This Old House

“Home-made, home-made! But aren’t we all?”
~ Elizabeth Bishop, Crusoe in England

It’s been my great fortune to spend time in recent years writing in solitude at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, Nova Scotia, the very house where the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet spent an important part of her childhood. For nearly ten years, the co-owners of the house have been committed to sharing the house with other Bishop fans and artists of all disciplines, providing a retreat where one can write/paint/sing/sculpt/compose/read/photograph/read/think undisturbed.

During my retreats at the house, I’ve spent quiet and concentrated time working first on my short story collection, and then on my various writings and research on the life and art of Buster Keaton. It’s been a rare gift to have the time and space to myself to work uninterrupted, surrounded by the distinct presence of other artists whose creative spirits fill those old walls, including Elizabeth Bishop herself.

One of the great pleasures of my retreats was occasional visits from members of a flock of guinea fowl who ran free in the village. I always looked forward to random guinea encounters during my evening walks along the road where once young Elizabeth walked the family cow. They are amusing creatures, football-shaped with tiny stick feet and equally tiny heads, ridiculous-looking and determined and squawky. They never let me near, but on a few occasions I was able to photograph them from across the road.

I speak of the guinea fowl in the past tense; sadly, they are no more. Tough winters and a hungry fox have taken their toll in recent years. And I speak of the Elizabeth Bishop House in not quite the past tense. Things change, as the guinea fowl will attest, and the house is now listed on the market. With any luck, the right buyer will come along and honour the house’s legacy. I pass along this information in the hope that this will be the case, and out of gratitude to the people who for nearly ten years have provided artists from around the world with the time and space to create.

Great Village Guinea Hen_crop 2 (2011)

(Link to the Elizabeth Bishop House)


Categories: General and My Books.