A Apple Pie and Finding What You Didn’t Lose
This week I was thinking about a book that was magical for me in childhood—a book that connected letters and things—a book called A Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway. Perhaps you’ve read it or seen it. Well, I typed "greenway apple pie" into google and google knew that I really meant greenaway (with an a) and it led to me this magical site, “The Celebration of Women Writers” which publishes online editions of out-of-copyright books by women authors. I found there reproductions of all the pages of A Apple Pie, a book first published in 1886 and which I first received as a gift when I was four or five (a bit later than 1886). After I discovered–actually rediscovered–those pages online, I made my way down to my basement and managed to locate the actual book—a bit worn and water-damaged and with my name and childhood phone number written on the inside page. Those pages evoke something for me. They evoke a particular time. They evoke for me something of that mystery of language that Helen Keller experienced and wrote so well about.
What does this have to do with writing and healing?
I’m thinking now of a book by John Fox called Finding What You Didn’t Lose. John Fox is a poet, a teacher, and a poetry therapist who last year formed the Institute of Poetic Medicine. The premise of Fox’s book, Finding What You Didn’t Lose, is that creativity can be reclaimed by reconnecting to early or significant experiences that may seem lost—but they’re not lost. Finding what you thought you lost but you never really lost it; you only perhaps misplaced it, or forgot it.
On p. 7 of Fox’s book he quotes Albert Camus:
A man’s work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Perhaps it would be helpful here to restate this quote in a more inclusive way. (I suspect Camus would have done this himself if he’d written in a different time.):
A person’s work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence the heart first opened.
Sometimes we don’t know when our heart first opened. We don’t remember or we think we don’t remember. Writing is a way to get back there. Writing can reclaim an early experience by conjuring its details. The slant of light in a particular room. The billowing of curtains. The sounds out in the street.
I think all of this has something to do with healing, but then I have to admit that I tend to think of healing in very broad terms. I tend to think it’s all connected—the healing of creativity—the healing of the mind—the emotions—the healing of the soul—the spirit—the body—all of it—I think it’s all connected—though not necessarily in simple or uni-dimensional ways. (I don’t happen to think, for instance, that people who are experiencing illness in their minds or bodies are necessarily any less healed—or whole—in their souls and spirits than people who are at the moment without illness.)
What do you think? Is any of this connected?
Is Camus on the right track?
Do those early experiences of the heart opening matter?
Does reclaiming those experiences matter?
And does this have anything to do with healing?