Another day, another story!
Lots of news from the road and now that I have finally found a plug and set up somewhere that Seattle security will probably ask me to LEAVE and stop acting like I work at the airport -so I'm down to - fast and furious. Expect errors and detours. Gotta talk fast before their on to me.
If you saw the last few posts on Instagram or Facebook you know that I'm up to something. That something is what part of The Thread I'm holding onto. For many years, many, many years actually I have desperately had the overwhelming and powerful desire to get my MFA. But circumstances of various orders and gremlins and minions kept me off that path. VERY SPECIFICALLY - I have desired for ten years to get my MFA from the Seattle Pacific University Low-Residency program.
Last year as I was teaching one Saturday for the A Novel Idea program one of the incredible students showed me his recently published novel. When I opened to the dedication there was my name and some of the most beautiful words anyone could ever write about me and my teaching creative writing. Something about it hit my like an inspired rock. That day I picked up that thread that is my true life and applied without any knowledge of what to do but take the next step. And the one after that.
My acceptance into the program was one of the happiest days of my life and one of the defining moments of my life. The continuation of me taking the next step and the following one has been the result of a tremendous outpouring of support of all kinds from my family and special friends. (And more on that later and back to that special student in another blog.) And a shout out as well to my Parnassus Books 'family' for your enthusiastic support and understanding.
On other fronts some people have asked, River, when you're already a published author, have received accolades from readers and blessedly from some reviewers ( I tell my Mother all the time, 'You know, some of those novels were called 'masterpieces' by reviewers and that's not easy come by. (I jokingly add that she is not impressed but she has made this part of my life possible in more ways than one.) So in spite of that and Because . . . because . . . there is this thing, the thread. That cannot be ignored. Call it intuition. Call it spiritual inspiration. Or just call it the itch that will not be denied.
Let me offer the words of William Stafford as my greatest response.
The Way It Is
There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of that thread.
So that's my answer and I'm sticking to it. (Just had to answer some questions about baggage claim as I am potentially breaking some rules by setting up behind the unmanned info desk and airport model so that I can bogart power for the laptop from the only available plug in. The trick is to act like you belong, know what you are doing, and are very busy. Wearing glasses helps too. )
So - here comes that shuttle and I want to share with you a lot of things. I want to talk about the nice people I have met on this journey and the people on the plane and the mother in front of me that I wanted to hit with a magazine because she might just have gotten frustrated with her daughter and pinched her lips together to make her quit talking. Since I couldn't see through the chair in front of me I just leaned forward and asked if I could offer her a pen and paper for her daughter to draw or show her pictures. And she said - NO, she's just tired and should be asleep. - Then she loudly told the little girl that she was being a DISTURBANCE and bothering everyone on the plane and I decided I didn't like that woman and I haven't prayed for her but that might be a good thing to do. I did lean forward again through the crack and say NO, SHE is not being a disturbance. SHE is not bothering me.
And I prayed for a different lady on the plane who was nice (without her knowledge) and another (ditto) but - - (had to just stop and give out some information on shuttle locations. I'm getting really good at this. I could be Airport Answer Girl. PS - you can just make up anything. It makes people happy to get an answer from anyone.)
Update sidetrack - I stayed at a cheap by the airport kind of hotel for the night. I must! Share my hotel room view with you but it is on my Instagram if you check. The people at the desk were delightful in spite of the room or my lack of sleep. I made it to a Thai restaurant next door for dinner last night and brought the rest back to the desk clerk and asked her if she had had dinner or liked Thai food. She said she had never tasted Thai food. So, I gave her that food (I hadn't eaten off of for the record) and said you are in for a treat! And the reason for this is that as the world seems to get increasingly crazy, as politics in this country seem to be dividing us at the rate of insanity, I have determined my only way to combat this is to perform extra acts of kindness everyday of my life. To operate from a place of being absolutely determined to become more human, more understanding, more accepting. To offer to hold a screaming toddler for a mother to do her banking, or help someone load groceries when I'm already sick of dragging my bags around. I'll let people in in traffic and do a million other things that might normally cross my mind that I am too busy to do. The only thing I know to do to combat this tidal wave of hatred is to step up my kindness game.
So - off of rant and back to the moment -
She was still on duty this am and said it was one of the best things she has ever tasted. it was yellow curry chicken and potatoes.
Gotta dash. More soon as I can but I want you to know I started the day out celebrating the journey by doing Elaine's dance to the tune of Patti LaBelle's Neutron Dance. :)
Keep it real. Hold fast to your thread.
