Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the answer is YES

To those who have enquired - yes (OH YES!) I am about to embark on a lovely luscious month-long glut of writing another first draft of a novel.  This year's venue is the strange world of computer programmers - and all their bizarrely profitable poetry in binary code - also including fantasias on geodesic domes and dancing laser lights and New Mexican Medusa-hair.

Currently I am setting up this coming month's posts to encourage me along (and possibly entertain/ interest you?).  I'll be letting you into it more than last year which seems appropriate with a techno-topic like this one because I'm going to be posting my outlined writing prompt of the day - so feel free to comment whatever off-topic, tangential, whimsical or contentious first thought comes to mind, I'll be looking to you for random bits of inspiration.

As for last year's novel - I have in fact been doing some revising/ rewriting/ reworking and y'know, it's not so lame as I had feared.

Even, maybe, a heartbeat there?

Maybe something perhaps living?  (OH, the JOY!)

Meanwhile, and in the spirit of all things writerly: I do love Brevity this week.   Would we were all so able to undercut nastiness so sweetly.  And laugh at the very idea of rejection.  And just laugh - you really don't want to miss this one. 

And that's all in addition to Brevity's clearinghouse of calls for submissions - a few of which for whom (what? where? which?) I am readying mss as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

all the things I'll never tell you now

 While Fritz' dad was dying I didn't post. 

Which is different than saying I didn't sit down to my desk at scattered hours and think about posting. 

And is also different than saying I didn't plan to post, take pictures thinking I would post, sit in parking lots, walk up the hill, dig out walkways all the while musing over possible posts.

So many posts that will never now be told.  Because when I came to sit down at the desk, finally, late in the evening, I just could never see my way to words.

Too slight a post (such as, say, encouraging letters my old bike wrote me via the freezer and the answering machine, or disquisitions on the proper place of chocolate cake in the Grand Scheme of Things) and I'd be playing the fool at the edges of my dear ones' grief.  A grief that touched me only glancingly while they were principal mourners.  I only cleaned up around it and supplied the necessary groceries. 

Too heavy,  I risked swamping this rackety lifeboat I paddle in.  Because my life at sea has taught me I can't afford the interest on borrowed sorrow.  Grief has had an over-sticky quality for my psyche - it must be that my cells have an overabundance of receptor sites.  And I don't know how to do other than keep the deal I've made with MORTALITY - that if need be I will hold hands and dance with that Sovereign Somberness, but nevermore entertain His Grave Solemnity in state.

So now, coming back online, I feel this backlog of the things I'll never say. 

The deliciously guilty pleasure, for example, of the first day I didn't have to stay all day, making breakfast, washing bedding, and trying to come up with something Dad would/ could eat. 

The first day when all I had to do was check in first thing in the morning and do the shopping, and then I was free -- because Fritz' brother (whom I've never before appreciated to his full deserving) had swooped into town to take over the front-line care. 

That day - when for once I didn't have anyone in the car too tired from doctor's appointments.  That day - when for once, once more I could go all the way to the Island to Krueger's Farm for my fruit and veg.

Maybe I would've written more if I had had only small pleasures like these to celebrate. 

Plans for a new herb garden in the place of what is right now just mud.
A bike ride I took full of sunshine and changing leaves. 

Shell beans and concord grapes, fresh figs, gleaming purpleblack huckleberries, glowing honey, golden beets  - I could've just posted pictures without words and let the shapes and colors and visible light make its own significance. 

But there were also so many, many posts that were, frankly, Whines and Eye-rollings.  Sourly amusing to myself but not too sweet for anyone else to suffer through.

Not to mention the posts of pure misanthropy.  (My working title at one point: "Card Carrying, Dues-Paying  Non-Member of the Universal Misanthropic Anti-Society for Even-Handedly Inclusive Despising"). 

Which title I stuck together, like an ugly awkward lego clump, the day I sat in the WalMart parking lot (never a great spot for seeing humanity in a better light) before carrying in an armload of packages of wrong-sized adult diapers and watched two unwashed men trying unsuccessfully to jump start their clunker. 

I wished for my camera  - for just a moment - the perfect illustration of all I was going to tell you.  Then thought, really?  I was so tired of trying to imagine other people's stories, trying to see anything at all redeeming beyond the ugly and obvious - beyond what was so very there - in this case, a fat man's bottom cleavage.

You and I are both better off by far not to have had to wade through all that. 

