Unreal Nature

November 2, 2017

If I Tell You

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… The space ahead is the summer and the winter — and the summer and the winter again as I have planned them — and it’s all empty —

This is from My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Volume 1, 1915-1933 edited by Sarah Greenough (2011). This letter is from the very beginning of their relationship, when they were just getting close:

Georgia O’Keeffe • [New York City] • [May 21, 1916]

Mr. Stieglitz

I am writing you because I am afraid to go to sleep — and after I’ve told someone I’ll not be so much afraid — or at least — I hope I won’t —

Last night I dreamed — A very bad dream about Mama … [O’Keeffe’s mother had just died]

[ … ]

I would make my dream — but I know I couldn’t stand to stay in the same building with it overnight —

[ … ]

I saw you at the Metropolitan this afternoon — You were looking at the Winslow Homer — I was looking at the people. You didn’t turn.

You are a funny man. I put my hat on and got to my door one day this week to tell you something that seemed worse to me then — than my mother being gone — but I turned back and saw a picture I had made — and — I thought — No — So — the next day I went — when I had cooled off some — I didn’t tell you — because — well — I didn’t need to then — and anyway — I couldn’t have told the others — too — The reason I say you are funny is because you seemed to be hunting around that day for something to bother you — You had even tried to get the doctor to find something wrong with you —

and I had so much that was real — that — why — my brain simply wouldn’t work.

— I knew when I went down that I wasn’t going to tell you but everything seemed so queer to me — I wondered why people laughed — I had caught myself stopping and looking at them two or three times when I heard them — wondering how it felt — how it would be to feel like that again — did they know the other things — I couldn’t do anything so I went down to see you for curiosity — I wondered what you looked like —

I ate lunch with Anita the day before — the day I thought I had to tell someone and started to tell you — She seemed like such a pretty little girl — I couldn’t tell her. When I saw you — you were trying to find something wrong with yourself —

You don’t mind — if I tell you that every time I have thought of it since — I have laughed. It seems so funny — and I laugh too — at the way I stood around there — seeming about as stupid as people are made. I guess I enjoyed being stupid that morning — I frequently do.

After I left it quite amused me to think what fool I am —
But I didn’t care that day —
And this is another day.
Maybe I can sleep now —
Goodnight — thank you for letting me feel I can talk to you.

[May 28, 1916: still in the same letter]

I wrote this last Sunday night and found it in my desk tonight.

I’ve been sick — tonsillitis — in bed — for four days — can’t come to life — can’t care about anything —

Living great? Why yes —

The emptiness of the space ahead is appalling — It seems so empty that I don’t want to move into it — thinking of it makes me feel I cannot stand it —

But I know I can — only I hate to take the first step —
I’d almost rather just stay in bed and have tonsillitis. —
The space ahead is the summer and the winter — and the summer and the winter again as I have planned them — and it’s all empty —

[June 3, 1916; still the same letter]

Here it is —

Written last Sunday night — and the Sunday before — I would tell you why I went down today but my head aches so I can’t —

The part of me that the doctor can’t get at is very much sicker than the rest of me —

-Julie

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