There’s a charming Literary Traveller essay online, written by Deborah Straw who knew May Sarton for some years, that offers a glimpse into the geography of the writer’s homes, here: “Permanence and May Sarton”.
May Sarton is most closely associated with Nelson (a tiny settlement in southwestern New Hampshire which readers of Plant Dreaming Deep, Journal of a Solitude, and As Does New Hampshire will recognize immediately), and York, Maine with The House by the Sea.
Of her 18thC farmhouse in Nelson, with its five fireplaces and thirty acres of land bordered by a brook:
I had brought up a silk panel, turquoise damask, embroidered by my mother with a geometric design in blue and gold. That panel had never found a place on the walls at Channing Place, but both the shape and the color fitted perfectly in my study [at Nelson]. It was, I saw when I had hung it experimentally, surely meant as a background for flowers, and so it became a kind of stage where the whole glorious sequence could be played out, from daffodils and tulips in May, to iris, and then to the great white peonies, the vivid blue delphinium, the long sequence of lilies, to end with chrysanthemums and asters in the fall. It is the tokonoma of the house, the sacred place where beauty is kept alive in the memory of the dead.
Plant Dreaming Deep
Of Wild Knoll “big and handsome with a large terrace in front…then a long lawn…then the sea” (this description from 1973 letter to Angèle Oosterlinck-Baele) with her study on its third floor:
I have never been so happy in my life, never for such a sustained period, for I have now been in this house by the sea for a year and a hlaf. I have not said enough about what it is to wake each day to the sunrise and to that great tranquil open space as I lie in my bed, having breakfast, often quietly thinking for a half hour. That morning amplitude, silence, the sea, all make for a radical change in tempo.
House by the Sea
Nothing will ever replace Nelson in my life, even the spacious world where I now watch sunrise over the ocean. Deep down inside me Nelson is home, and I am glad I shall be buried in the cemetery there under the maples.
At Seventy: A Journal
Two houses stand behind me – one, my grandfathe’s somber house in the city of Ghent, where my father grew up; the other, all light and sunshine, the country house three miles outside, in Wondelgem, where I was born. ‘Wondelgem’, the name itself sounded like magic to me as a child. It was part of that faraway paradise ‘before the War’.
I Knew a Phoenix
I wandered, borrowing other people’s lives, other people’s families, with the nostalgia of the only child; and for many years could not decide whether I was a European or an American at heart.
Plant Dreaming Deep