Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Out of Sorts

I feel like the first leaf of autumn to turn amongst the verdant green. I’ve gone back to school. Not for another degree. I’m auditing Bill Watterson’s Shakespeare Comedies and Romances at Bowdoin College. That’s my classroom pictured below. I get there by bike.

Back when I was at college, I had wanted to take a similar course, but it was full. Bill asked, “15 years ago?” Got to love him. More like 20 years. I swallowed my embarrassment and took a seat besides classmates half my age.

I’ve been a fan of Shakespeare since my tweens. I’m self-taught on this subject since leaving school. So was Shakespeare. He dropped out of school at 13.

Shakespeare wrote with a quill pen that had to be dipped in ink every 3-4 letters. He still managed to write 30 something plays and over 150 sonnets. My friend Aaron Kitch, who also teaches Shakespeare at Bowdoin, believes writing by hand affected the work produced. It forced the writer to slow down and to think.

Have you ever felt “out of sorts?” That idiom comes from 17th century printing. The letters were sorted into boxes. Occasionally letters were put back in the wrong box. Other times the printer would run out of letters while setting a page. He’d have to fiddle with the spelling to make it work. Paper was too valuable to discard, so if a proof reader found an error, they’d still keep that page and fix it in the next copy. Even in one edition, the spelling varied.

I compose my novels directly on a computer, my fingers flying across the keyboard at the rate of my thoughts. I write quickly, but I spend as much time revising as composing. Revision involves reading a print out with a red pen in hand and then cutting, pasting and rewriting on the computer. It is like working on a 3D wooden puzzle that has many possible combinations. I am not pining for quill and parchment, although I do value contemplation.

I walk to the pond with my writing on my mind.

Reflection is perception.

The bright colors of fall are like new ideas.

Back at home, the autumn light angles in low and golden.
Everything seems to glow.


Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

You are never to old to learn--I recieved my degree in December of 2008 at the old age of 45.:) Yes, in most of my history classes I was the oldest, but the other students were very respectful and would often come to me for advice.
I love learning and I hope to start my masters next fall.
As always, I love your pictures and thanks for sharing them.
Tracy :)

Rosaria Williams said...

Oh, what a meandering wonder here! Slowing down to smell the roses, hey?

Kelly H-Y said...

Your photos are absolutely stunning, and perfect for this post. I didn't know of the background to the saying 'out of sorts' ... fascinating! Have a great day!

Kathryn/ said...

Hi, Sarah, I was an early Shakespeare lover, too, oddly memorizing his work in 7th grade. This is a lovely thoughtful post. And how absolutely wonderful to be in school. Younger folks need to see regardless of age we value education. It's a rich experience, no doubt. Good for you for going back and picking up that beloved piece.

tina said...

Out of sorts is very common with the seasons changing. I feel it too at times. Have fun in your Shakespeare course.

A Cuban In London said...

First of all, many thanks for the kind comment you left me last Sunday on my blog. It was very welcome. Secondly, there's a cyber-synergy amongst various blogs as we are discussing writing and the techniques behind them at the same time.

Your post today brought back memories of when I found Shakespeare myself. And it was not in uni, but here in Britain. I've come to lke his sonnets more than I like his plays, which goes to show my respect for the Bard.

I hope you enjoy your time at college and I'm sure those kids who are half your age will be learning a lot from you.

Many thanks for such a beautiful post.

Greetings from an almost autumnal London.

Bee said...

Oh, I love the first line of this -- with accompanying red leaf. (Wouldn't it be nice if our hair would turn red instead of gray? Much more suitable, I think.)

So exciting about the Shakespeare class . . . at least we can keep our minds limber, right? I liked the Shakespeare and printing bits, too. I didn't know about "out of sorts" and that is just the sort of trivia I like.

Do the Maine leaves just KNOW the minute it is September?

Sarah Laurence said...

