Words and Pictures

Hanni and I met for coffee and pie at the Aesop’sTable Cafe in the front corner of the Toadstool bookstore. The café was crowded and I noticed a man sketching in a book at the next table. He held up the book when I caught his eye. There we were, in our plaid shirts and jeans, captured on his page. Off to one side of the bookstore is the used book section. It is well-organized and because Peterborough is full of artists, authors and vociferous readers, it is well-stocked.  I was working my way through the section of Donna Tartt’s novels. Though I loved The Goldfinch, I have not been able to consistently crack The Little Friend. I traveled backward, alphabetically along the shelf and found several copies of work by May Sarton.

Where have I been? How could I not have found my muse and mentor earlier in life? Perhaps I just wasn’t ready. Here was a writer who parallels my  style and current station in life. I unknowingly bought a copy of Journal of a Solitude.

My hospice client. Wait, let’s drop the pretense here. I will call him Gunther and his lovely wife Elise. These are not their real names but because I now spend 4 days a week with them it is time to give them identities.

Elise asked if I could pick up a shift from 3-8pm on Saturday. Gunther is weakening and as he is still a relatively large man, it now takes two of us to get him to a standing position. He tries to help but sheer weight of bone is more than any of us can lift alone. Weekends are the time they used to have alone as help is harder to find.

I arrived to find him exhausted at the table, finishing a late lunch. Elise helped me settle him in bed for a nap before dinner then retired upstairs to read. The rain beat against the windows as I stretched out on the couch with the baby monitor. I opened Journal of a Solitude and listened to Gunther’s raspy breathing as I slid into Sarton’s world in Nelson, NH. Nelson is one of the towns where I have searched for housing.

“Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long, not even pain. Let it out. Let all pass. Let it go.”  May Sarton

Over dinner, Elise was telling me of the new art books a friend in publishing gave her. She retrieved them toward the end of the meal as I was helping Gunther scrape up the last bits on his plate. His childhood during WWII made him the current world champion of the Clean Plate Club regardless of how tired he is. One of the tomes was a signed edition of Kevin Bubriski’s Nepal: 1975 -2011. This beautiful book of black and white photography came home with me that night.

I was in Nepal, Kathmandu specifically, in 1982. Bubriski’s photo journal skips over 1980 – 1984. The images, while not exactly caught in the same time, are haunting to me. I had stood in those same markets and squares. Many of his subjects mirrored images I took 34 years ago.

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH


Who could have imagined I would find such inspiration from words and pictures that have cropped up from the most unlikely of places in my life.

“To any writer who wants to keep a journal, be alive to everything, not just what you’re feeling, but also to you pets, to flowers, to what you’re reading.”   May Sarton

16 thoughts on “Words and Pictures

  1. Gunther and Elise and so blessed to have you in their lives, Martha. Your compassion shines through. And how amazing to happen upon the Nepal book. Your photos are beautiful. ~Terri

  2. Thank you for the May Sarton quote: “Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember nothing stays the same for long, not even pain. Let it out. Let all pass. Let it go.” I’ll be sharing it later today with a friend who will, I think, be buoyed by the message.

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