Aphorism #1

July 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan
Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan

Aphorism #1

Do not walk past remarkable things with absolute oblivion: a rusted hand pump wedged in the embrace of a tree; a snake’s skin, keeled-scaled, floating in a sea of grass; an old wooden spool with a fragment of thread; a mussel shell, loosely-hinged, untethered.

A Postcard Mystery

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Postcard from W.L.S. to Miss Josephine Allen, Harpswell Center, Maine, Postmarked September 9, 1912, 3:30pm
Postcard from W.L.S. to Miss Josephine Allen, Harpswell Center, Maine, Postmarked September 9, 1912, 3:30pm

Card. Received.

Theirs is an ancient story: A man loves a woman who grows skeptical. Gadding about the neighborhood seems kind of good to her.

Note: W.L.S. and Miss Josephine Allen first appeared to me in a lot of postcards I purchased nearly four decades ago when my interest in vintage postcards and abandoned images took root. Mixed in among a hundred other miscellaneous postcards, a strange courtship unfolded before me, a mystery of desire and despair.

Please click on the link below to read four postcards from W.L.S. to Miss Josephine Allen, September, October, November, and December of 1912:


June 20, 2014 § 3 Comments

daguerrotype cases, pliers  (Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)
daguerrotype cases, pliers
(Photograph by Martha Andrews Donovan)

I am drawn to photographs of people I do not know. I wonder who they are – their desires, their despairs. This man (shown) and this woman (hidden) have sat on my bookshelf for years now, a gift from my late (former) mother-in-law who understood my yearnings, who trusted me as a keeper of history. But I do not know who these people are – and the rusted needle-nose pliers I dug up from a pile of abandoned tools were of no use: their stories are buried somewhere, perhaps with the red-eyed cranberry beans and cucumbers and squash Moses Chamberlain Cate (is this him, then, as a young man?) once wrote about in a diary.

Rowing to Pinkham’s Island

August 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Rowing to Pinkham's

Harpswell Sound • Casco Bay • Maine • July 2013
Only 6,621 nautical miles to reach India

And so it is with memory…

August 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

And so it is with memory...

Foot cast/mixed media (August 2013)
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Made in Tania Pryputniewicz’s “Transformative Blogging” workshop at the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Retreat for Women Writers

Dangerous Archaeology: One Writer’s Excavation

August 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Martha Donovan_53
Photograph by Autumn E. Monsees

“By digging and digging the truth is discovered.”
– Telugu Proverb

As a writer, I am interested in the intersections between memory, image, and narrative, and the ways in which the things we unearth – photographs, artifacts, ephemera, and other fragmentary evidence – can help narrate a life.

For quite some time, I have been working on a mixed-genre project Dangerous Archaeology: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother (and Others) – a memoir in fragments (with photographs by Autumn E. Monsees), a work that springs from my research into my mother’s unusual and complicated childhood in rural South India as the daughter and granddaughter of foreign missionaries. I have imagined myself as an archaeologist, digging and digging my way to some kind of truth, some kind of understanding. Truth, as many writers have noted, is something quite distinct from fact and so we storytellers must become archaeologists, reading the earth before us. That work can be dangerous because what we discover is often what we least expect to find.

With this blog – part field notebook, part gallery space, part meanderings, musings, and asides – I continue to unearth the fragments before me and sift out what it might mean to narrate a life, piece by piece.

Here, then, is one writer’s excavation.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Image category at Martha Andrews Donovan: One Writer's Excavation.