Apr. 13, 2012
That year we left the house we couldn't afford and put
our belongings in storage. We were free now
to travel or live in tiny spaces. We kept our chairs
and tables in a cement cell, our bookshelves,
our daughter's old toys, clothes we wouldn't wear
or discard. There were books we liked but did not
need and mattresses and pots and pans. Sometimes
we went to visit our things: sat in our rocking chairs,
searched for a jacket, listened to an old radio. It was like
visiting someone I loved in a hospital: the way, removed
from the world, a person or object becomes thin,
diminished. The furniture on which we lived
our young life had no job but to wait for us.
It remembered our dinners, the light through
our windows, the way the baby once played on the floor.
It's the birthday of Thomas Jefferson (books by this author), born in Albemarle County in Virginia in 1743, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, as well as countless pieces of legislation, reports, notes, letters, essays, and even books on farming and gardening. He was also famously well-read and a great lover of books; his personal library was the largest private collection in the United States — 6,487 volumes on history, philosophy, and fine arts — when he sold it to Congress after the British burned down the Library of Congress. (The lost library was less than half the size of Jefferson's.)
It's the birthday of Samuel Beckett (books by this author), born in Foxrock, Ireland, a Dublin suburb (1906). He studied French literature in college and then went to Paris, where he met James Joyce, who by that time was almost blind and working on Finnegans Wake. Beckett became his assistant. He read books to Joyce, took dictation, and walked with him around Paris. He idolized Joyce so much that he began to smoke like Joyce and walk like Joyce. He tried to write in Joyce's meandering style, but Beckett said, "I realized that my own way was in taking away, in subtracting rather than in adding."
Beckett eventually found his own voice and wrote many novels and plays, including his most famous, Waiting for Godot (1952). In 1969, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He wrote, "Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
Beckett wrote, "My mistakes are my life."
And, "We are all born mad. Some remain so."
And, "Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order."
He also said, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."
It's the birthday of Seamus Heaney (books by this author), born in Mossbawn, Northern Ireland (1939). Heaney's first collection, Death of a Naturalist (1966), made his name as a poet. His most recent book, Human Chain (2010), was written in the wake of a stroke, about which he says he was very lucky to have not experienced "any impairment to his speech, memory, vision, or humor."
It's the birthday of writer Eudora Welty (books by this author), born in Jackson, Mississippi (1909). She wrote several novels, including The Optimist's Daughter (1972), but she's best known for her short stories, which she wrote, rewrote, and revised by cutting them apart with scissors at the dining-room table.
You can tour her house and garden in Jackson for $5, the house at 1119 Pinehurst Street that Welty moved into in 1925 with her parents when she was 16 and lived in until she died in 2001. The garden was planted by her mother Chestina so that there'd be something in bloom each season. There are larkspur, hollyhocks, and snapdragons for the spring; phlox, zinnias, and blue salvia for the summer; asters, chrysanthemums, and spider lilies for the fall, and camellias and pansies in winter.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®