“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer–“Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a young poet
In my 72nd year of life (I am now embarking on my 78th birthday this month) I am discovering that I really don’t know who I am or where I belong. Oh, yes, I have some inklings of myself–like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that is yet to be put together.
As a child my singular ambition was to become a writer. When I was in the third grade (and barely literate) I sent a story to My Weekly Reader (written in pencil on lined school paper). It was my first rejection slip; my father opened the piece of mail addressed to me–my father opened all the mail–and put the story, which had been returned–back into the envelope. He never said a word about it. To this day, I have no idea if either of my parents thought (or suspected) that I might have some writing talent. (When I sold my first poem to a religious magazine, I DID call my mother to tell her about the legitimate sale; I sold another poem to the same magazine about a month later. I really thought I was off and running…..I wasn’t.
I think I as about ten or eleven when my father bought an upright (non electric) Royal or Underwood typewriter, saying it was for my brother, Jim, and me to use doing our homework. I don’t recall my brother ever using the typewriter. It quickly became mine and I mastered two-finger typing which served me well until I took typing classes in high school and had to unlearn two-finger typing. I wrote many single spaced “stories” with that typewriter. I became proficient using the electric typewriters we had in school, and my teacher Mrs. Gusweiler, who was also a lawyer and worked downtown, encouraged my writing and sometimes read the stories. Another girl, Carol, and I could do as we pleased in that class as long as we turned in all of the typing assignments on Fridays. We did all of our assignments on Fridays. I would work on my stories the rest of the time. I know now how amateur my stories were because I kept them.
My American History teacher, Miss Schwach, also read some of my stories and encouraged me to write. By now, one supposes, if I had enough talent, I would have written a book by now. Instead y 3-ring-binders are packed with poetry and essays and most of my writing is on a blog. I could use the excuse that I was married to a man (for 26 years!) who thought I had no talent (even though he never read anything I had written) and constantly discouraged and disparaged anything I wrote. When we divorced, I bought a computer and told myself NOW I AM GOING TO WRITE – and write I did even though none of what I envisioned for myself materialized.
I was “discovered” by a woman who published a newsletter for cookbook and recipe people, called Cookbook Collectors Exchange and was given carte blanche to write whatever I felt like writing. I took to heart the saying “write what you know best” –I knew cookbooks and recipes and found myself apt at producing articles about things such as white House Recipes, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (who gained her most success writing what SHE knew best–a place at Cross Creek Florida, for which she became famous writing THE YEARLING, CROSS CREEK and CROSS CREEK COOKERY. I wish I had known her.
I wrote about American P:ioneers crossing the wilderness of our country and what they cooked and ate–and called it Kitchens West. I wrote about the religious groups that formed in the 1800s and how their growing crops and making furniture and what they cooked–made an impact on this young country. I began writing about the cookbook authors I most admired. I did this kind of writing for ten years when it folded.
I was discovered by a woman who wrote a newsletter for women and seniors–and began writing pieces about the kitchen. Then the editor of Inky trail News, the newsletter for seniors, set up a blog for me so that all I had to do was start writing; I wrote over 500 articles on my sandy chatter blog–mostly cookbook reviews–then became unable to access that blog –so I set up another one that is all about poetry. I have over 500 of my poems on sandyscookbookchatter.com.
what thrills me most is that gradually, over time, I have received messages on my blog from people who were related top or friends of the cookbook authors I have been writing about. There is a wonderful validation in this.
So, is this how I am finding my place in the world? Maybe. Maybe not.
Maybe I have not yet found my real place in the world. How old was Grandma Moses when she became famous? How old was my Aunt Dolly (writing under Evelyn Neumeister) when she began to paint? How old was my other, Aunt Annie, when she found a career midlife on the subject of graphology? Might I not say–I am only 77–I have only just begun.
People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates, – Thomas SZASZ.
*Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), known by her nickname Grandma Moses, was an American folk artist. She began painting in earnest at the age of 78 and is often cited as an example of an individual who successfully began a career in the arts at an advanced age.
This is encouraging! I am turning 78 in a couple of weeks! – sls