Well, you are. 

I did wade through - or paddle past.  And of course, there were sweet moments, too quiet and small to say much about now.

But all of it, now, paddled past.  And that's the point.

It's past. 

And it wasn't so bad, now, looking back. 

It never is, is it?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

you come, too

Because I'm here but hurried. 

Because though I'm hurried there are some breaths of time worth stopping for. 

Because I thought you might want to stop here, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

small elegy

There was not a funeral.  But at least his sons were able to convince his widow that we  - the grandchildren, the sons, the friends and neighbors - needed some kind of formal ending - even if it were a little too hard for her.  A graveside prayer and brief remarks.  "No one will be there," said his widow.

But she was wrong.   A small though significant crowd stood waiting as we drove up in cortege.

During the days he lay dying, he had asked me to find a poem. "Remember it," he had urged his wife of 57 years, "It's a good one.  It will help you."  To me he said, "Edgar A. Guest. Sunset.  I'm sure you know it," speaking as one poetry lover to another, and then he recited again and again, during those last days when he still spoke, "Some days die like some men . . . something about purple shroud . . . and wrapping him round.  Gently."  And his gaunt hands sketched a wrapping around, drawing together over his shrunken chest.

Edgar Guest is not a versifier I'm particularly familiar with, but multiple Google searches turned up nothing and I suspected we were seeing conflation, confusion.  A lack of clarity.

But I was wrong. 

After he died, we gathered back in their old home.  Their old house echoing now, almost emptied of everything - except for a very old, very well-worn collection of verse by E.A.G. with a card stuck in at the very page.  And as requested, "Sunset" is what I read over his grave.

But what I didn't say then, or ever while he was living, is this: 

Once I had thought he was weak - a smoother and a placater, who backed down to keep the peace - not recognizing his gentleness as a more supple kind of strength. 

I had thought him unambitious.  Years back I would have thought smally of an obituary whose signal life achievement was the building by hand of a small and simple mountain cabin, but only because  I didn't really yet believe that family-building was in any way commensurate with career-building.  For his children and grandchildren, though, I have come to see - that cabin was only the most visible incarnation of an ambitiously sturdy, uncomplaining, and generous sheltering.

Early on I had assumed that his universal cheer, his willingness to fall in, and his easiness to forgive were a kind of simple-mindedness.  In later years, when I perceived at last the awareness and intelligence behind that jolliness, I pitied him.  Briefly.  But I saw that he recognized that pity and resented it. He who resented almost nothing else. 

I feel still the tears on his cheek against my cheek when he called me over, a day or two before he died.  He had been upset, "You boys need to straighten up.  Not spend all your time here.  You have a family.  You have a job.  You need to get back on the straight path.  Momma get them back on the straight path."  And as they had assured him they were okay, that he needed them more, he had grown more upset, weeping, even while embracing each of his sons, his wife, Middlest and YoungSon.  He apologized to each for his tears.  But when Middlest had begun to cry he had cried out, "Oh darlin', no tears!  Everything's going to be okay.  Don't be feeling sad."  When I said softly to Middlest, "Tears are just the rainy side of love, though, huh?" from where I had been sitting, keeping quiet, not wishing to intrude, he had cried out, "Is that Emma J?  I didn't mean to leave you out. I couldn't see you.  Oh come here."  And he held his arms out to me, asking me into my ear, "Will you straighten them out?"  as I leant over and pressed my cheek to his.

"I will.  That's my job.  I'll see that they do what they're supposed to do.  But we'll see you're taken care of too.  You're crying."  And I wiped the tears away over his sunken cheekbones.

And then his body rested and he closed his eyes and slept.

I do not pity him. He lived the life he chose and, I think, with few regrets. He enjoyed greatly whatever harmless pleasures came his way. He chose to laugh and let impossible grievances go and lived instead with a deep emotional intelligence that sought to put others at ease and to universally include rather than exclude. At the end he had spent his life mostly happily, pretty nearly all the days they had together from high school on, with the girl he had chosen and who had chosen him.  And his children and grandchildren remember him with a deep and grateful tenderness.

If I hadn't found his "Sunset" poem I would have said this instead, by Robert Louis Stevenson, because it was so exactly apt:

To be honest, to be kind —
to earn a little and to spend a little less,
to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence,
to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered,
to keep a few friends, but these without capitulation —
above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself —
here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.

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