Yesterday I finished reading Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. How I could relate to so much that she said!
I felt culture in its deepest sense, what civilizes people, is only a thin veneer, like the new houses which turn out to have a brick façade pasted on to some other material. And how incredible it was, in autumn, to swing past acres and acres of fancy French provincial, Spanish, or Tudor houses were not a leaf is allowed to rest on the immaculate lawns! So beautiful in a House and Garden sort of way, so empty of poetry. For poetry lives in places where people work in their gardens, or let them go wild and do not leave it to impersonal firms of gardeners to plant and trim.
Shreveport has far more charm, a livable town, where Dallas seems just plain inhuman, too rich, too new. A fifty-year old building in Dallas looks antediluvian and ‘must be torn down.’ I felt the women were starved, starved for a kind of reality that does not exist in Neiman Marcus fur coats, in changes of fashion, in redecorating, in travel to the ‘right places’. Under polite small talk, one sensed nostalgia, the nostalgia of the bored child who does not know what he lacks, but knows he is being deprived of something essential to his well being. These women are not disturbed, striving, anguished about the state of the world, not always guilty because they should be doing more as their equivalents in the east often are; also, they’re not happy or fulfilled. It is hard to define, but under that huge sky and among so many “beautiful” things, houses, expensive cars, what I sensed was loneliness. There’s too much luxury, maybe, and too little quality. Good manners are just not enough....
But, oh, how marvelous it was to come home to dear shabby Cambridge, to uneven brick sidewalks, to untrimmed gardens, to lawns covered with leaves, two young people walking hand in hand in absurd clothing, to dear Judy and the pussies! We are all a little old and worn, but we’re happy. And Nelson, when I drove up under a pale bright sky, looked like heaven. I saw it freshly, saw the beauty of wooden clapboard painted white, of old brick, of my battered and dying maples, as a shining marvel, a treasure that lifts the mind and the heart and brings everyone who sees it back to what quality is.