Happiness: The Writer in the Garden, with Bird Watching
About Happiness: The Writer in the Garden
Like a wandering vine, the subject of garden-making winds through the shelves of books and boxes of archives in the collection of the Beinecke Library. In the materials that make up this exhibition, one state of mind appears over and again: Happiness. Writers of all dispositions seem to agree that the work of shaping the natural world into manageable plots brings particularly rewarding forms of joy and satisfaction.
Many parts of the Beinecke’s collections are represented in this exhibition – from 17th century printed books to contemporary archives. Because of the history of the collections in the library, the selections are weighted towards English language materials, but they stand for versions of joy felt around the world when a writer looks into the face of a fresh blossom.
To read the labels and see descriptions of the materials in the show, please click here: GardenLabelsR3.pdf
Friday, June 16, 5 pm: Juliet Nicolson, in conversation with curator, Timothy Young, discusses the legacies of her grandmother, Vita Sackville-West - both literary and horticultural - and the thread of creativity connecting generations of women in her family, as detailed in her latest book, A House Full of Daughters. Presented in conjunction with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas
About Bird Watching
Part scientific endeavor, part leisurely pastime, the activity we call “bird watching” includes the careful work of devoted scholars and that of curious backyard observers. Seeing and identifying the birds around us gives many a sense of connection to our natural world, even as the very creatures we watch have long symbolized the untethered flight of the spirit. In games and children’s literature, personal notes and intimate correspondence, birds and their lives on the wing captivate the imagination.
Conjuring the observer in the field, the image of the bird watcher may seem far removed from libraries like the Beinecke. Although they may seem quite different at first glance, bird watching and archival research have a good deal in common. Like both ornithologist and amateur enthusiast, the archival scholar may be keenly focused on minute details, seeing and evaluating minor variation in seemingly similar things; she is patient—she sits quietly (sometimes for long stretches) waiting for something special to appear in a familiar place; she carefully records her findings in detailed—sometimes idiosyncratic—lists and descriptive narratives; she is, by turns, solitary in her contemplation and engaged in lively discourse with those who share her interests.
Bird Watching documents the real lives of birds—their forms, their songs, their behavior—in word and image; the exhibition honors, too, the birds of fantasy and wild imagination. Together these reflect an ongoing human fascination with the life of the skies.