Write your book. Do it.
-- thus spake my friend the Breadmaking Fool.
So I write.
And then erase everything I write.
Like Penelope unweaving. Which makes me wonder what horrible suitors I think I'm keeping at bay? And what shroud it is I think I'm making and for whom?
I hate my book.
Because I love the little valley they live in and their silly tiny lives. I want nothing to happen to them. And if I don't write, nothing will. They'll stay right where they are. Worrying.
But still. Whole.
According to my own ridiculous vow, this month again I can read anything I want. But when I pick up a book at the library, as I did yesterday while in the City, I only leaf through it, put it back. Pick up another, glance through the flyleaf blurb, put it back. Walking out of the stacks, a rising desperation to find something, I snatch a single book which I read last night already: World Made by Hand about a town in the near future - you know, that near future where all the rest of the world collapses into horror and chaos, but not us, please God, not us.
And here is one reason I seize up when I open my story and try to move it forward into a Future I don't quite dare imagine. I want to find Peace.
That sunny hillside.
But every time I open the file, a child dies, a marriage crumbles, someone rails at God, and friends and neighbors turn on each other with the gleeful vehemence of long-nursed spite. I shouldn't write about people who matter so much to me. People I want to keep safe. And if I insist they behave more nicely, my characters turn glum and unresponsive. They flop their arms around woodenly and speak in flat monotones about things that matter to no one. Fine, I want to shake them, be that way. See if I stand in the way of Looming Disaster any longer.
"Are you writing your book today?" Young Son leans over my shoulder. But he means a different book - the one I work at when I must write but can't stomach the sick panic that THE BOOK fills me with.
He means a book called Keeping Traditions I began at my daughters' request (such good daughters - at least that day - two, three years ago) full of recipes and routines. Yearly, monthly, weekly, daily holidays - the ways and means that keep us together in body and mind. It's a cozy book to write on, but I've hit a snag because I'm at the morning traditions section which have all gone to Mt. St. Helens lately with too many scattered schedules and until I can figure out a way for us all to stand or sit or kneel, together, at one and at peace, for a significant moment in the morning, I can't in good conscience go on prattling about the importance of Starting the Day out Right.
Young Son, who nags me to put up the Christmas tree or hang the Valentine ring for weeks before time, has fretted over this tradition book since its first page and will come at me out of the blue, "When are you going to finish writing it? Are you going to get it done in time?" He will remind me of "things we do" -
"Have you put that in?" It seems to matter immensely to him that nothing be lost. Before our family explodes into the future.
And we are all scattered.
I have done this to him. Raised him in an atmosphere of brevity and ephemerality - the terrible delicacy of anything we love and our necessary vigilance in guarding and gathering up all the pieces.
Enough! There's another reason right there never to write anything. Never to archive, record, get it down on paper. Ever again. I mean it.
So I got the bike out of cold storage instead. "Come on," I said to my dear Fritz, "I need to do the Stone Road Loop."
It being the Saturday of Waiting, the Saturday of the Tomb, the Saturday between Past and Future, between the Friday we remember the Crucifixion and the Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection, this ride has become a kind of quasi-tradition. It's name satisfactorily metaphorical. A reason to get out on the bike no matter how dismal the weather or how paltry my previous winter training.
I may even put it in that Keeping book that I plan to never finish, this almost-annual ride the day before Easter around the Stone Road Loop.
It's a good ride. Hills hard enough but nothing fatal. And psychologically important, as it's the first big toe of our annual Memorial Day ride over the mountain range to the coast. Fritz trains all winter. Usually I tootle around town for errands, as road conditions permit, but this year I'm in terrible form. From sitting on my Great Beyond.
Trying. To. Write.
I also hate this bike ride this morning. "I'm going home," I declare when I stop to take off another layer.
Fritz just laughs, "No you're not." He called my bluff years ago, when in the midst of labor with our Middlest I suddenly sat up and announced I was done and was leaving. He just looked at me, "And where exactly do you plan to go?"
He laughs again when I try to flag down a passing helicopter overhead, hollering and waving, "Save me! Save me!" and I realize I'm just clowning now and not hating anything anymore. The morning is what mornings are - fresh and dewy. The hills are green and the trees with that first glorious golden-green blush along their tiniest branches. Dear God, Who made this World so beautiful in all its less-than-lastingness, You keep making mornings like this one, I'll keep trying to climb Your hills . . .
When we get home, my Eldest suddenly starts in on me out of the blue while I'm washing glasses at the kitchen sink, "I think you ought to finish writing that one book," she says, though she means yet a different book - a past-future fantasy of escape from villainous forces and in particular an attempt to evade THE BOOK which even now makes me so anxious I want to crawl out of my skin.
Okay, I got the message!
I think . . .