I arrived on a Saturday in the rain and clouds and rough seas, loving every minute of it. On Tuesday, about 7:50 pm, I was lying on the sofa reading when I noticed something was different. It was the sun–I … Continue reading
For the last three weeks, I’ve been traveling…
One thing I know for sure: I do not like large groups. Socializing sucks my brain cells and replaces them with that noise that used to come on TVs after a station had gone off the air. But talking to one … Continue reading
Thomas grounds the story of this long-ago Christmas in real details–snow and fire brigades and uncles–and yet he tells it as if it were a fairy tale.
The ending: “I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
I was just reading over the upcoming November 1 How We Spend Our Days post by Mari Strachan (which is wonderful).
In her post, Mari recites the names of some Welsh towns, each one of which sounds magical. Her list reminded me of a list I had jotted down in June on my way to Vermont.
Is it just my love of the northeast that transforms the names of these towns into music? Or is it the fact that the names are unfamiliar to me–in the sense that I’m not usually driving by these towns?
Yesterday, I was driving from Columbus to Birmingham. I passed signs for Opelika, Auburn, Alexander City, Sylacauga, Pelham. I didn’t make any notes.
Perhaps I’m being unfair to the Alabama towns not to list them vertically.
- write blog post
- read over 5 pages of novel-details (every day 5 pages)
- make airline reservations for Oct trip to California
- buy birthday gifts (8 birthdays in 10 days in sept)
- grocery (supper!)
- make copy of photo
- cancel exercise apt in Atl
- Claire at 3:00
- work on novel revision-big picture
- play with point-of-view in general
- edit reviews for Contrary
- edit HM piece
Not sure how time feels to the rest of you, but if you have a little to play with, don’t miss Robin Black’s To Do list, the second list of the new feature Lists: Literary & Laundry at Hunger Mountain:
“For as long as I can remember I have made TO DO lists with the letters of TO DO all caps.”
What’s on your list for today?
And you wipe the snow out of your hair and get back into your car and drive off toward an accumulation of the usual daily stuff–there is dinner to be made and laundry to be done and helping the kids with their homework and watching television on the couch with the dog resting her muzzle in your lap and a phone call you owe to your sister in Wisconsin and getting ready for bed, brushing and flossing and a few different pills that help to regulate your blood pressure and thyroid and a facial scrub that you apply and all the rituals that are–you are increasingly aware–units of measurement by which you are parceling out your life. (92)
This passage from Dan Chaon’s 2009 novel, Await Your Reply, reminds me of so many things:
Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Mark Strand’s “The Continuous Life”: Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,/That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;”
the Zen saying: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Michael Cunningham’s The Hours: “Laura reads the moment as it passes. Here it is, she thinks; there it goes. The page is about to turn.”
that surely there is more than this
and just as surely, no there’s not.
What are the units of measurement by which you are parceling out your life?
await your reply
~last in a series
~cross-posted at Contrary Blog
I adore this portrait of May Sarton. I used it in a blog post on August 8, 2009. I also used some of the same quotes, but I had a very different reaction to them two years ago.
There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour–put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.
As the last days of summer float by, I feel like I’m swimming upstream against them, periodically climbing onto the river bank to put out the next fire. I don’t really think that’s what May Sarton meant by going “ahead with life moment by moment.” And, unfortunately, I’m not even in the same universe with putting out birdseed and tidying rooms. How can I have so much to do?
I’ve been printing blank weekly calendars from the internet and making lists, thinking about the best way to shape the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. On one of my lists from yesterday was “schedule time for reading.” You’ve got to be kidding, I say to my list. It’s come to this?
“That was what I was after–a daily rhythm, a kind of fugue of poetry, gardening, sleeping and waking in the house.”
I like fugue for its sense of interweaving of parts, for its writerly rhythm.
But at the moment I’m not sure fugue is going to get it done. In fact, what I need is a general to command the troops, to whip all these to-dos into shape. And less sleep. Maybe if I get up an hour earlier…
How about the rest of you–how are your summers going?
