“Silence”

Posted on 29 July 2007

I wish I were a poet. Marianne Moore’s poem “Silence” says so beautifully, without apology, what I would like to say to my visitors: She quotes her father – “’Superior people never make long visits,/ have to be shown Longfellow’s grave/ or the glass flowers at Harvard…./ they sometimes enjoy solitude…’/ Nor was he insincere in saying, ‘Make my house your inn.’
Inns are not residences.”

My second set of visitors departed yesterday. As soon as they left, I washed their sheets and towels and spent the rest of the day writing. Oh glorious solitude. I truly like showing family and friends my town. I enjoy their exclamations of awe and appreciation as if I were personally responsible for creating this heaven. But I am not good at having company for long stretches.

On Friday, the last evening of their stay, the woman of the couple asked me to invite a few friends over to celebrate her partner’s birthday, which I did and enjoyed immensely especially since she and he did most of the cooking. (For Gill, I shall tell that we had roast turkey with peppercorn sauce, potatoes roasted with olive oil and herbes de Provence, green beans, tomato salad with fresh basil, mozzarella, cucumber and avocado, and a fresh fruit flan from a Gaillac bakery.)

Still I sighed with relief when they left as I was anxious to get back to my writing. I was feeling good about my progress when the telephone rang. It was my guests asking if they could return for one night a week from now. Not knowing how to say no – though I groaned inside my head – I said yes but the more I think about it, the more unhappy I become. This is the only alone stretch of time I have to write and I need this time to please myself and not worry about being interrupted. A smart friend suggested that I book them into a hotel for the night and this I’m going to try to do although August is a busy time and I may not be able to. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Having said all this, I know that each visitor is unique and also the number of visitors I’ve had makes for my warm or lukewarm reception. When Rob’s sister came – my first visitor of the season – I was pleased. She said that she never stays anywhere – even with her children – more than three nights. When she left with her partner, I felt the time was too short.

My second set of visitors arrived a day later. And they were kind and helpful but I did not know them well before the visit and so it took more energy to entertain them. I wished Rob were here as he knows the man better than I do. I found myself lacking in graciousness.

My sister tells me that it’s in our genes – if we think unkindly about someone, we blame ourselves. We are the ones lacking in generosity. It’s never another person demanding too much from us.

Enough. No, one last word. With every guest, I learn how to be a guest. This is good.

And now I shall close myself away for as long as I can and write my heart out. I am determined to make some more headway with my novel.


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