Literature and Language

Appliance Shopping with Sylvia Plath

January 30, 2017

I can be loquacious.  Two posts in and you may have already seen some of that.  If you haven’t yet this is the one for me to demonstrate that to you!  I love to personify anything and everything.  I love alliteration and assonance.  I took a creative writing course in college and it was one of my favorite classes.  I even dabbled in writing poetry.

There is a point to all of these poetic references.

Not so long ago we moved twice.  In three months.  We were perfectly content and happy in our home of eight years, but then decided to sell that perfectly fine home to buy a new-to-us place with the potential to be more perfectly fine because of its proximity to a lake.  Think paddle-boarding, kayaking, canoeing, fishing!

Kayaking - Plath

Well, some of those who saw me during this time commented later that my eyes appeared to be lacking life.

Yes.  With good reason.

When we sold our house, movers cancelled because of torrential downpours, we finally moved to a rental house, purchased said ‘new’ property, moved into tiny, old house on new property (truth be known it is a 1970’s fishing cabin) and moved 98% of what we own into two storage units (except the children’s playset, which my husband and I moved ourselves), during an ice storm, after which my husband totaled his car (thank goodness he was fine). Then, within a few very bitter-cold days of moving, the one baseboard heater that still worked in the 720 square foot ‘new’ house broke.  All of this took place in three months.  Over Thanksgiving, Christmas and into January.  Then, our blind and deaf, elderly German Shepherd Dog, who is a lab trapped in a very shed-prone body, became a trash dog.

What exactly does ‘trash dog’ mean? 

That means you walk into your tiny fishing cabin house with its 7’ 3” ceilings and your kitchen/dining area is covered in trash because the dog wanted some morsel of trash from the very bottom of the dog-proof trash can that you forgot to lock!  And, the rug in the kitchen now has a stench of coffee grounds and broccoli.

Yes. It rendered me almost lifeless. I am pretty sure part of my being is in a moving box smothered by bubble wrap in the Public Storage facility.

As we finally settled in and nestled into our new IKEA sofa and almost never forgot to lock the trash can again, it became home.  Five people, one blind dog, two bedrooms and one bathroom with a small stand-up shower, and the ‘open-concept’ kitchen/living/dining with laundry thrown in for good measure.  It has been one year in the tiny house.

First world problems.

tiny house - Plath

It is quaint and lovely, minus that time when I woke up and a cricket was sitting on my face.

Fortunately for the cricket, there is that old wives tale about killing crickets in the house.  It is bad luck. This one did not deserve to live, but it did go on to chirp another day. Outside. That is, if he survived the fall from when I threw it out of the door.

Now, at last, we are in the process of designing a new house to replace this house because there is “no conceivable or reasonable way we can use this house as a foundation for a new house,” according to the architect.  Okay.  Fine.  We will donate the house to a person or to the fire department for practice.  If the latter happens I would really, really like to have a little burn party and have Jason Aldean come and sing that “Burnin’ it Down” song on burn day.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  Not really.  We could serve s’mores!

Part of the house-design process is identifying appliances, so one can align a budget for the kitchen.  As a result, we have trekked more than one time to an appliance/plumbing store called Ferguson to review appliances.  They have a sparkly, shiny showroom in the big city close to us with the glitz and glam of all one can imagine to outfit a kitchen.

Well, on one of the trips with our children in tow, we were escorted through the store by their appliance genius who was interrupted with regular frequency by us making statements like,

“Put down the fake bread.”

“Do not touch that.”

“That is glass and it will break.”

“Put the fake cookies back in the oven!

“Get down from there.”

“Yes.  We will look at putting that $820 gold-colored faucet in your bathroom.”  Not.

Um.  No joke on any of those.  We were learning about different ranges and ovens and fuel sources.  He bantered on about how a single-fuel range (a gas oven with gas burners) is cheaper than a dual fuel range (electric oven with gas burners).  I never really thought about gas ovens being an option and immediately perked up about the cost savings.  But as quickly as he caught my attention, he lost me.

I trailed off.  OHHhhhh YEaaahhhhh….Sylvia Plath.  Thaaaat’s riiiiiiight.

The man’s voice became inaudible to me.

Sylvia Plath committed suicide by putting her head inside her gas oven!  I believe I even mentioned this fact to this appliance guru when I retreated from my thoughts.  I am pretty sure he paused briefly only to return to his monologue about fuel sources and ranges.  I am not sure he knew who she was, or if the three cute circus performers we brought with us to rearrange props at no cost to Ferguson were too much for him.

Was he helpful?  Absolutely.  Was he knowledgeable?  Definitely.  Was he willing to venture with me down a rabbit hole to engage about Sylvia Path’s exit from this world?  No.  That is what you all are for!  I am so excited to have you!

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) Confessional Poet

Sylvia Path was born in 1932.  Plath would be 84 if she were still alive today.  She was an American poet, novelist and short story writer.  Plath is best known for advancing the genre of ‘confessional poetry’ or Postmodernism, which focused on the psyche, personal trauma, and extreme moments of individual experience.  Plath is quite well known for two published collections, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel.   I personally remember learning about The Bell Jar, which was a semi-autobiographical novel published before her death.  She won a Pulitzer Prize well after her death in 1982 for The Collected Poems.

Plath had two children, Fieda and Nicholas.  A movie, Sylvia, was made with Plath portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow.  It was not well-received by her daughter, who was angered by entertainment being made featuring her parent’s lives.

Plath’s first poem was published in the Boston Hearld’s children’s section when she was just eight years old.  She went on to be recognized for her writing and artistic abilities throughout her young life, graduated high school and then attended Smith College.  She did quite well and ultimately graduated with the highest honors.

During the summer after her third year, she fell into a dark depression after not having the experience she had hoped while working as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine.  Several weeks afterwards, she slashed her legs to see if she had enough courage to commit suicide.  After this episode, but not because of it, she was declined admission to the Harvard writing seminar and began receiving electroconvulsive therapy for her depression.  Shortly after beginning treatment Plath took her mother’s sleeping pills and crawled under her house.  She was not found for three days, but survived and then spent six months in a psychiatric hospital.  Plath later wrote, that she “blissfully succumbed to the whirling blackness that I honestly believed was eternal oblivion.”

Plath then graduated with honors from Smith and obtained a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Newnham College within Cambridge University in England.  It was in England she met Ted Hughes, a poet, and they married shortly thereafter.  They plodded into astrology, supernatural and Ouija boards and ultimately Ted Hughes would have an affair on Sylvia Plath in 1961.  They separated and it was while she was living alone with her two small children (2 and 9 months) in one of the coldest winters in 100 years that she chose to take her life.

On February 11, 1963 at the age of 30, Plath meticulously sealed the kitchen from the rest of the house with wet towels and put her head into the gas oven.  She had been put on antidepressants several days prior by her general practitioner.  The nurse her doctor recommended she hire to help with the children was set to arrive at 9:00.

Plath’s writing provides a very interesting view into a rather brilliant and often troubled mind at work. My post is just a tiny tip of the iceberg.  If you want to read some of her works, your local library will have her novel and various collections of poems.  You can also order them from Barnes and Noble or probably any other bookseller you prefer.

I will leave you with more of an uplifting view held by Carl Rollyson, who authored American Isis:  The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath.  He stated in a Huffington Post summary about his book, “I would argue that this was a great woman and a great artist who did not end her life because she had no joy.  Rather, she killed herself because the world she had come to know did not offer up enough of the joy she had bestowed upon it.”

Journey on!


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