Mary Jean Place is our featured writer this month.
The shelves of read and unread books are only tabs to a life, some real and some imagined. They line the hallway wall, two walls of every bedroom, and study, with random shelves in the kitchen and living room. The 16 large bins of printed photos recording weddings, births, fourth of July celebrations, family reunions, special plants, travel adventures, loved cars, all uncatalogued and begging to be put in order, but must settle for a re-distribution or elimination. The bolts of fabric that were so tempting for a project, that never got translated into a serviceable dress, table cloth, or quilt, stacked in a closet arranged by colors of red, white, yellow, and some purples. The dressing room floor lined with shoes that have given out, refused to fit, or never match a current outfit, suggest a waste of space and money.
The filing cabinets that cradle the brilliant thoughts and records of one’ s business and community life, complete with yearly indexes; the financial decisions one hoped to retire comfortably on, and hundreds of hanging files of family letters including the first letters and notes written by the offspring that are now producing college graduates. Files with descriptive notes covering the recent two years of living in France, the French language tapes, and the letters from the recent French friends, and endless drawers of medical records, medical payments, and letters to MD’s!
The walls lined with art, etchings, lithographs, watercolors, drawings, paintings, some by artist who became famous, and some who never made it. The sculptures of marble and bronze add dignity to the rooms, and the Steinway grand piano and harpsichord dominate the living room, reminding me how much I love to perform music. The CD rows of all kinds of music suggest a love of all cultures, as well as the many forms of American music.
These are just things, and some say they are not important. I find it difficult separating from them, as they are the triggers of my memory. Removing these things is like surrendering my life, because they each have a story that springs to mind as I review them. The cortical area of the brain has plenty of memory, more then my computer, but I need the keys, these things I am thinking of removing. They are the connections to the incunabula of my life.
In a nutshell, a little about me. In my early years after finishing my studies at the university in philosophy and library science, I went to work in Europe as a librarian, 1951-1952. Became a reference librarian at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota after that. My avocation/hobby all my life has been art, though I only do photograph, it consumed my free time. After moving from N.Y. city to the Bay Area, in the late sixties, I opened an art gallery in S.F., and for 35 years I worked as an art consultant putting collections together for corporations and private collectors. However, my interest in libraries continued, and in Palo Alto I founded the Library Advisory Commission for the city of Palo Alto, as well as starting the Palo Alto Library Foundation in 2002, that raises money for the libraries.
I recently lived in France for two years, which I loved. I work one day a week with my six year old autistic grandson, a beautiful child. I have three daughters from my first marriage, and five step children from my second marriage. I have three grandchildren, and three step grandchildren. I served on the Board of the Experiment of International Living for many years, striving to make understanding between cultures a positive force in all our lives. I have an incurable lung disease, which no one knows about. I have a fantastic dog named Lily, and I truly enjoy the dialogue with people, all kinds, except boring ones! I have traveled extensively, and I have one other writing group besides the one at Kepler's. I am a fantastic chef, I love food and cooking. I have always been very active physically, skiing, tennis, yoga, now more walking as I have matured into my later years.
Mary Jean Place