Tracy, congratulations on your degree! That’s wonderful that you are going onto a master’s too. I’m so impressed. You are totally right about never being too old to learn. If anything, I think I’m appreciating the more.

Lakeviewer, a rose by any other name….

Kelly, I’ve read up on Shakespeare, but there is still plenty to learn.

Kathryn, another Shakespeare lover – yeah! I like the idea of a mixed age classroom, but this is my first experience at being the oldest (except for the prof.)

Tina, the lecture did match the season. I’m looking forward to my next class tomorrow.

ACIL, how much fun that we both blogged about writing. I enjoyed your post too. England is definitely the place to discover Shakespeare – how perfect! I’m pleased, but not surprised, to learn that you are fellow fan of the Bard.

Bee, ha! I love the idea of going red like the leaves instead of gray. The printing trivia was fascinating. My professor collects rare books – he is very passionate about the subject matter. I’m amazed by how many of our current idioms date from Shakespeare’s time and are captured in his work. Some leaves started turning in late July due to all the rain. They usually start to turn in late August and peak around Columbus Day in our area. I love it.

Delwyn said...

Good on you Sarah taking this will love it and savour it from a more mature vantage point. Until recently I have always kept studying something...and even now the research for blog posts keeps me fired up...

I loved your illustrations today...the lake must be a great place to ponder. I write many of my posts in my head as I walk and in between snapping images...the words seem to create themselves when the body is ambling along and relaxed...

thanks for a delightful read...

Happy days

Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...


What a lovely walk, photos and reflections. I love hearing how people do their work. Also love discovering the origins of certain expressions, like "out of sorts". Thanks. Hope you sort the letters and everything else back into place soon. :)

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Love your perspective, your photography, your world view. I returned to school at age 55. What a thrill it was. Learning keeps us young, I do believe. I know you'll enjoy the class! ♥

Les said...

I wonder what Shakespeare would make of the writing process in the computer age. How would his work be different, if at all?

Enjoy your class!

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

This is a beautiful and inspiring post; full of the grace and wonder of changing seasons, new leaves turned in your book, my book, as life hurtles us forward; stretching our imaginations, flexing our brains.

I remember first struggling with Shakespeare at Kenya Girls High School in Nairobi a very very long time ago. Luckily for us, mother was a former founding Headmistress, an author, so she gave us extra lessons at home.

How lucky you are. And we are even luckier to have your generous spirit! I like Aaron Kitch's insight into writing. I love scrawling words on paper until my thumb gets indented. As I do so, I reflect on the lettering, the shapes and very often, r.e.m.e.m.b.e.r. things. Yes, reflection is perception.

:-) Thanks Sarah.

Mama Shujaa

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Bravo to you for going back! I threatened to do the very same thing when I saw Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V... the spell of Shakespeare is a difficult one to ignore. But eventually, ignore it I did. Darn. Maybe I should consider it once more. I did learn to knit last year, so I know something is still working up there!

Have a glorious time!!

Rose said...

As a lover of Shakespeare, I envy you being able to take this class. Focusing on just the comedies and romances sounds like so much fun. Thinking of Shakespeare writing so many plays with a quill and ink does make one appreciate the quantity of his work even more. And that has probably added to the doubt about his authorship of all the plays as well.

Thanks for sharing the origin of "out of sorts." I've never heard that one before. I always enjoyed coming across some of the words and phrases that Shakespeare coined that are now part of our everyday language.

Beautiful photos--these scenes must provide a lot of inspiration for you!

Sarah Laurence said...

Delwyn, the research clearly benefits your blog –I learn or see something new every visit. You do a fine job of sharing the peaceful contemplation that your landscape engenders too.

Bonnie, I’m feeling better sorted today. Thanks!

Boomer, how terrific to hear that you returned to school at 55.

Les, I was thinking the same thing. I bet Shakespeare could have written even more plays with a computer, but they would be unreadable. My 5 year old computer is near worthless and remember floppy disks? Paper and parchment survive.

