Tuesday, January 18, 2011

today...writing

As a teenager, I worked at the Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, then called simply the Huntington Library. Access was more limited in those times. The public was not admitted until early afternoon. That meant staff had some 120 acres of orange groves, desert planting, lily ponds, bamboo forest and meditative settings all to itself to explore during morning coffee breaks and lunch hours.

A writer walks each day, each waking moment, really, through acres of words, species rare and common from which to choose. As each sentence is built, we hope for a combination that is, improbably, unlike any that came before. Memory, vocabulary, experience, education, ear, subtle neurological connections, all determine the expanse from which we select.

This is a way of reminding myself that each seed, every stem, the entire observable world and what may hide behind its face, can find its way into the story. Today I read poetry, written as a list, a list that told me to reach farther than I think I can. When my fingers close around the exact phrase, I will know. Pull it from whatever obscure corner it has occupied and let it speak.

26 comments:

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I spent many a Saturday afternoon at the Huntington back when I was in college. I loved to sit in the different gardens and journal. One of my favourite memories is walking slowly down the grand staircase in the Art Gallery and pretending to be the mistress of the house. What a treat it must have been to have it almost all to yourself!
Erin

Angella Lister said...

there is poetry within these paragraph, so sure and true.

Laoch of Chicago said...

What a wonderful job for a teenager!

Artist and Geek said...

What a wonderful place to draw (draw!) from. The magic of galleries, museums and gardens never lessens.
Thank you for gifting this post.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - The younger staff, pages and grad students working in reference, had picnics in the summer. On my afternoon breaks I loved visiting the Art Gallery, favorite paintings and just to be in the atmosphere. The real working world, once entered, was not an easy adjustment.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - Thank you. :-)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - It was the best. Over the five years I was there I had many page assignments, worked in different departments. It was a tiny universe all to itself.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - It was completely magical...carts of deaccessioned (a museum word, I believe) books for sale for 25 cents, a bindery with Italian marbled papers, a Dickens Christmas party, visiting historians doing research. What a gift it was.

Kass said...

Harvesting is close to how I feel about reaping all the richness from so many sources.

You do it so well.

Lisa H said...

When I come back to L.A. can we go?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Thank you. Thank you.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - Yes, if you promise to let me narrate the tour as though we were visiting in 1963...that won't be tedious.

RachelVB said...

what a wonderful way to spend the mornings. That sounds lovely.
It's a faith, isn't it? To let the words come as they come. Sometimes the right phrase or word doesn't even come until the 10th draft, but it never would have come if not for the other 9.
xo
Rachel

Artist and Geek said...

Not to sound trite, but heaven on earth. Are there still any spots left in your tour?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - Sometimes it is pure excavation, or like trying to catch your shadow. But yes, without the 9 attempts, we would never have arrived.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Artist and Geek - Plenty of room on the bus. Welcome.

Pam Morrison said...

I love this picture and reminder of the writing process - not just a garden but acres and acres of space, plants that are both familiar and exotic, with their form and scent, And waiting to let 'nature' speak, rather than plucking handfuls that might go together.. or pruning without thought or care. Although that said, isn't nature (and creativity) remarkable, that we can't botch up completely. Those plants and words remain forgiving. They keep growing, alive with possibilities. All power to your very green thumb.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I love museums. More than a collection of "old stuff" they often provide a visual insight into how we got were we are today.

Vespersparrow said...

Marylinn, what a stellar post. As a writer, you've taken those sumptuous acres and art with you into the world, those galleries are there, and now make room for all the other wonders you've beheld since. I think being a writer, hard as it sometimes is, is the most extraordinary blessing--to be open to the universe, and try to describe it, and what it's like to be human, and to quote Samuel Becket, "Try again. Fail. Fail better." It is a gift to be who you are, to have had your experience--and to gather all that inside and let things unfold as the ought---ah, what joy! xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Pam - It is with the trust that words remain forgiving that one moves forward. If today's work lands with a thunk, there is always tomorrow. There is so much from which to choose...my wish is to widen.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - To see things in the original, such as the Huntington's collection of William Blake on display back then, was transporting. I have always loved old stuff. Wherever viewed, it is a connection.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Thank you. And for "...fail. Fail better." I catch myself (if I am paying attention) looking at the outcome and not the process, certainly not at the source material and its richness. For today I will think about unfolding, a word I use frequently yet manage to interrupt with impatience or expectation.

grrl + dog said...

Like a secret garden for half the day.....

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - And even when the public was there, the space is so vast...NOT like being at Disneyland. But parts behind barriers really were secret gardens.

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Marylinn - I've just noticed the few lines I tapped out here a few days back didn't quite make it to the page. . . Perhaps I stopped mid-sentence, forgot to type in the wv or to push the 'return' button.

I loved this post - your description of the Huntington Library reminded me of The Clark Institute in Williamstown. What a rich experience the Library will have been for you; everything there so alive and vivid. The surrounding landscape, too. Angella's right, there is poetry within these paragraphs.

You have a gift for opening up acreage, Marylinn, reminding us - as you do yourself - that everything has its place in the unfolding story.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - I'm glad you came back to replace the lost comment. Thank you. It remains as vivid sense - and other - memories...a grove of orange blossoms in flower, within city limits, minutes from my desk. More and more I realize the value, the resource, of each moment.