Treasuring Rather Than Needing -
I recently read Menna van Praag’s novel The Lost Art of Letter Writing in which she tells the story of Clara who, counter-culturally for today, runs a shop in Cambridge where you can go to write a letter. The shop is stocked with lovely paper and amazing pens and it provides the opportunity to express those things that really matter, and to take the time to do so.
In a world of texts and emails, the novel offers a challenge to where we have reached. For me it is a book about people finding themselves, and we all need the opportunity to do that.
I was struck by a passage in which Clara’s house is contrast with that of her mother. It is an interesting passage because it talks about treasuring as against needing. That is fascinating, because we often talk about needing as against wanting, making the point that what you need, not what you want, is the important thing. That thinking is here moved into a different place as what you need is displaced by what you treasure.
“It’s not about needing, Clara wants to say, it’s about treasuring. But she knows there’s no point. Her mother is so unlike her in this respect (and most others) that they simply aren’t able to understand each other. Sophia’s house is all cream and chrome, plain carpets, unadorned walls, sleek modern appliances, without a sign of past or personality, and everything looking – at least on Clara’s rare visits – as if airbrushed for an imminent magazine shoot. By contrast, Clara’s house (inherited from her grandfather) is a homage to chaos, clutter, colour and old-fashioned living. No two rooms are alike, though they share common themes – vintage clocks, weathered Persian rugs, velvet cushions, potted purple orchids, stacks of books, framed letters written by famous people – and all are unified by the fact that everything appears to be dated c.1900 and it seems that nothing once arrived in the house had ever left again.”
What are the things that you treasure?