About the book


In this, her bestselling journal, May Sarton writes with keen observation and emotional courage of both inner and outer worlds: a garden, the seasons, daily life in New Hampshire, books, people, ideas―and throughout everything, her spiritual and artistic journey. “I am here alone for the first time in weeks,” May Sarton begins this book, “to take up my ‘real’ life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore what is happening or what has happened.” In this journal, she says, “I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths, to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there.”   Goodreads

Year published: 1992

Buy book: Amazon

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Quotes from the book

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Journal of a Solitude (May Sarton)

Nature does not despair, learn to let it go

  • Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.
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Slow down, live an unhurried life 

  • Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life, and we are indignant if a car doesn’t start at the first try. So the few things that we still do, such as cooking (though there are TV dinners!), knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.
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Small talk isn’t worth your time

  • It is a waste of time to see people who have only a social surface to show. I will make every effort to find out the real person, but if I can’t, then I am upset and cross. Time wasted is poison.
  • I hate small talk with a passionate hatred. Why? I suppose because any meeting with another human being is collision for me now. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation.
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Solitude is essential

  • There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over my encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.
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Prayer with a sense of sacredness

  • There is really only one possible prayer: Give me to do everything I do in the day with a sense of the sacredness of life. Give me to be in Your presence, God, even though I know it only as absence.
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Conscious living is more important than wrinkles

  • Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in this past year.
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Make your house a home

  • A house that does not have one worn, comfy chair in it is soulless.
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Love is a dynamic force, an ever-deepening experience 

  • Whatever people I take into my life I take in because they challenge me and I challenge them at the deepest level. Such relationships are rarely serene, but they are nourishing.
  • Perhaps the greatest gift we can give another human being is detachment. Attachment, even that which imagines it is selfless, alwayslays some burden on the other person. How to learn to love in such a light, airy way that there is no burden?
  • When I speak of life and love as expanding with age, sex seems the least important thing. At any age we grow by the enlarging of consciousness, by learning a new language, or a new art or craft (gardening?) that implies a new way of looking at the universe. Love is one of the great enlargers of the person because it requires us to “take in” the stranger and to understand him, and to exercise restraint and tolerance as well as imagination to make the relationship work.
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Suffering is part of the human journey

  • We go up to Heaven and down to Hell a dozen times a day.
  • The reasons for depression are not so interesting as the way one handles it, simply to stay alive.
  • I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful hault, ‘won’t go,’ or, even worse, explodes in some innocent person’s face.
  • So sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands.
  • I hope to break through into the rough, rocky depths, to the matrix itself. There is violence there and anger never resolved. My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there.
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Female creativity must be valued, cherished  

  • If art is not to be life-enhancing, what is it to be? Half the world is feminine–why is there resentment at a female-oriented art? Nobody asks The Tale of Genji to be masculine! Women certainly learn a lot from books oriented toward a masculine world. Why is not the reverse also true? Or are men really so afraid of women’s creativity (because they are not themselves at the center of creation, cannot bear children) that a woman writer of genius evokes murderous rage, must be brushed aside with a sneer as ‘irrelevant’?”\
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