PC internet still broken

  Just to say I am reading blogs but not commenting so much because the PC is still unconnected. 

 Yes I could use the laptop. But the laptop is mostly an electronic manuscript.   Just to show you how Finn and I watched the Super Bowl.   I think we are suffering from Winter2015 PTSD. Schools were closed again today. They were closed on Friday. I didn’t go to Salem on Saturday. They had declared a state of emergency. 

  
Spent a lot of today and the weekend in 1738. It’s occurring to me kind of belatedly that this can tire a person out — even writing the less horrific scenes. No wonder I feel a little ungrounded, like that quilt square floating up above. 

College drop off: a poem

Red-ribs

We detour to Rocky Mt. National Park. The short, popular hike, all we have time for.

“We have to act as if the future matters,” says one hiker.

Alpine Parsley. Drabwort. Saxifrage.

Everyone knows going down is harder than going up.

“If you can make it all the way down without whining, I’ll get you some chocolate.”

Clouds with structure and authority seem a necessary grandeur, given how rocky peaks shove their ancient mass into the sky.

“The whole top of that mountain slid off,” someone points. Tons of rock crumbled into scree, as if gravity wanted to make a show, too.

Alpine Indian Paintbrush.

Panting, plodding, the wind tugging my scarf but not quite filling my lungs.  “We’re from Texas, so we’re really feelin’ it too!”

5,000 feet and climbing.

Clustered low to the ground, humble and remarkable: Moss Campion, Dwarf Clover.

Heading back to campus, we stop with others at a popular pull out. Morris dancers circle and clap, ankle bells jingling.

The gusty air. The regal clouds. Grinning faces posing. A six percent grade to the road.

A man tries to mount his giant motorcycle but it tips over and pins him to the ground. He gets up.

To hear him bark blame at the accordion player is to wish that stone or distant thunder or lichen, all things of relentless, effortless grace, could counter our flaws.

“Who’s ever heard of weather moving west?!” asks my son.

Rocky Mountain Sagewort. Blue leaf Cinque foil.

His whole future in front of him.

Four days later lightening strikes at that very pull out. Kills two. He texts me the news.

The stuff we save

  
Here I am a little tongue-tied, a little at a loss, and wanting to show up anyway.

It’s a cloudy, warm Wednesday in February. The dog barks. The fish tank hums. I feel suspended between things, which is nice because my suspense is filled with silent freedom, but it’s not so great because I feel a little unhinged, not as in crazy, but as in not connected.

The cloth drought continues. It’s kinda killing me. I can’t stand finishing big projects and I have three right now: two bed quilts for my firstborn and the Hearts for Charleston Quilt (which is proving harder to assemble on the vertical than I would have liked).

Today I cleared out a downstairs closet because getting the vacuum out had become nightmarish. Boxes of fabric stowed ‘temporarily’ had tipped over and gotten mixed up with unpressed shirts, unpaired socks, camera bags and cleaning supplies. Ugh!

Just folding and sorting the cloth made me feel better. And the closet is a closet again. Later, I’ll iron some of that fabric while watching TV. I will like that, too.

Next week come: my birthday, the anniversary of my mother’s death (it will be 20 years), then: Valentine’s Day. It’s a weird blend.

My mother died when I was 39 and pregnant. More than once, I have wished for her ‘take’ on my boys even though if she were alive, I’d be batting away her pronouncements as if my survival depended on it. Her judgments were painted with a broad brush and right to an obnoxious degree.

Recently, I revised a memoir piece in which I ask for my mother’s advice and found I really could hear her voice. She was saying things pithy, dumb-sounding, irreverent, and wise.

I plan to submit the piece to a literary journal before tax day. I swear! As Deb Lacativa messaged me recently, “It’s time to start collecting rejection notices.”

So, to close, in the spirit of housekeeping, aging, and examining what satisfies, I dragged this link out of the drafts folder: Candy Chang

Several years ago, she painted blackboards on the sides of buildings and stenciled a collection of lines reading: “BEFORE I DIE, I WANT TO _______.” Passersby filled in the blanks.

BEFORE I DIE, I WANT TO: finish a novel; see my sons get married; hold my grandchildren; eat antipasto in Italy; buy fabric in India; take K to The Fat Hen in South Carolina; sunbathe in the Caribbean; knit a sweater that actually fits somebody.

What do YOU want to do before you die?

 

The internet on our PC is broken (I just love saying that… it’s kind of like announcing “the electricity is broken”).  I am posting with laptop and phone, something I never do. 

Elephant surprise 

“Elephant Surprise” is not a disgusting, illegal casserole, but a wonderful gift from New Mexico. What a nice surprise to open an envelope and find this guy!

