Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Ornamental Hermit

Why writing? Because no one has been paying Ornamental Hermits for a couple of centuries now.

I worked in Seattle’s high-tech world for more than a decade and loved the pace and the people and, yes, I admit, the money. But then something happened; suddenly I found that work was depleting me rather than energizing me as it had in the beginning. It occurred to me that perhaps my parachute was not that color.

Someone once told me that to find out what you’d love to do for work, look critically at your bookshelf. See what you spend your time and money reading about. Me? I have an extensive collection of books on hermits. Ancient Tibetan hermits, Indian hermits, modern-day Catholic hermits – you name the hermit, I’ve got the book. Give me a new hermit to read about and I’ll be up all night. So I realized that inside my broad Germanic frame lives a tiny, hunched over anchorite begging for solitude.

As a writer working from an office at home I have found a way (now that kids are in school) to have long stretches of solitude without having to survive only on tsampa and sleep on a bed of pine boughs. I can live like a hermit for six hours a day and then enjoy the richness of the rest of my life.

In addition to the solitude, there is the thrill of constructing something from nothing, of creating a new world, of developing characters you come to truly love or at least love to hate. Most of all, though, there is the sheer pleasure of working with words; for every hundred dull sentences I write there’s one that I love so much I keep rolling it over and over on my tongue like a dessert that’s too good to swallow.

From Edith Sitwell’s 1933 English Eccentrics:

Certain noblemen and country squires were advertising for Ornamental Hermits. Nothing, it was felt, could give such delight to the eye, as the spectacle of an aged person, with a long grey beard, and a goatish rough robe, doddering about amongst the discomforts and pleasures of Nature.


Anonymous said...

1. If I had the money, I would definitely hire you as my Ornamental Hermit. I would love to have you doddering around here.
2. There was a coffee shop in Cincinnati called Sitwells, named after Edith, I'm sure. It was really dirty.

Evan said...

Here here.

Sitwell's is still there, named after Edith, and filthy. They had a great show of homoerotic Bentonesque murals.