Monday, November 14, 2011


I saw this photo in my travels around these internets and I couldn't resist it because this was exactly the kind of typewriter I learned to type on, and went through journalism school with, a heavy iron manual from my grandparents era, whose keys you had to pound with intention. I got really fast on that thing. And the camera looked like my first one, too, the one my uncle gave me, a viewfinder model that at the time seemed ancient, but it worked. It used film that I could unspool and spend hours developing in the makeshift darkroom that doubled as a wash room under the back stairs of our house. And the lamp, even the lamp. It is identical to the one that sat on my grandfather's desk, which became my desk after he died, because he had declared I should have it. My grandfather didn't merely speak. He declared. I had been the child to sit daydreaming at his desk when we visited my grandparents in Mandeville and he had noticed. I felt so chosen to be given that desk. No, the desk in this picture looks nothing like his desk, which was a grand ship of timber, all dark polished wood, scuffed and beautifully dented, with deep and mysterious drawers. Nor does the window look like the one I gazed out of from my bedroom, sitting at that desk and watching the tall tropical grass in the field next door sway in the laconic breeze. It's not the window, not the desk, but everything else here, the threadbare books, the quality of light, the tools of creation just sitting there waiting, it all yanked me back to another time and another place, where my daydreams, it turns out, had the force of inevitability. Because here I am now, remembering.


  1. If there is anything which represents the ability to express what is inside of us more than a typewriter, a camera, and a desk in front of a window, I have no idea what it would be.
    Gifts which give wings to gifts.

  2. Ms. Moon, you're so right! gifts which give wings. Did i learn to love writing and picture taking and desk sitting and window gazing because of these gifts, or did they come to me because the universe saw that's who i was, am? thank you for being here, dear mary moon. you make this place so much richer and kinder and more loving for all of us.

  3. I'm a little obsessed with these old typewriters and have been looking for one to buy. I had several as a kid, teenager and then college student and regret discarding them.

    What a gorgeous photo -- the perfect thing to post above one's desk as part of a the perfect desk. I'd love the jpg file and permission to print out and hang.

  4. I used to type with a manual, too -- which seems incredible now. It's amazing our fingers could take all that pounding!

  5. Yes, love that typewriter. Am considering going back to using one for which I still have a case of ribbon, even though it seems deliberately anachronistic to do so. I read somewhere that Jonathan Franzen said he had to destroy all the internet connectivity on his computer in order to write on it without succumbing to distraction.

  6. A portable typewriter, immediately suggesting that we could go and write other places. I wish I had all the ones I'd let go, wish I had the heavy-as-an-anvil Underwood upright from my newspaper days. A photo that must have felt as though someone had looked into you and knew just what you were made of. xo

  7. What a wonderful photo. I love those old typewriters, I am trying so hard to get used to typing on flat little laptop keys. I learned how to type on a manual typewriter similar to that one, and I really kind of miss pounding on the keys.

    How sweet of your grandfather to watch you like that, and see right into your heart. what a nice memory.

  8. Elizabeth, I got it from 79ideas, which is a site, come to think of it, that you might love.

    Steve, i love how we have the same journalism experiences. we are clearly the same vintage, LOL.

    A, i wish i still had my old typewriter. why didn't i know i would one day regard it with such affection? but i do love this internet connectivity, too.

    Marylinn, "as though someone had looked into you and knew just what you were made of." i got chills reading that. it feels so true.

    ellen, my grandfather noticed way more than we kids gave him credit for. i realized it later. i wrote about his noticing in an essay once.