Look at that detail! Thank you, Grace! Her note asked, “You do like elephants, right?”

Yes I do! And even though one could love elephants in a passionate crusading sort of way, that’s not how I love them.  I just do.   Interestingly, the first elephant quilt I made (above), I called “Grace”. Not only that, a pregnant friend bought the quilt for her unborn child and then named her “Grace”, too! IMG_5689        Today I take elephants thread and generosity as proof positive of grace.

Time and telling

 I once announced, “I’m a writer but not really a storyteller,” to which a friend replied, “You are a storyteller. You just don’t think you are.”

The grist for our tales can come from anywhere from any old day of the week: how sorting threads suddenly feels like a mission; the dog finding raw whole sweet potatoes in the woods and gobbling them down despite all your commands to the contrary; why waiting in yesterday’s grocery line was particularly tedious. 

Finn bit my neighbor last night. Here. Trying to watch “Brooklyn”. No blood or even teeth marks. But real aggression. 

“The Bite” could be a long story — one involving control, temptation, distraction, fear, and disappointment.

Or how about going to a friend’s husband’s house that is far away and not her house and watching the Patriots lose to Denver while eating chili made meaty and delicious with shiitake mushrooms. Texting my son in Boulder. Noticing how warm the winter sun looked on the football field. Wondering why relationships fail. 

I haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book but I heard her say in an interview something interesting (but not original) about collective ideas and creativity. She asserted that our work is “out there” and maybe it doesn’t matter if the stories pick us or we pick them, but it does matter that we sustain our allegiance to them. If we don’t, someone else just might take ’em and run. 

And speaking of Jung, to close let me share a relevant moment of synchronicity. 

Remember two posts ago when I quoted Henry Louis Gates, Jr. saying that if critics didn’t like Styron’s version of Nat Turner, they could “write their own novel”? Well last night I learned that someone has. Nate Parker wrote, directed and starred in a new movie telling that very story.  It just premiered at Sundance.  

 

 

Silence of listening and acknowledging

Charleston 105

Magnolia Plantation, April 2014

Thank you to Christi Carter of Sweet Pea Path for sending me a link to an article called “Holding the Sacred Space of Many Silences“.  Written by a young Northern white woman teaching in Charleston, South Carolina, she makes some great points.

I love what she says about failure and silence.

In order to do this work — to even begin to think about attempting this work — one must acknowledge that this will be a practice of many failures. In order to give voice to the transatlantic slave trade, its long life, and its innumerable repercussions, one must embrace a silence created by two factors: a silence necessary for listening, and a silence necessary to acknowledge that which is unspeakable.

The article came just as I was finishing “Between the World and Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. His beautiful prose and hard-hitting insights are essential reading — especially if one is white and serious about becoming conscious about racism. I came away feeling chastened by all the ways that white privilege so seamlessly bolsters my life and my children’s lives and also saddened at all the ways racism continues to destroys African-American lives. Right now, I’m taking a break from the book about Afro-Cuban Ifa (Babalawos, Santeria’s High Priests, by Frank Baba Eyiogbe). My head spins with the complexities, not at all helped by so many of the gods’ names beginning with the letter “o”!

Lately, I’ve been rewriting a lot and trying not to worry about it. There is so much story still to go! But this is where the energy gathers and I’d be a fool to fight it.

Charleston 152.JPG

Magnolia Plantation, April 2014

I am trying to figure out this business of voice for the enslaved characters. Those chapters are written in “third person close narrative”, which means even though I am referring to them in the third person, the story is coming as if from inside their heads. The language can’t be mine. And it can’t be Eliza’s. To help, I am referring to transcribed interviews of former slaves collected during the 1930’s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (“Before Freedom, When I Can Just Remember“). The people collecting the narratives were all white, so there’s that. But as best I can tell, they captured the cadence of speech employed by the enslaved, as well as their vocabulary and sentence structure.

Some other well-known slave narratives are less useful for this purpose because the writers became literate to such polished degrees (Frederick Douglass, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass“, Harriet Jacobs, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” and Solomon Northrup, “Twelve Years a Slave“).

IMG_7546The Eliza chapters are told in the first person. I find her easy to hear in my head.

My goal is that by juxtaposing her story with the stories of a handful of her slaves, the structure of the novel itself will create a harsh and exacting contrast. A while ago, I made this collage of well-to-do Colonial children and a desolate Louisiana bayou to explore this very contrast.

And speaking of contrasts. How about my plodding descriptions of this or that and Janelle’s exuberant description of struggle?!!

Onward!