Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I had no corned beef in the house so I made kielbasa with mashed potatoes, and carrots from Massachusetts. Very satisfying.

I used to celebrate March 17 as an anniversary, but had forgotten about it and remembered it only as I was waking up today. On this day in 1985, I made a decision to explore intimacy (didn't think it would be lovers at the time) with my Ex. The Big Ex. The Ex from whom I've never gone on to actually commit to someone else as a partner, though I've been in love and made many commitments since then.

In a profound way, my novel Ginny Bates is a rewrite of that 1985 decision. My character Myra also decides to step outside of being an abuse survivor into a new territory, and chooses someone who "didn't fit the previous pattern" to partner with. However, Myra has either luck or better judgment on her side than I did. My choice was more or less catastrophic. I know sometimes the way we must learn our life lessons involves catastrophic judgment, and this is particularly true if you are damaged. Of course, I wasn't aware of the damage at the time (who is?) and I thought it was the best decision I'd ever made.

Don't worry, my Ex doesn't read this blog. She's absolutely incurious about anyone she hasn't hooked into her narcissism, and once I smartened up, it's as if I never existed in her world. She is the anti-Ginny.

I was in the first honors program that my university attempted, a hand-picked group of 25 who took innovative courses together for two years. In one of them, we were team-taught by a physicist (with a strong background in astronomy), a biologist, and a chemist for four hour chunks three times a week. It was in that class that I learned, from Dr. Krishnamurthy, both the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and about entropy. I drove home after class, a 70 minute commute to the trailer where my mother lived out in the boonies, to do her weekly grocery shopping, laundry, and other chores -- because going off to college didn't mean there was anyone else to help her. I remember that drive home, trying to come to grips with entropy, that my universe was slowly dissolving around me, moving from matter to energy. I had to pull over at one point, next to an isolated creek, and cry for a while. I have six planets in Leo: change was not yet something I could relinquish to the vagaries of g*d.

To be honest, I still have issues with g*d in that regard. But, as Myra quotes Voltaire in my novel, "G*d is a comedian playing to an audience too terrified to laugh."

It was that same college semester, perhaps that same week since they are so linked in my mind, that I walked past graffiti on a wall which read "PHILOSOPHY 101 FINAL EXAM: (1) Define universe. (2) Give two examples."

I was planning, in this post, to talk about the reunion of original characters on ER and a few other things. But I think I won't now. Instead, I'm going to go write and will leave you with this poem by Denise Levertov that I love so much I once made stationary from it:


There is no savor
more sweet, more salt

than to be glad to be
what, woman,

and who, myself,
I am, a shadow

that grows longer as the sun
moves, drawn out

on a thread of wonder.
If I bear burdens

they begin to be remembered
as gifts, goods, a basket

of bread that hurts
my shoulders but closes me

in fragrance. I can
eat as I go.


little gator said...

It wasn't Myra's luck or judgement so much as Myra's having you to look after her?

What idiot is writing my life story?

Sue Katz said...

If I wasn't busy being impressed by your astounding memory and remarkable frankness, I would be saying, You know how to make kielbasa from scratch?! Wow.

Cowboy Diva said...

I want to use this as an open thread, but to ask a GB question.
Just how many notebooks does Myra carry, and for what purposes?
I know it probably won't be on the exam, but as I've been rereading some excerpts I am fascinated by just how often Myra notes a promise made, or a bird seen, or what have you.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, Sue, sorry to mislead you -- when I say "made" kielbasa, I mean I prepared it (grilled, with a drizzle of barbecue sauce), not made from scratch. Although back in my able past, I have made my own sausage. I'm one of those folks who don't care for the taste of licorice or fennel, and I like sausages absent those flavors. A great alternative is a smidgen of mint.

Cowboy Diva, Myra carries one notebook around in her hip pocket at any given time, which limits the size of the notebook. She will tear pages out of it for others to use only rarely. When it is full, it's retired to a shelf in her study after anything she needs to "use" in it is transferred to a computer file. She does have a separate life list for her bird sightings, as all birders do (and I do). A life list usually has columns for name of bird (common and Latin), when you saw it, where, in what numbers/genders/age gropus, under what weather and habitat conditions, and anything else significant you want to mention.

Carrying a notebook helps you keep the headset of being a writer, not just an observor. And it's what Myra does instead of maintaining a journal -- journals can prime a writer's pump or can distract them from their main work, both of which are intermittently true for me.

Little Gator, are you implying that Myra is a figment of my imagination? Better not let Ginny hear you say that.

Kat, and other people, have actually spotted them out in public on occasion. Now that we know they visit Colville, better keep your eyes peeled, Cowboy Diva.

little gator said...

I mean that you are Myra's Creator.

I do wonder about that small crocodile person.

kat said...

Let's not forget Frances. I also spotted Frances in an organic grocery store in Seattle last summer

Maggie Jochild said...

I can imagine that seeing Frances in the flesh would be unforgettable.

Yes, let's do send our "look out for her" requests to the Universe on behalf of Little Gator. (She could use some Little Gator-ade.)

little gator said...

btw, since you asked-I prefer to be called little gator, or if you want to be even less formal, gator. But I'll answer to any reasonable version of it.

I don't like it being spelled with an apostrophe as 'gator. Like possum, roo and coon, it's an abbreviation for a longer animal name, but one that has become an independent word as well.