Everyone’s favourite. Not too cold, but the sweaters and boots - suede and 70s groovy jeans and crocheted accessories - come out. The tan fades from your hands and the laugh lines around your eyes are less defined, or at least, they seem that way. You start to close the windows, drink Scotch, the good, smoky stuff, by cautious fingerfuls. You start a new project while you wait for news. Your mind turns to comic possibilities after so much delving into the hard matter of life. As Linus says in response to the comment that we are all going to die some day, “yes, but most of the days we are aren’t” the new work is in that vein. Absurdity, vanity, desperate love, or, at least, infatuation, against a backdrop of social stricture and professional misconduct. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
In July, don’t you find that there is just too much going on? Everyone wants to visit. Meet for drinks, have a barbecue, go for a bike ride, find a nice patio, exchange photographs, host reunions to which you must bring antipasti. We are too much exposed in summer. Old friends you haven’t seen for five years call you and you get together and it’s wonderful and you lie down at night on cool white sheets and wonder how it’s possible that you have talked so much your throat hurts and listened so long, your eyes are burning, as though eyes had anything to do with listening. The fatigue presses like the heat and your ac-averse spouse sleeps, comfortable and sweet, while you wonder how much fragrance is possible for blossoming shrubbery to exude into the atmosphere before the whole world just sneezes. It smells too rich -- all earth and roses and skunks -- all the stimuli you want to reflect on in winter, staring at the white wall, in order to turn into fiction. So you have to go to sleep. The bright days have been good for writing. Summer is best for me when I imagine it.
Because I was thinking of crocus buds and nascent leaves on chilly trees and how that’s not so bad. Nothing to fear. Kids are in shorts, relieved to shed rain gear. Faces in the courtyard are upturned, heliotropic, and smiling. Easter is imminent. It’s time to think about resurrection. Today the New York Times reported that scientists have revived “cells in the brains of dead pigs.” Blood vessels began functioning. Think of that. What you thought was good and dead could be influenced back to sparking activity. Back in my day, dead was dead, is what I’ll say to my granddaughters. Not so much any more.
Thinking about the difficulties of writing, of discipline, of the limits of my own imagination, of headaches, of errands, traffic lights, dull conversations, fatigue, wrinkles, my current inspiration is to deal with them as waves, to meet them like a body surfer, skimming, sometimes sinking, choking, sometimes riding them clean and sometimes crawling, bedraggled, to shore.
The 8th is always a significant day. I’m glad when it’s over. It’s the grayest day of the new year, actually, which is kind of a relief.
Rain seems appropriate, if disturbing. A Christmas card I received featured two polar bears with martinis on a small ice floe. You’ve seen it. One says to the other, “The bad news is, we’re running out of ice.” It’s a cartoon. A scary one. We should be shoveling. We should be playing pickup hockey or learning to skate backwards in riverside parks. Instead we’re British, black-umbrella-ed and rushing from shelter to shelter.
I’ve worked through a draft of the novel project with some serious help from New York. Couldn’t have done it without you.
I'm revising chapter three of current work. This is third time through. Or maybe the 6th time through, depending on how you count. I wrote it. Then I re-read it and separated it from other content. Then I made it a chapter. Then I revised it. Then I re-read and cut it down to size, killing language all the way. Now I'm fixing it. But everyone in it is behaving too nicely. It's got no teeth. Plenty of fangs everywhere else, but no teeth in chapter three and it's Christmas in chapter three and in honour of July, I melted all the snow, even though it takes place in a northern town in a nuclear family who are all kind. How can this be? What to do about it? Do you know kind families -- ones where strangers feel welcome and are fed and sheltered? Where family secrets are alien things and where people punch each other out of joy? I'm going to have to do something about it tonight. Stay tuned.
This is me in a turtleneck, favourite sweater, favourite colour, old glasses, kind of an old picture. My hair's still a mess and lips are still lopsided and blue is still best.
sun and rain are duking it out today, mid-May, and someone's one year birthday (and new sparkly Italian baby shoes are coming, I promise!) is today. I rode my bicycle for the first time in 20 years yesterday. Twenty years. I'm damaged today and loving every minute of it. Scraped my arm, dislocated my thumb, won an argument with a cranky Canada Goose, did an on-the-spot chain repair, and made the process of sitting down afterward quite interesting. I'll do better next time. Here's the funny part. I was afraid to do it. It's a long ride to my work and another long ride home. I'm on the way to being old-ish. Though I feel young-ish. So fear made me mad. So I rode.
all things considered,
I'd rather be walking in Italy
It's January again, quiet and very cold in this new year, 2018. I am up to my nose in a turtleneck and down to my toes in shearling boots at my desk looking at my screen. The octopus manuscript I've been working on, lo these many years, is finally being wrestled into some kind of shape. With the help of a mentor, I finally have some hope that I can bring the work to completion. I don't know about publication, yet, but I would like not to give up. I would like to finish.
I have been re-reading Marilynne Robinson and Annie Dillard. Robinson on fiction as an "excercise in the capacity for imaginative love" and Dillard: "Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients" and "Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?" How to probe that mystery and how to make a story matter? Keeping in mind always how goofy life is, how tragedy turns on a dime (or a slippery banana peel). There is just so much to notice, it's hard to find the plot!
It's cold, the coldest day ever. triple sweatered, I feel it. Wind biting and the sound of boots on snow like a million million bubble wrap sheets popping at once. Breath hanging in the air. We are all carbonating the atmosphere today. And hunched, swathed and mittened, isolated in black coats and moving through the day with frozen teeth. I love it.