Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing and Salvation

Writing is a rich giver of gifts; it helps heal, it can light the way out of a fog, it can slay fear.   Sometimes I write, but first, I am a reader.   Of real, actual, old fashioned books.  I read fiction, nonfiction, biography; I stay away from the murder-and-mayhem aisle.   I read many books solely based on someone's recommendation - almost anyone, really.  Even non-readers, though that trust has taken me down some dark paths.  A few pretty scary books came to me that way.

I read purchased books, I read paper books, I read electronic books.  I like to write in some books;  it helps me think.  For years, writing in a book felt sinful, but now I embrace it;  it changes the way I read.  It helps me appreciate the author or a sentence, and it helps me keep track when a book contains an ungodly number of interrelated or unrelated characters.   Reading may be a solitary pleasure; book clubs are a joyful communion of eager, disparate souls.

There are times when a well-turned phrase or brilliant sentence stops me cold.  The sheer joy and appreciation of it.  I remember when I first read John Irving, many sentences had that effect.  (Caution - don't read autobiographical works by authors you admire and enjoy.  I did and found him smug and exceptionally, arrogantly, obnoxious. I have been unable to enjoy his fiction since).  Harry Crews was an exception to the no-mayhem rule, recommended by a non-reader.  Crews is a violent minimalist; he can deliver the most astonishing jolts with the fewest number of words imaginable.  (I know this is nerd-heaven, I admit it.  This has been me since I was old enough to bike to a neighborhood library as a little, little girl.  Confused the non-reading parents and six siblings.  That tiny building on Bala Avenue was the first of many libraries I fell in love with.  Libraries and hardware stores, what a goof.)

Walt Whitman.  And here, nerd meets sports fan - I love excellent writing about the sublime sport that is baseball.  I thought none reached Walt Whitman's heights, but here are a few I stumbled on today.
From George Will:   "Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona."

And from John Updike, with a gloriously crafted sentence reporting on how he felt as Ted Williams hit a home run in his last at bat in Fenway Park in 1960:  "It was in the books while it was still in the sky".

Makes a girl want to pick up a pen.  How I wish I could write those sentences.  And how grateful I am that someone can.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Corners to Turn; Corners to Cut

Working our way out of a difficult time doesn't seem ever to feel the same way twice.  On this one, first, I thought - at last, that challenge was in my rear view mirror.  I could happily move on, prance on, skip on, and leave it in the past, or at minimum, leave it to grow ever smaller.  The problem with rear view mirrors is that the object/issue/crap is still visible.  Depending on your pace, it may be visible for quite some time.  And visible is not helpful, at least for me.  It enables me stubbornly to hang on, to continue to believe it to be fixable,  to believe that I am the Fixer.  The line between optimism and hubris blurs.

Then, I turned a corner.  That is more jubilant, more liberation.  Turning a corner leaves no visible remnants -  the crap is left behind on some other sorry street, even if it's a sorry street with a vista.  Turned.  Gone. Left.

Those emotional corners can't be cut.  As much as we would like to accelerate that turn, we cannot.   Time is friend and foe.   There was no emotional corner-cutting available for me, not on this one.  No matter how tired of it I had become; no matter how weary I was of its living rent-free in my head; no matter how aware I was of its futility.  Corner could not be cut; return to emotional health could not be hurried.  No tools created a shortcut; at times, it seemed like the longest, slowest turn. We have to wait, work, cope, work, wait --- then suddenly, finally, there it is ---  the corner to be turned.

Maybe it's because "this one" was several challenges blurred or bound together - imagine the giant ball of string out there in the Midwest somewhere.  (Why are these things always in the Midwest anyway?)  This was tough, this was the heart, both literal and figurative.

Corners were not cut here to be sure. They were labored, pondered, processed; they sat through sadness, anger, disappointment, wistfulness, regret,  hurt, fear, confusion,  and even joy for having known it.  At times, I wondered if I had become hooked on the dark of it, and I am not one to relish or wallow or linger in darkness.  Then, the corner cleared; there it was at last.

Turned.  Said farewell to that sorry ass street.

P. S. Amuse yourself; google "largest ball of string"; there is a lively, spirited debate out there.  Above is actually largest ball of rubber bands; took some license.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gonna Have Me Some Damn Fun

Life is life.  It comes with times of great joy, times of serenity and then what can feel like a season of loss.  Some losses are swift, unforeseen body blows.  Others are gradual -  small bites taken one at a time, and then the sudden end.  But all seasons pass.

Gradually, veils lift.  New seasons - reveling in a day of no loss and no anxiety about an impending loss. (I feel nothing but compassion for those who are hard-wired to see the next loss around every corner.  I am not that; it is not my chemistry, and I am grateful beyond words for this).

Fun.  I remember fun - from before this past season.  Happily, this was a week for water fun.  Spectacular weather; several days I got to the beach for a few late day hours  -  with a great book.  The best of times.  Decided to get to competence on my last remaining  basic boating skill - dock the damn thing.  I mean geez - stupid drunk people can dock a boat, children of 10 can dock a boat....  So out I went with a willing teacher (though I know she wishes she had brought some wine along).  Hour and a half or so - docked the damn thing dozens of times.  Got a "F"on my first try (though I thought that was a tad harsh - I think "F's" should be reserved for attempts that involve actual damage).  Happily and proudly got to a "B".  Though there is some chance she up-graded me to a "B" because she really needed to get off the boat and have that glass of wine - all teachers have tolerance limits, particularly with an incompetent yet stubborn student.  Bad combination - inept and determined.

Then my kayaks were delivered.  Postponed until after Irene - there is no sense adding projectiles to your possessions right before a hurricane.  Went on the virgin trip on another spectacular day.  Again, no damage to life, limb, kayak, dock or friend.  Success.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is not fun; having a flipping defibrillator in your chest wall is not fun, waiting for it to shock the crap out of you is not fun, saying farewell to a beloved dog is not fun.

Today was fun.  Lean into it.