MS, you follow my allusions from leaves to books so well. Your mother sounds like a most interesting and engaging woman – how lucky you were to grow up under her influence. Aaron would appreciate your writing style. It’s wonderful having friends in life an in cyberspace that share a passion for fine writing.

Pamela, I loved that movie of Henry V. It’s impressive that you mastered knitting later in life – I have never found the patience or the skill after several attempts. I am far better at knitting tales.

Rose, I’m not at all surprised that you are a fellow fan of Shakespeare. It is fun to focus on the comedies and romances although the selection surprised me – it includes the Merchant of Venice and Henry IV part one. We started yesterday with A Midsummer’s Night Dream of course. The fall landscape inspires me to writing, to photography and to painting, but I spend more time driving to the kids’ soccer games. Sigh.

Dawn Maria said...

It's funny how the universe works Sarah. I'm rushing to finish a short story for a contest deadline this week and I'm writing the first draft long-hand, which I haven't done in years. It started because I decided to skip bringing my Mac to work one day this week. I have a good hour break to write each day, so I sat down with a note pad and began.

It's been an amazing experience. This story is coming out easily. I've never been one to nip and tuck too much along the way, but I find the words are better chosen with the pen. It's tempting to want to open the laptop and begin transcribing, but I won't until I've literally written the last word.

Enjoy you class, I hope to hear more about it. The photos are incredible and make me feel very dry and dull here in the desert.

Sarah Laurence said...

DM, perhaps you have discovered a new (or rather old) writing style that works best for you. Good luck with the competition! Your comment ties in so well with this post – thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

How lovely to go back to school.I envy you.
I love learning things about literature since my first degree was History and Theory of Art.
I'm an Eng. Lit autodidact.....
and I never knew about out of sorts.

Your nature photos go from strength to strengh and are quite lovely, in the sense of VERY lovely.

Sarah Laurence said...

Ewix, of all topics, I think reading is one that your can do on your own, especially contemporary fiction. The historical context is what I’m getting from this Shakespeare class. I knew you’d like the “out of sorts” derivation.

Thanks on the photos. Maine is so stunning in the autumn.

Mary Ellen said...

I'm glad you're enjoying school again. It's wonderful when it's a subject that speaks to your heart or soul.

I will be starting work next week at USM, and one of the perks of working there is being allowed to take classes - I'm really looking forward to that.

Your pictures are lovely, as always, but I am stubbornly refusing to recognize autumn in favor of clutching remnants of summer. At least until next week.

Sarah Laurence said...

ME, congratulations! What a terrific job. Get out and enjoy this gorgeous weather while you still can.

TBM said...

I love this post, Sarah! And am envious of your course. Do you participate freely in the class, or do you find yourself holding back? And even more importantly, are you obliged to "do the homework"? Not the reading, because how could you participate in the class otherwise, but do you have to submit... papers?

I am envious of your beautiful autumn. So far, the leaves seem to go from green to brown here. I am hoping for some beautiful colours in the weeks to come.

Sarah Laurence said...

JAPRA, I’m taking the auditor part literally: as in a listener. I find the student reaction interesting, although there is little time for student input. It’s a lecture class with full enrollment of 35. I won’t be writing papers, taking exams, getting a grade nor paying for it. This is totally non credit although it matters for me.

I’ve already seen half of the plays performed several times and look forward to reading/watching the rest. I’ve Netflixed Al Pacino’s The Merchant of Venice – I saw Dustin Hoffman perform it live on Broadway years ago –fabulous!

Your fall sounds like an English one. It’s the New England maples that provide those amazing reds and oranges. Our autumn is late this year.

cynthia newberry martin said...

There are so many things I like about this post: the photos of the leaves changing color, the red brick building, you riding your bike to class, the Shakespeare class, the fact that you write on your computer, that you revise a lot with a red pen on paper and then back to your computer for changes. Wonderful fall post!

Sarah Laurence said...

Cynthia, it sounds like you share these simple pleasures with me. Thank you.