Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Lily near Trinidad, California (Lily near Trinidad, California; photo by Easton D. Rankine)

I fully intended to make pasta for dinner, roasted grape tomatoes with caramelized onions, peas and alfredo over the last of my whole-grain penne, but instead I went quick and easy: Reheated burger with a massive plate of carrots. I'll do the pasta tomorrow.

Last night after I posted the Ginny Bates chapter which is the penultimate climax of the book, I realized I had to lie down. Fatigue hit me like a freight train and I crashed into sleep for three hours. When I got up, dreaming about my late beloved main character, I came in to talk with Jesse for a while before doing some paying work. I slept in two chunks today but feel rested.

It's been incredibly hard to write this last month's work of the novel. I had an original draft, which one of you (Kat) read almost two years ago now, but by the time I got back to revising it for posting, I rewrote it almost ten words to one. The characters had grown so much, the story had gotten so rich, it deserved the best I could give it.

The sentence where I ended last night's post was the exact point on October 16, 2006 when I stopped writing to sob uncontrollably about the loss of this main character, whom I allowed to die only because she insisted on it. I cried for 15 minutes, wiped my face and began writing an e-mail to Liza about how I'd spent the weekend writing the death of this character. Before I could finish the note, my phone rang, at 8:30 in the morning. It was my father's caller ID, so I answered. But it wasn't my father, it was my older brother, telling me that my father had died 15 minutes before.

It felt like I'd killed my father. In some aspects, it still feels that way. My grief for the loss of the character overshadowed my grief for my father. I hope you don't think less of me for admitting that.

My friend Martha reminded me this week that we are still, in fact, in the Age of Aquarius, which was/is not just a golden era, it's a time of millennial change. I prefer historiography which studies the lives of "ordinary" people and sees how their connections and growth forces the so-called leaders to make important decisions -- bottom-up power dynamics, in other words. As frighteningly unstable as my day-to-day life is, I'm thrilled to be alive at this point in history.

I just went looking for a quote from Annie Dillard about how and why we love our own generation best. I think it's in An American Childhood, or maybe her essay "The Book of Luke". I couldn't find it, but instead tripped across this:

"There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been."

I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek while driving with my best friend Jean and a couple of women we literally picked up along the way (Miri the Israeli hitchhiker who drove like a maniac and Dawna the extraordinary teenage runaway who sang like an angel) from Texas to the second annual Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. The festival alone would have derailed the course of my life, but Annie's writing was a double punch. From that point on, I've wanted to write the way she does. I'm beginning to close in on that goal -- not as well, of course, at least not yet, but definitely on the trail she blazed. How extraordinary to see the unimaginable within my grasp.

And, I'm reminded of another quote from her, this one from her excellent manual The Writing Life: "Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world." Well, that sums me up in a nutshell these days. As I remember it, she wasn't casting aspersions on that lifestyle choice, merely ruefully acknowledging its truth.

Today I'm remembering and grieving a woman I created out of my own imagination, and a father I still don't entirely understand. I am full of carrots, and my right thumb sends a jolt of pain up my wrist every time I use it to push the space bar. My left shoulder burns (the rotator cuff got aggravated by how I slept last night) unless I sit at an angle. Obama is playing politics with our right to privacy and our very soul with regard to torture. There's a meeting in Austin this week of emergency responders from all along the Gulf Coast, trying to get a head start on the hurricane season. But it's good to be out there, to be alive in this world, from what I remember. I'll take my vitamin D and keep writing. See you in the gaps.

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