If you click on Letters under categories of past blogs, you’ll see the whole series. This series is a nod to the idea of letter writing, which I love with a burning nostalgia that makes me long for the days of slow communication, letters written by candlelight. Well, until I remember they didn’t have mobile phones or the Internet…
Happy Monday to you. Happy new writing week! Enjoy this new installment in my Letters series.
Dear Summer Days,
You trick me every time. The way I can walk across town reading a book under your forget-me-not sky and then forget the day of the week entirely. They way you inspire nostalgia, what have I got to lose, and might as well live.
I can remember a time when summer really did last what seemed like forever. Long enough to get bored and grow out of my favorite shoes. Long enough for a love affair to begin and end.
When I became a teacher I imagined I would get these summers back. Don’t laugh–it’s an easy trap to fall into. While it may be true you can’t repeat the past, is there any harm in trying? Summer days, you are for wandering, for wonder, for making art, for learning ten ways to tie a scarf and more ways to say, yes, I do.
Looking forward to your impending visit,
Buy my books here.
I’ve written to you before, but you didn’t reply. You look at me the way my grandmother used to when I asked a stupid question. I get it, you are necessary, and if I spend too much time with you, well, that’s my fault, isn’t it?
You are necessary. You are where the sketch before the painting happens, the outline before the outline. I know I said I would write and now I’m walking the dogs, stringing a beaded necklace, knitting a hat, cleaning the gutters, alphabetizing my books, dusting the cobwebs from the corners. Can you believe these things are part of the process too? Not always, but sometimes, when I’m meditating on story.
I’m sorry I came off adversarial before. I was trying to gather my courage to write. I did not trust you. I lashed out. I get it. I get it, you are part of the process. Can I possibly welcome you? Even find joy in you? Trust myself to know when to close the door on you and get to work, when to open the door again and go out to play?
I will try, dear friend, I will try.
Buy my books here.
Dear Present Moment,
The click of keys. The ponderous pause. The long-distance stare. Alert, alive, creating. The problems to solve are diverse, complex, and many and I must be some kind of brainiac because I am solving problems left and right. What is the mood here? What is the consequence? Will this seem real to a strange reader? Will it break his heart? What’s the story? A comma here?
Present moment, the struggle emerges when you elude me, when I focus on the future goal or that time I left critique group with a fresh bruise on my cheek, a deep scratch on my collar bone.
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I sat down to write, but wasn’t sure how to begin so I checked Facebook looking for inspiration. I found an article that expanded my knowledge of the Common Core and shared it. A teacher I know sent me a PM almost immediately mentioning a Times article that shed an ironic light on the article I had shared. I went to nytimes.com and read it.
All right, time to get writing, I thought, then sent a Tweet saying “Time to write! #focused”. I spent ten minutes arranging the words in that first sentence until I could read it back with pride, then I g-chatted my son: Good morning!
He didn’t ask me to, but I took the initiative to scan Craigslist for a job he might be interested in and sent him the links. I was just about to start writing again when my mother called.
Your Faithful Servant,
Buy my books here.
Watching you lately, the way a new beat consumes you, the sound of the beginning of a track played over and over again, inspires me. I can ask you to turn down the volume and you do, only to turn in up minutes later, because you are in that place during creation where the only thing you can see is the thing you are creating.
Watching you reminds me of long walks to coffee shops to pen lines that approximate the beat of my wanting heart.
I walked into your room the other day and saw you in the process of creation, saw the way your head bobbed and your hand moved up and down to help you keep time. I thought of how you wear your ear buds always and remembered how I always carried a backpack full of books, how I kept them on my desk, though they were not what I was assigned, how I copied lines from those books into my notebooks in an attempt to, in a way, become them.
A few weeks ago I pulled into the driveway and saw you through the window. You were putting away the dishes, but more importantly, you were dancing like I’d never seen you dance. Had I ever seen you dance?
Always when working on a new song, you reach a point of struggle where that struggle makes you snap and brood. You stay for hours in your room fighting your way to the moment where you ask, “Do you want to hear?”
You’ve reminded me of the joy that is the reason for all this struggle to create.
We were eight, maybe nine, when we met. I don’t remember the first moment, but I remember a lot of important moments along the way, including the time we went to the public library to research fruits and vegetables for our comic book, The Wacky Fruit Gang. I wrote the stories, you drew the pictures, though I think you drew a hell of a lot more than I ever wrote.
When you were here last weekend and you said you’d gone through a Stephen King phase, I remembered the fat paperbacks that lined the headboard of your Queen Size bed. I remember how we both participated in The Young Author’s Conference every year. Then there was the year in 8th grade when I had written nothing I felt I could share and you loaned me some poems to put my name on. I will never forget: I am a flamingo, all pink and tall. I live in Florida, along the ocean wall.
I remember how after driving out to the beach to burn our caps and gowns, we lost touch for nearly twenty years. I could never wrap my heart around why, though I suppose I could explain it.
There have been two opportunities lately to reacquaint ourselves, both involving wine and photo albums.
My albums first. I pulled them from the top of the closet, brushed the dust off and told you my stories as we flipped through each book, sitting side by side on a table bench. As we looked through, I realized at some point I had stopped printing pictures (so much I wanted to show you wasn’t even there!) and that I really needed to put others in a shoe box to mail to my ex-husband. I explained to you, as we flipped page after page how I had come to have a child about to graduate from high school, where I had lived along the way.
Some weeks later, we went through your albums. My turn to listen to your stories: college-town friends, all those bright-burning loves we’ll never forget and the rock, sometimes around our necks, that are our families.
Mondays I try to keep a 6:30 date with my fiction critique group, and mostly I do, though sometimes with no fresh words in hand. Tonight I sat at a table with three other writers. All women this time, which hardly ever happens. We took turns passing out our four pages, reading those pages aloud and listening while the others gave advice on how to fix our stories.
On the walk home, first writing friend, I thought of you and photo albums. I thought of how after that first visit, I went through and took out all the photos that didn’t belong. Because they weren’t my story any more. Because there were four other pictures of the same moment that didn’t quite capture truth like the best one did. I printed almost three hundred photos to add, to tell my story from where I’d left off having prints made.
As I walked up the bridge to West Olympia, it occurred to me that writing is something like arranging photos in an album.
Dear Yoga Mat,
You never scold me for staying away longer than I should and I need to remember when I roll out my mat and step to the top of the mat into Mountain that I am always home and welcome. You remain sturdy while I respire, struggle, and ultimately break free.
(Thanks fo Mitra for a great yoga class last night! You will be missed here in Olympia, for sure.)
Dear Long Distance Stare,
You’ve gotten me into trouble a few times in public.
“Stare hard, retard.” OR “What are you lookin’ at?” That sort of thing.
If I had a dollar for the number of times some stranger has passed me by on the street, taken you for sadness and told me to smile, assuring me that life wasn’t so bad, maybe I’d have a savings account?
But I don’t mind being misjudged as too serious and aloof. You are my best trick. No matter what thoughts are rumbling for attention to throw my focus off or what conversation is happening in the background, or who is texting next to me or talking on their phone, long distance stare, you are there for me.
You work best across a room or out a window. Right now, I am sitting at Bayview Market watching tiny people kayak way way out there in The Sound. The farther away I stare the better, bu I can look through people too and into the depths of coffee mugs.
You may not be everything, but there are days when if it weren’t for you, I’d turn in my pen and take up baking.