No Power, No Pics, No Pens

Faith seemed to know that there would be a blog post after this evening.

I mentioned last week that our daughter Faith and I had toured the Mark Twain House in nearby Hartford, CT. I think I said something about an event, but I know I didn’t explain what that event was. It was an opportunity to write for three hours in the library of the Mark Twain House. I had mentioned wanting to do that at some point, and Faith bought tickets for us for my birthday. She knew I wanted to go, but she didn’t know exactly why.

The reason I wanted to go was to spend some time in a quiet and inspirational place, to think about writing. As some of you know, I have been interested in writing since I was in fifth grade. Perhaps not so much writing as storytelling. The two things are tangled up in my head, and I thought maybe the spirit of Mark Twain might understand, since he is remembered for being a storyteller and a humorist as much as he’s remembered for the books he wrote.

During the tour, we learned that the writing he did on the books published during the time he lived in Hartford (including: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), he did in the billiard room on the third floor. However, we also learned that it was in the library where he made up and told stories every night to his children. That made writing in the library seem even more appropriate.

We were advised of several conditions before agreeing to attend this event. First, there is no power or WiFi available to the writers. We learned later that there was WiFi, but most of us ignored the offer of the password. Unfortunately, but understandably, no photography is allowed in the house. Flash photography can harm certain artifacts, and people taking or wanting to be in pictures can harm others. In addition, no pens are allowed. If you want to write, you must write with a pencil.

We were allowed to bring laptops or other battery powered devices. I took my iPad. I also took a small notebook. The Editor loaned me several of her special pencils (she loves pencils) and I switched back and forth a few times. Some of the thoughts I wanted to work through were already stored in apps on my iPad, but the new material created in the library was with pencil on paper. I am not ready to share those thoughts, in part because I don’t think I fully understand them yet.

Somewhat similar to touring the Twain House, the following morning I joined friends as we toured the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. The Cloisters is a magnificent building / museum, set in a four-acre park (Fort Tryon) overlooking the Hudson River, a gift to the City / Metropolitan Museum system by John D. Rockefeller. Just as the Twain House, which had been sold several times after Samuel Clemens last lived there, is largely filled with replicas “similar to” what would have been in the house, the Cloisters has the look and feel of a 13th century monastery. It should, it was assembled from pieces of five such monasteries, bought in Europe, moved to New York and painstakingly reassembled. The galleries are filled with 13th and 14th century tapestries and artifacts that were purchased from throughout Europe. This fact prompted my friend to quip, “if you don’t have history, you can buy it and pretend.” It struck me that Samuel Clemons would have chuckled at that remark.

The Mark Twain House and the house of his neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe are decorated for the holidays. There is an annual event in progress where you can tour these houses as well as several of the privately-owned historic houses in the neighborhood. If you ever find yourself in Hartford with a free hour, I would urge you to tour the Twain House. I hope to return in the spring and tour the Harriet Beecher Stowe house and the adjoining grounds. Likewise, if you are ever in New York and have 2-3 hours free, I would encourage you to tour The Cloisters.

Today’s gallery features a few pictures from outside the Mark Twain House, as well as some pictures from our tour of the Cloisters. Tiny but expected spoiler, my Thursday Doors post will feature some doors from the Cloisters. Oh, and if the title made some of my more experienced readers think of a song, that’s included below the gallery.


75 thoughts on “No Power, No Pics, No Pens

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  1. What an amzing experience, Dan. I definitely am adding The Cloisters to my list should I ever make it to the Big Apple. The way you describe being in the Mark Twain house is how I felt every time I visit the Oakley Plantation in St Francisville, La. John James Audubon spent many years there, walking the trails and painting and cataloguing the birds there. It inspires the photographer and artist in me. I am eager to hear more about your inspiration while there. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cheryl. I am so glad they have restored the Mark Twain House. It almost fell to a commercial developer who wanted to turn it into apartments. I guess I could have rented the billiard room, but I think I like it this way. Being in those places is inspiring. I can only imagine what the old plantations look like.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Cloisters is a beautiful place! It’s fascinating to me that someone would buy five monasteries in Europe and haul pieces of them across the ocean to reassemble into what is a truly magnificent build. Love the walking path along the Hudson…looks so inviting.

