Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The view from here

Herman Melville's writing view

 I’m contemplating moving very soon to the Texas hill country. It’s been a long-held dream, and I’m excited about it but also a bit apprehensive. While moving is a big adventure, it also means change, and that’s something I’m not fond of, or I should say the part of me that craves the routine, the ordinary and everyday isn’t fond of confronting something new. On the one hand moving is all about what you leave behind, close friends, critique partners, good and kind neighbors, in my case, but on the other hand, moving means going forward into the unknown and I love the idea of that even as I resist it.

I’ve moved around a lot, more in my early life than recently, but enough to know it’s cathartic. It’s mind shaking and life altering. It’s an experience through which you can grow. I’ve done it enough to know it can be very good for your soul. Maybe because you get rid of a lot of stuff, or I do, when I move. I weigh the things I put into the boxes, their worthiness to be carefully wrapped and transported. And after days of packing, more winds up in the giveaway pile. I’m exhausted by then, but I feel lighter than air. See, cathartic, like I said!

Anyway, recently, I received the monthly newsletter from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency where
My writing view in the morning
my agent Barbara Poelle works, and at the top of the page Irene posted a beautiful photograph she took of the view Herman Melville had of the Berkshire Hills from his home, specifically what he looked out on when he wrote, and I was kind of amazed, because it resembles in a small way what my view will be from my new writing nest in the hill country. You can see the differences from the pictures, that the view from Melville’s home is much more lush, while the photo of my homestead, taken this past December in the dead of winter, shows significant signs of the drought that is persistent here. Still, the hills, in both photos, it is that distant perspective that just takes my imagination to such faraway places, and I am lost to it. The view is, in part, what fires my desire to live there, that and some effervescence in the quality of the air, plus the cool mornings and evenings that provide a respite from the brutal heat of a Texas summer day. And unlike where I am now in south Texas, there will be less humidity, fewer cockroaches and mosquitos, and less worry over damage from a hurricane (and we won’t talk about the scorpions, rattlesnakes and wild hogs that live out there, okay?)

Looking west
But back to the photo of Melville’s view, according to what Irene wrote about it, Melville looked out at the hills and saw his whale. “…but to Melville the configuration of the hills from his study window looked exactly like a whale hunching its back after being struck--a sure sign to a whaler that success was near,” Irene wrote in her remarks about the picture. She goes on the say, “Wherever you choose to write, it has an effect on you. Melville had an environment that greatly enhanced his spirit and his work. Whether you work at a beautiful desk with a glorious view or a windowless basement alcove, you can adjust it to suit your needs.”

She’s right, because you could, in a
windowless alcove, hang a painting that would inspire you. But I am so looking forward to having the real thing, not to mention the peace that radiates from these images to soak up every day. In fact, as much as I will probably be homesick for my nest here, I can’t wait to begin a new adventure out there! Thank you, Irene, for sharing this. I am inspired by the photo and by what you wrote about it. Now all I need are house plans!


  1. I live in western Massachusetts, really not to far from the ....I'm embarrassed to say I had no idea Herman Melville ever lived there....so some reason I thought he lived in New Bedford, MA....
    Thank you for filling in my quotient of new info today!

  2. Pauline, you are welcome! I'm in envy of where you live. Gorgeous country ... gorgeous gardening up there, but the winters ... can't hack them anymore! I've been too long south....


  4. Melville had a way with dreamy places. My favorite was Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas (made famous in his "Typee"), where I spent several weeks in 1987.

    1. I peeked at some pictures of Nuku Hiva, Mary. I wasn't familiar. How beautiful!