Between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I got to spend a couple of weeks in Mexico, sitting in the sunshine and reading! A highlight of this time was reading Edie Clark’s most recent book, As Simple as That. This book consists of the collected essays of this prolific writer. Most of these essays were published earlier in Yankee magazine where readers often report that Edie’s monthly offering is the first thing they turn to with each new issue.
Indeed, Edie’s essays are a delight. Edie Clark’s life has not been smooth; her first marriage ended in divorce, and her second husband died of cancer at the young age of 39. But Edie is not one to feel sorry for herself. After writing a prize-winning memoir about her second husband’s battle with cancer (The Place He Made), she chose to stay in the rural New Hampshire farmhouse they had moved to and begun to renovate. Indeed, over the course of years, she has continued to renovate and personalize this historic farmhouse. Although Edie’s farming is more in the realm of having a personal garden, she still watches with joy as a local farmer, by arrangement, harvest’s each year’s hay from her fields.
These essays include slices of life relating to living in rural New Hampshire with its snow, cold, power outages, bug infestations, etc. With clear-eyed observations, Edie chronicles the seasons of the year as well as the seasons of life. She also has had several dogs and has written stunning essays about their impact on her life. Indeed, it is the power of relationship that seems to help her get out of bed each day and be attentive to what life has to offer on that day. She has many friends, who enjoy the special meals and celebrations she hosts at her home. But, in addition to human friends, Edie seems to have befriended the very earth and its natural bounty.
I hope you will look up this wonderful author and see what she has to offer. On this page, I have only scratched the surface of the books she has written. She also gives workshops and is a celebrated speaker at writer’s conferences in New England and elsewhere.
I was totally struck by the last two sentences of the final essay in this collection, entitled “Answering Back.” Before I reveal these final sentences, let me quote some other passages from this essay. For example, here are her FIRST two sentences:
“The rise of the soft curves of the fields, the seasons of the hay, the broad reach of the old apple trees, the long-blooming rose bush on the split rail fence, the in-your-face view of Monadnock, the brilliance of the night sky, these are just some of the aspects of the beauty that brought me here. It was never the house.”
Perhaps it was not the house itself that brought her, but it was the house that kept her. Meanwhile, over the years, she helped the house, built in 1762, to evolve. As she learned more of its history over the decades, she came to see her own role of preservation and celebration in a special light. In fact, this essay focuses on an open-house celebration she orchestrated on the 250th birthday of the house.
Midway through the essay, we find this passage:
“… This place represents the extreme efforts of one man, one continuous family, the fortunes of time and the elements, and the determination of an aging woman who wanted to leave it better than she found it. It was all worth one glorious day of celebration.” I urge readers to read this essay for the wonderful details, including “bucketing rains,” that accompanied this day of celebration!
And now, for Edie’s last two sentences that I promised you. She closes this essay, and indeed this collection, like this: “It may have been the beauty of this land and its dramatic sky that brought me here but the house, its history, its voices, the thought of the many feet that have touched its floors, this is what is so meaningful to me now. I’m only here to make it better, to make it last.”
I love that last sentence, in particular, because it seems a metaphor about life in general. It sums up my own personal motivation as a writer. I think my overarching goal is to “make it better” (by using my writing to hopefully help people) and to “make it last,” which is what writing always does, whether to a large degree or small.
This month, I invite readers to dip into the writings of Edie Clark. You may want to begin with this collection of essays and then move on to her memoirs and other collections. This is nourishment for memoir writers as well as for all writers.
Do you see writing as a way to make life better for others? If so, can you elaborate? Do you share Edie’s, and my, passion to make things (and memories and relationships) last? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What makes you tick as a writer? With what writers do you feel a common bond? Edie is someone readers feel they know. That’s because she shares her life, and her inner reflections, with a generous and open spirit. As a writer, she’s a great role model!
Let us hear from you!