Yesterday, I drove from Montpelier to Boston, flew from Boston to Atlanta, drove from Atlanta to Columbus, where I pulled into the driveway about 6:15 last night.
I had big plans for today, but I’m just drifting from one thing to another, not getting anything done.
11 days at VCFA, and now a series of photo posts to unwind myself, to spit me out into the world again.
and I should turn off the light, but I wanted to share these photos from today:
Seven days the first week of April–spring break–in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, in a house right on the beach–days I can’t seem to stop thinking or writing about.
Seeing, hearing, smelling, living the ocean–I just felt great. Each moment was wider than normal. Each day had a rhythm and an arc.
I’ve never been one to appreciate or mark the beginning of the day. I’m not much in the morning. But at the end of each one of these, I paused to watch the sun disappear into the o c e a n.
It’s so quiet now, without the waves pounding in the background. The first week in April we had our own wonderful steps to the beach. I went to the grocery before I left, and after I arrived on Friday, the first, I did not set foot in a car until we pulled out of the driveway Friday, the eighth, to come home. I wish I could say I woke with the sun, but I slept late, I walked, I read, read, read… All activities interrupted by a few steps to the ship-size deck for hefty doses of sea air. I wrote, wrote, wrote…with the door open and the sound and view of the ocean. And after it was dark, just for fun, I downloaded the series Damages and watched in solo-size on my iPhone. I ate more pizza than I would have thought possible because it was the only place that delivered. Even pizza for breakfast one day. When I write, the hours turn to minutes and before I know it, the day is done. But one day, Sunday I think, I just read all day–different books. With a midday walk down the beach. And the day felt l u x u r i o u s l y long.
Get ready for some name-dropping rock star highlights from awp 2011 in Washington DC: running into Josh Ritter in the bar Wednesday night…ricotta pancakes with sour cherries Thursday morning…sitting behind Jennifer Egan on Saturday and hearing her read “You (Plural)” from A Visit From the Goon Squad…seeing the millions of real live books on the book fair tables…listening to Josh Ritter give his first reading and listening to him sing…a nice, long visit with Robin Black…dinner in Adams Morgan with Benjamin Percy and Pam Houston, and Fenton Johnson and Pam Houston…seeing all my VCFA friends and wonderful conversations with Dave Jauss, Sue Silverman, Patrick Madden…lunch with my niece and a friend, listening to Charles Baxter on book reviews “to say a book is boring does not say anything about the book; it says something about the reader”… Elizabeth Cox on the dialogue in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find”…Jill McCorkle: “She’d a been a good writer if there’d been somebody standing there with a red pen her whole life”…Richard Bausch on Hemingway edits…quick visits with Sheri Reynolds, Hannah Tinti, Maribeth Batcha, Bruce Machart, Robin Oliveira, Tony Eprile, Ellen Lesser, Richard McCann, Vivian Dorsel, Robin Hemley, Connie May Fowler…going to the book fair again and again and seeing all the millions of real books out there in the world, meeting in person Mike Curtis, Cornelius Eady, Lucy Corin, Richard Peabody, Megan Sexton, Matt Bell, Diane Goettel …books, bookmarks, buttons, and more…
So for the last ten days, I’ve been in Montpelier, Vermont, at my third residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. More about those ten days later.
Yesterday evening around five, Jodi, Jenna, and I left Montpelier in the middle of a snow storm–the Hartford Sheraton our destination.
Not so fast. In fact, not fast at all. Ice covered the interstate, and we crawled along at forty miles an hour. I placed a 911 call to report a single car into an embankment. Then two more accidents. We would have done better on skates.
We gave up around Brattleboro, where we slid off the interstate for a steak dinner and to reassess. Jodi lives in nearby Marlboro, and she suggested we stay the night there at The Whetstone Inn. She called her friend Jean, who welcomed us into her 220-year-old inn around nine last night. We shuffled in the front door through five inches of newly fallen snow.
After standing outside in the snowy silence trying to get a cell phone signal to let my husband know where I was, I settled into my twin bed with the latest issue of Hunger Mountain.
My flight is boarding. More to follow…