She noticed a big house reflected in the pond: an exact upside down replica with windows, a front door, and faded red paint. She could even see the half-closed curtains. It was as if the house were built inside the water.
She sat on the pond’s edge and took off her shoes and socks. She let her feet plop right between the curtains. She slid down further over the edge and then down into the watery window.
The little girl sat on the stoop and looked out across the flat land to the place where the sun sat half circle on the horizon. She waited. She wanted to feel the earth turn.
She heard yesterday that the sun did not really rise in the sky. “The sun neither rises nor sets,” her teacher said. “It stays still, and the earth rolls around it.”
She has been thinking about shadows lately—how they change daily, depending on the light—how they offer a weird kind of mirror, a reflection: so there’s a tree silhouetted on the side of a house, a bird in flight flat out on the pavement. That’s the thing about shadows—they don’t make sense. But they do. You know, the bird isn’t really flying on the ground, and the tree isn’t really on the side of the house. But when she studied the shadows, they seemed real enough. And that got her thinking: maybe we had it all backwards—like the shadow is the bird. The shadow is the tree. If that were the case, would everything else be illusion? The question haunted her, so she spent a whole day following her shadow—letting it be her guide. She had to trust that her shadow knew where to go and when. And of course it did; the shadow simply listened to the light. It was that simple. The whole experience calmed her down considerably.
On Friday, I flew from Boston to Kansas City. Then I climbed into a rented car and drove five hours west—into the sunset—toward Hastings, Nebraska.
Destination: my niece’s wedding.
September 11th, 2001 has been on my mind lately. I just enrolled in a new drawing class, and so I have been looking through some of my drawing/painting exercises from past art classes, and I came upon pieces I had done in 2001, months before the horrible event. Looking at those dates—May 2001, August 2001—I could not imagine what it felt like to not know what I was about to know.
And the other day, in looking through an old textbook, searching for teaching ideas, I came upon a poem I had never read before:
I have been fascinated with the news of Ingrid Betancourt’s rescue from FARC, her Columbian captors. They kept her and many others in the jungle for seven years.
I watched her interview with Larry King the other night. She spoke haltingly. She apologized for her English. Something n her eyes caught me. She seemed both pained and impassioned. She looked—I don’t know how else to say it—like truth.
I want to be the flexible person who goes with the flow, lays back, finds the silver lining, enjoys the moment. Instead, I have moods. I have sides, as in, “I have never seen this side of you” or “I do not like this side of you.”
Aging forces me to deal with limits I did not used to have. Once I could run without injury. Now, in the 50’s, I have injuries. And those injuries keep me from exercising. Exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins put me in a good mood. Lately, without them, I am in a bad mood.
A recent obituary about the children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor offered one of her favorite quotations:
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
—Fra. Giovanni Giocondo
I just finished (I say that loosely) a new draft of my novel.
I all but threw out the last draft and started over. The protagonist is the same, and her best friend—a sort of sidekick—remains. Other than that, the story morphed ahead several decades, and its focus became much smaller.
This writing process confounds me, yet I am in love with it. I spend so much time alone, mulling over words and phrases, wondering, “How would she really respond in this situation?”
Years ago, I remember seeing rows and rows of shoes in a Holocaust Museum exhibit—the shoes had been collected from one of the camps. And the notion that shoes hold our identities (footprints) has stayed with me as a metaphor.
Today, page one of The Boston Globe shows gays and lesbians celebrating California’s legalization of gay marriage. As a married lesbian in Massachusetts, I am proud of my state and thrilled that the California court went even further in its judgment—offering gays and lesbians from any state the opportunity to travel there and marry.
My older brother and I do not get along. It’s a sad story, I suppose. Both in our 50’s, we live miles apart literally and figuratively. The figurative distance started in childhood. And now, he has five children—the oldest and I have found an adult connection, one I value very much. When she was born over 20 years ago, I wrote her a story about reaching for the moon.
The other day, she wrote me a story. She is a nurse in a NICU unit. Here’s how it goes:
Avid soap opera watchers generally refer to their favorite soaps as “my story.” And my sister-in-law, over the holidays, referring to the writers’ strike and Grey’s Anatomy, said, “I miss my story.”
Where did that start? Calling a serial drama “my story”? Not a story but my story? I love that.
I was pleased to watch the film called Once about an Irish street singer/vacuum cleaner repair man and a young woman who changes his luck. What a beautiful tale of intimacy, music, and friendship. It had fairy tale qualities, but its content surprised me with its unpredictable turns.
And on a different note, but still in the folk-tale-once-upon-a-time category, I happened to watch Tim Burton’s adapation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I was so drawn to Ichabod’s Crane mixture of vulnerability and strength, and so wrapped up in the story’s theme of the rational as it comes to terms with the irrational.
In searching through some books for “teaching of writing” ideas, I came across this quotation from Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story:
“From the first I thought that to teach writing was to teach my students how to keep on reading until we all saw as clearly as we could what was driving the writer. What, we would ask of the manuscript, was the larger preoccupation here? the true experience? the real subject? Not that such questions could be answered, only that it seemed vital to me that they be asked. To approach the work in hand as any ordinary reader might was to learn not how to write but—more important by far— why one was writing. In these classes both I and my students discovered repeatedly that this was more than half the battle.”
I heard a great lyric this morning to go with the website’s theme of “telling ourselves stories in order to live.” The lyric comes from Mary Gauthier’s song called “Lucky Stars.”
“And I know it’s hard to know the truth, so we live with points of view.”