  A bricked-over space on the outside house wall is probably where the oven was vented to allow smoke to escape.  It seems such a sensible oven, and although I know it is much easier to turn a knob and have an oven pre-heated within minutes without all the fuss and bother of building a fire and raking coals and ash, I still wish this one were functional so I could try it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Sky 

Through a window, a patch of pastel sky in Surrey. . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Old Time and The Unfinished Angel

This is another old clock I discovered in this cottage we're staying in, in Surrey, England. It has its own special niche, and at first I thought it was a non-working clock, but then discovered two keys tucked beneath it.  It has a gentle tick-tock and a sweet, soft-pitched chime.

Now this one, too, gets wound each morning to start the day. It makes me wonder about who else wound this clock and what other time(s) it marked, and I had the illusion that if it sat for some time, unwound, time could/would stop.

I also was reminded of a chapter in the upcoming The Unfinished Angel, "What is Time?" Here is a passage from that chapter (the odd spelling and grammar are not mistakes; this is the way the Angel speaks):

Peoples, why are they so compelsive, no, what is the word, propulsive, no, obsessive, yes, obsessive! Why they are so obsessive about time, and why they think it is like a cake you can divide into pieces, why? Why they have to have seconds, pinutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, sentries, on and on, tick-tick, whoosh there goes two seconds, whoosh, two more. What, they are thinking time is going somewhere? Where it is going, I ask you, where?

Listen. You hear any ticking? No. You hear just the world being the world. You see any clocks in the sky? You see calendars on the trees?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Winding the Clock

One of my favorite morning chores here at the cottage in Surrey is winding the clock.  It feels as if the day is not properly set in motion until I wind it up.  Very powerful feeling, that!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Through the Windows

More charm of England:  thatched roofs (see top left quadrant of window), gates, brick paths, holly hedges. The hedges offer some privacy; the little gates say 'welcome.'  The thatched cottage (built in 1490) seems to say, 'People come and people go, but I am still here. . .'

So small the windows of our own cottage and thus so dark inside and so like a cave.  Outside: a tidy, manicured world.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Charm of England

As many before me have noted,  there is such charm in an English village and in a cottage with ancient rosebushes that bloom fragrant, perfect tea roses. This is where my husband and I will be for much of the coming year:  a small cottage in Surrey, England.  We're in a rural village but a mere forty-five minutes by train from London.

Our house abuts the local church, some thousand years old, with ancient tombstones surrounding it.  I'll have to refresh my memory about its history: I know it's intriguing, but more than that, it is a beautiful, peaceful place.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Light on the Lake

Right now, the sun is directly over the lake, and the light is so bright and dazzling it hurts the eyes.  A passage in The Unfinished Angel (Sept 09) refers to this light, contrasting it with the 'golden light' that surrounds the homes of the dying:

Sometimes when the sun is directly overhead and shines onto
the lake, the light is so bright it pickles your eyes and you have
to turn away from it. But the golden light is different; it becomes
paler and paler so that you have to strain to see it, and you wish
your eyeballs were bigger, and then, then, it is gone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Island on an Island . . .

In our kitchen is an island with a granite counter that resembles a riverbed, and on this island is another small island.  This small 'island' is a collection of vases with flowers from the yard, along with a growing menagerie of turtles, frogs, a goat,  a wooden grandmother and grandfather, and stones from the lake.

This second island began with a single vase and flower.  My granddaughter added 'dinosaur eggs' (made from clay); I added a few more vases; my husband added the wooden figures; my grandchildren began adding one or two things each summer.  I love this island to bits.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Herman Hesse

In 2007-08, my husband and I lived in
Switzerland, and it was in the village of Montagnola that I wrote The Unfinished Angel. A photo of the stunning view from that village is at the bottom right panel of this blog.

Each day, as I walked through the village and down the hill, I'd pass Casa Camuzzi, part of which has been turned into the Herman Hesse Museum. Hesse spent much of the latter part of his life living in Casa Camuzzi and, in addition to writing, his interests were gardening, drawing and painting. Often he incorporated his drawings and paintings in letters to friends and family.

Although Hesse is better known for his writing, I especially enjoy his watercolors and in seeing that he captured so many of the scenes that I took pleasure in on daily walks.  Below are photos of his typewriter and his art materials.  If you're ever in southern Switzerland, you might consider a stop at this museum and a walk through the area.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writers Need to Learn New Skills Sometimes . . .

Oh. My. I'm not sure this will work, but . . .


We all need encouragement from time to time, mm? The above note, which now rests on my office window ledge, was written on an interior envelope which contained a letter from a fan/reader. Several things I like about this note: that it says 'keep on' instead of 'keep up'; that it was first written in pencil and then retraced in marker; that this second envelope was used to hold the special letter (the outer, addressed envelope not being secure enough perhaps); that the reader recognized that writing might be 'hard work'; and that the reader was thoughtful enough to send encouragement. All of these things tell me I would probably like the writer of this note very much.

I wonder what bits of encouragement other writers keep on or near their desks . . .

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flowers and Words 

The hydrangeas love this rain-sun-rain-sun-rainy weather; they're so lush and vigorous this year, astounding in their enormous blue clusters, with 'heads' about seven inches across and composed of scores of individual blossoms.  Stunning.
When I'm writing, layering word upon word, sentence upon sentence, I hope that I'm telling an interesting tale and being faithful to the characters and that the end result will be something of beauty, but I don't think the end result could ever be as stunning and intricate as the flowers above, which come into being with so much grace and so little effort.
What I prefer in hydrangeas--that they appear so pure and simple in their beauty, but on close examination offer up such intricacy--is what I also prefer in writing: prose or poetry that is pure and simple, eschewing flash, with an intricate, sound foundation.