    What an awesome opportunity to spend three hours writing in the Mark Twain House. It had to feel special to sit quietly with a group of writers and put your thoughts to paper (and iPad). I’m still looking for writing opportunities here, but they always seem to fall during work hours. I’m also looking forward to your future best-selling novel and writings, so I can say I knew Dan when… ;-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha – I don’t know about being able to say that, but I appreciate the kind thoughts, Mary, I hope to attend a future session, when I actually have something I want to write for a project.

      The Cloisters is beautiful, and there’s quite a bit of interesting history around the area of Ft. Tryon. There may be a story there for WATWB.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. Ironically, this was the first time I had toured the house. It’s one of those “I can always go there…” kind of things. Now, I’m pretty sure I will go back. I didn’t realize they have so many events there. The night we went, they were celebrating his birthday (Nov 30) and after the writing session, we were able to enjoy cake and champagne in the visitor’s center. My father and brother were both big fans of Roger Miller, so I heard his music and also became a huge fan. As soon as I wrote the title, that song popped in my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to get the chance to write where Mark Twain wrote and told stories! Were you inspired? Did you get some writing accomplished? I closed my eyes and imagined what that would be like. Thanks, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got some writing done and I was able to get some things sorted out, Jennie. It just felt good to be in a place where writing is expected and encouraged. Usually, when I’m in a group of people, thinking about writing seems odd.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When Mom lived in upstate New York (Corning), we went to NYC a few times, and one time we went to the Cloisters. I loved it so much! Unicorn Hunt: People didn’t really do it, but the story of the unicorn hunt was A Thing. There’s a whole set of Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters. I wrote a short story about them (“Millefleurs”). I’m excited to hear about you getting into published storytelling. You’re wonderful at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is your story accessible/available? I know there was no actual hunt, but it seems like such an odd subject. The tapestries are beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful in the collection. I still like to think that Maddie is featured in one of them :)

      Thank you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. It was a wonderful experience. We were there on his birthday, so we also had cake and champagne after the writing session ended. I’m glad we took the tour first, to hear about him telling stories in the library and to see the billiard room. I particularly liked that the billiard room was a bit of a mess, with notes on the table and at his desk.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. It was very cold, but a great day to walk the grounds. I think you would enjoy touring the Twin house, even if you had to walk past some remarkable doors without being able to snap a pic (it was hard).

      Like

  5. Oh! I’m slow on the up-take today, Dan. That’s a fun title connection to song. I always liked that one and used to sing it when I was a little girl.
    This is a fascinating post. I didn’t know the Mark Twain house offered that kind of thing. One of my neighbors (the good one) went to the Cloisters recently too and showed me photos. Thanks for managing to show us some lovely photos. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Considering how late I usually board the train leaving your station, this hardly counts as late. They run a variety of writers events at the Twain House. When we started the session, we were asked to introduce ourselves, talk about why we were there and to mention what we were currently reading – I happily said: “Atonement in Bloom” (I finished a while back, but…).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. For such an eloquent wordsmith to have the opportunity to sit in Mark Twain’s home and write…..well, I can only imagine that you were firing on all cylinders! What a thrill that had to be for you. What a perfect birthday gift from Faith.

    The beauty of the Cloisters is awesome. The stonework, the stained glass windows, the Tempera on wood, the pathway….every nook and cranny. Takes my breath away just looking at your photos.

    Beautiful gallery today. And then Roger Miller! Priceless.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww. Thank you so much, Ginger. It was a very special evening.

      The Cloisters was beautiful, from the grounds and throughout every gallery.

      The title instantly brought King of the Road to mind. I’m glad you enjoyed this.

