when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw

Eudora Welty’s biographer, reports that Katherine Anne Porter said to Welty, “You will never know what it means to be a beautiful woman.” The comment reveals more about Porter’s conception of beauty than Welty’s appearance, though one hopes it earned Porter a few centuries in some lower level of Purgatory. And yet plenty of plain people partner and/ or marry. What’s going on here is something more profound than mere mien. Even in early photographs, Welty is radiant with her unabashed horse-toothed smile—somehow she found in her youth the self-possession to embrace it as her signature feature. In meeting her I felt overwhelmingly that, when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw, because what she saw she had consciously created. She was her own spouse.

— Fenton JohnsonAt the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “I have been sick and I found out then, only then, how lonely I am. Is it too late? My heart puts up a struggle inside me, and you may have heard it, protesting against emptiness … It should be full, he would rush on to tell her, thinking of his heart now as a deep lake, it should be holding love like other hearts. It should be flooded with love… . Come and stand in my heart, whoever you are, and a whole river would cover your feet and rise higher and take your knees in whirlpools, and draw you down to itself, your whole body, your heart too.” — Eudora Welty, from “Death of a Traveling Salesman” in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 1, 1982)
  • Portrait of Eudora Welty, Nov 15, 1970, from the Paris Review via hottytoddy.com

Comments

  1. I SO love this. I don’t know the lady but I adore her smile. It’s jumping out st the viewer and then the wish for an extended stay at purgatory for M&s K.A. Porter….. totally made my day (2nd part, it’s nearly lunch time here). Thank you. If ever I’ll need a cheerful cheeky smile, I shall come back to Eudora Welty…. 😍🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. “…she liked what she saw, because what she saw she had consciously created.” There’s the meat of the matter right there. So simple and yet sometimes damn challenging….

    Liked by 3 people

    • So true Lori. Yet, read a passage from her writing above (just added it). It wasn’t easy for her either…

      Liked by 3 people

      • OMG – that added bit really does it! And you know what?! I MUST have seen or even owned at one time a film with the title ‘Death of a salesman’ – with Dustin Hoffmanand John Malkovich…. I’m more and more intruiged and fascinated. But I’m NOT going to buy another book on your suggestions, when moving, HH brought some 300 to the tip to be burned, another 200+ will be going to UK once we can travel again and I must have at least another 200 yet to read…. before being blind completely. But THANK YOU for coming up with these treasures and for opening up my mind to stuff I didn’t know before. Sometimes my brain seems ready to explode with all the extra info I receive 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. and this is real beauty. we recognize it when we see it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I read this and then the comments and wondered why no mention was being made of the added notes – sometimes it pays to be “late”!

    I love that Eudora consciously created her conception of what’s what. Beauty radiates from within, I firmly believe.

    That added note, I was going to highlight first one part and then another, finally realising I was going to copy the whole thing. It tears at my heart because it is so beautifully written.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Beauty can be experienced in so many different ways! The physical beauty is only one of perception!! … “In meeting her I felt overwhelmingly that, when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw, because what she saw she had consciously created. She was her own spouse.” — Fenton Johnson, At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a mother to a daughter who for many years struggled with an eating disorder, this excerpt hits hard. When my daughter was actively dancing with ED, there was not enough of anything, notbeauty, not love, not words that could break through her misconceptions of her worth and lack of lovability. She is exceptionally beautiful, but in the sickness of that disease, she, like Welty’s character, could not, “stand in my heart” and let that “whole river […] cover your feet and rise higher and take your knees in whirlpools, and draw you down to itself, your whole body, your heart too.”

    Thank you David.

    Breathing now….

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This Katherine Anne Porter could not have lived long enough to know what it’s like to be Human. I’ll only give her this much of my mind and time.

    The Welty quote on the other hand, it kills me that she felt lonely.
    And the image she drew of how she would have loved is unlike anything I ever read. Most people talk about how they want to be loved. But this here…

    “Come and stand in my heart, whoever you are, and a whole river would cover your feet and rise higher and take your knees in whirlpools, and draw you down to itself, your whole body, your heart too.” 

    Liked by 2 people

  8. beautiful words and sentiments. and as for the picture, for some reason I was drawn to her arms. Maybe it’s the angle, but it looks like she’s got a serious bicep! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is wonderful, David. It reminds me that outside packaging doesn’t mean a thing unless we embrace our inner acceptance of who we KNOW we are! Thank you, David. Cher xo

    Liked by 1 person

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