Friday, 1 May 2015

Weather Front

Peter Richardson's writing day begins in the cellar:
Every morning before breakfast, I descend two half-flights of stairs to one of those venerable pine secretaries with a folding top which you sometimes see at auctions.

There, on a rickety cane-seated chair, I jot in a spiral notebook, using blue pencils with smudge-proof erasers. A stylus and clay tablet would do as well. I write on one side of a page because I like to return to old notebooks and cull through them. When I go back to them many months later, I want those tomes legible.

The desk is a hand-me-down. My mother used it as the platform for her letter-writing campaigns of the Fifties and Sixties. Often coming home from school, I would hear her Smith-Corona clacking away in the study off her bedroom. The fact that we lived on a decommissioned farmstead six miles from the nearest town may have nourished her need to write to The New York Times or Commonweal on issues of utmost importance. Yet I think if we had stayed in southern Connecticut rather than decamp to northern Vermont in 1960, she would still have found time to correspond with a grab-bag of different people.

Sitting at the same desk, I record thoughts about a book I’ve been reading, scraps of dreams, or observations of clouds, and by that, I mean, what weather front is sweeping towards me across the spine of Gatineau Park. Living on a ridge above the Alonzo Wright Bridge not far from Cantley, Quebec, I find we get our share of blustery hill country days. With snow whipping against two transom windows to my left, I suppose that I hope to find myself riffing on a subject I won’t know I’m writing about till I’m about three sentences into it.

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