      Like

  7. Wow, writing at Twain House. What a marvelous opportunity. I’m jealous, but also think I’d feel a lot of pressure to write something incredible.
    I enjoyed the tapestries. I think in order to understand the unicorn hunt, one must understand the darkness of the time — hope, they were looking for hope. Love the red dog comment.
    Definitely some noteworthy photos and pondering thoughts here today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand the pressure you might feel. It’s good I didn’t go in there with the idea of pasting something out here and saying “look what I wrote in Mark Twain’s library – – – It was a dark and stormy night…”

      Just being in the house was inspiring. The billiard room, where he actually did his writing, was a mess. There were notes scattered on the pool table, on his desk, stuck to the wall. The guide said it is how it looked, and that he often made notes and set them aside to work on later. I can easily relate to that!

      The tapestries were beautiful, but I was just sad about the Unicorn Hunt. So much work (I think there are six tapestries) to depict hunting, hurting, capturing and ultimately chaining a mythical creature to a tree in a tiny pen. I’m sure there’s more to it than I’m willing to understand, but I like the fact that the red dog didn’t seem interested.

      Like

  8. I’m ‘wowing’ here for multiple reasons …. getting inspiration in the Mark Twain House (which looks amazing!), the story of the Cloisters (dissembled and reassembled …. across the Atlantic!!!), and the great photos. I really love the light and shadow in the photo of the walking path through Fort Tryon.

    Looking forward to reading more about your story in the making. I’m not surprised that you are interested in writing. Your Thursday Door posts introducing Norm kind of hints at it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joanne. These were both amazing experiences, and doing them back to back, in under 24 hours made it seem more interesting. I don’t live that kind of jet-setty life. Friday nights and Saturdays are not usually busy times for this boy.

      I will figure out some way to write. For now, I am happy with what I am doing here. It fits with my work and other projects and gives me something to do on those normally quiet nights.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Absolutely stunning pictures, Dan! WOW!!! Impressed here! WOW!!! You must have gotten your camera back! Incredible clarity in each and every picture and the subject matter just fascinating! And for writing in the Mark Twain House? You are getting another WOW from me! Oh for the feel of pen or pencil in hand and writing on paper. Those of us who type our stories and then try to write after not writing for a while, will be shocked at how our writing muscles in our hands have become so weak. Telling stories I think is the basis of all good writing. Stories are the fabric of life and to be able to have the gift of telling stories well, some more then others do it well. This post, for example, was written superbly. Happy Birthday, by the way! Hubby’s is today and he’s getting a “new lens”. May your day be a great one!! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I am glad these pictures turned out well. I appreciate your comment, a lot!. The Cloisters was an easy place to take pictures. The articles are spread out nicely and displayed in positions that made it easy to focus.

      I’ve never had had good handwriting, but I there are aspects of writing on paper that can’t easily be duplicated on a laptop. Writing in that house had a very special feel to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What an amazing experience. You know as an English major and as a child whose father read Mark Twain stories to her, I am jealous. Green with envy… but pleased to read about your writing experience. Also, like the editor, I’m fond of having many pencils to write with. How could you ever have too many?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! She sent me with a box of 10! I gave 9 back to her. I kept the last one I was writing with. I have loved Mark Twain’s writing and quotes from the first contact (which was with a book my older brother had). Writing there really was amazing. Just being in the house while not on a tour was enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a marvelous Birthday gift for the writer in you! The house looks amazing as do the Cloisters. They remain on my bucket list. The Palisades have always interested me. I have a dream of being able to photograph them, and maybe paint them.

    That is one of my all time favorite oldies! Thanks for putting that in my head today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Deborah. Having quiet time in Mark Twain’s library was very special. The Cloisters was so interesting. It’s an easy tour, and you can get there by subway from midtown, if you don’t mind some stairs.

      I was trying to imagine having enough money to buy all the land across the river in order to preserve the view from my property. More than a bit out of my league.

      Liked by 1 person

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