Plant Dreaming Deep Summary
by May Sarton

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Plant Dreaming Deep Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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Plant Dreaming Deep is a memoir of poet and novelist May Sarton’s first experience of buying a house and setting down roots. Sarton, who was born in Belgium and moved to the United States in 1918, traveled widely and moved often until 1958. At the age of forty-five, she begins to long for a sense of permanence. A beautifully crafted but run-down eighteenth century farmhouse in Nelson, New Hampshire, takes her fancy, and she commits herself to purchasing and rehabilitating it, determined to create a satisfactory solitary life there.

Plant Dreaming Deep describes the joys and problems of home ownership, while illuminating Sarton’s character. Her artistic nature and love of beauty shine through in her careful restoration of the house. She paints the walls white throughout, to catch the light and provide a background for her art works and for the Flemish furniture she inherited from her parents. She insists on finding just the right color of yellow for the kitchen floor and blue for the kitchen cabinets. Her love of nature is evident in her descriptions of her surroundings. One chapter is devoted to her joy in her garden, in which she starts every day except in the dead of winter picking flowers for her house. She then spends an hour or more each morning arranging flowers in bouquets to be put around the house.

Although Sarton’s life is a solitary one, mainly spent alone working in her garden, writing at her desk, or reading in the evenings, she lavishes attention throughout the book on her various neighbors and a few of the many acquaintances whom she invites to visit her. Her chapter on Perley, a man in his seventies who appears unexpectedly when she wonders who will help her get her thirty-six acres under control, contrasts with the lack of information about her companion, Judy, who still lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but with whom Sarton still shares a deep commitment. Although Sarton chooses early in her life in Nelson not to participate in social occasions that would require reciprocation, so as to be able to pick and choose whom she wants to see and when, her chapter on the annual Town Meeting and the Old Home Day held every summer demonstrates her admiration for community. Plant Dreaming Deep is a celebration of roots and connectedness. It is also a paean to the solitary life of a woman devoted to her art.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Hunting, Constance, ed. May Sarton: Woman and Poet. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1992.

Sarton, May. May Sarton, Among the Usual Days: A Portrait. Edited by Susan Sherman. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Sibley, Agnes. May Sarton. New York: Twayne, 1972.