Not the movie. My suitcase. Little Miss Sunshine is the name I dubbed my carry-on that has seen about as many miles as I have. She is scratched up, peeled off, dented, beat up and broken. After my last trip I had parked her in my closet but not tossed her out of sentimental reasons. She has been on three book tours with me. Traveled coast to coast to coast. Been on the road for one tour over two months non-stop. She's carried my goods, operated as a sound equipment carry all when I recording Clearstory Radio programs on site at The Southern Festival of the Book and elsewhere. She has been - my friend.
When I first purchased her eons ago it was with an advance check from a book contract. If you are a writer and you are going to purchase something that has full mobility spinner wheels with a ten year warranty and so forth I recommend doing so at a real luggage place when you have said advance. The time will never be better and otherwise you will talk yourself out of this purchase. Don't do it. All those miles are entitled to being able to move stuff from point a to point b.
For years upon years I've worn black on black, carried black with a side of black. This was long before the goth movement or maybe before all New Yorkers wore black as a silent symbol that they were true New Yorkers. I just did. It was my favorite non-color. So when I bought this wild, artist creation of a suitcase it went totally against type. But there she was up on the high ledge. It was kinda a love at first site moment. I saw her and my eyes got all swirly like The Fantastic Mr. Fox movie and I asked them to take her down. I bought her. I took her home. People commented for years that she was certainly - something. And, I said, yes, she is. She was created by an artist. And, they replied like yeah maybe a five year old. And I told them they just didn't appreciate real art.
We had so many miles ahead of us that I had thought I'd make a little video of her traveling in all the cities, airports, backroads. I shot one short video that my Mama loved and I don't have clue where that might be. I thought I'd take a slew of photos like the gnome commercials. Like Kaya McLaren did with her PWQ Barbie trophy. Nope. Didn't do it.
The people who did appreciate her were The Adorables who were young enough back then to think everything I did was cool and me showing up was like a movie star whizzing in. Little Miss Sunshine was the icing on the cake. They like to roll her for me because she had such magnificent wheels. The stewards and pilots and security people in the airport smiled when they saw her coming. A bright cheery little thing in the midst of that boring waving of black black black suitcases all day. I felt like I was doing my little bit of warm, sunshiney part in the world to carry her along. When I arrived in a new hotel room she beamed like a good friend, a steady companion.
Still, the day came when people said, you know - you really need to get a new suitcase. When the airline people kept saying, We have to make a note that she has a broken handle. BUT HER WHEELS! I wanted to protest, they're still really spinn-ey.
Finally, sadly, I realized it was time. Then black Friday rolled around with a group-on special for a set of luggage with spinney wheels. Matching. One, two, three. All black or all white and I chose all-white figuring I'd cover it with bumper stickers or something. It would suffice. It was gloriously inexpensive and not a smidgen of the quality. Still, Little Miss Sunshine had entered cloudy days. I packed her away. Didn't trash her because I just couldn't. After all, coast to coast to coast makes for a lot of memories. I had parked the new, empty luggage behind a piece of furniture that I had my son move into a closet. (Don't ask because it is a long story). I tried to get it out. I could not. I asked my sister to come help. We could not. She said, This is not happening, in her very, practical sister voice. I tugged at the furniture, I tugged at the suitcase handle which I could reach. I stood on my head and tried to force it sideways. Let me repeat, she said, this is not happening. Then she reached for Little Miss Sunshine and said - here. Take this. And throw the rest of your stuff in the backseat. Just throw your clothes in there and go!
Little Miss Sunshine rides again. To Texas. For surely, certainly, most likely the very last time. It's hard to say good bye to people we love but also the things. These lovely inanimate objects that are said not to have a life but the little toaster would argue with this. And the scientist. Those great minds of physics that discuss things like atoms and molecules and all matter and manner of things being made up of the squares that make us but energy. Swirling masses of light and stardust. Every changing, decaying, evolving.
I couldn't think of a better place for LMS to hang up her boots than officially at a Pulpwood Queen Event called Girlfriend getaway weekend. After all, like these women, she has been a good friend of mine.
I popped over to visit the little wolf pack last night after working and they immediately went for their shoes. It's the universal sign for - I'm going with you. When small grandchildren look at me with big eyes and say, Can I go with you? Can I spend the night with you? as they are putting on the second shoes I have a hard time saying, no. But I did draw the line at the big kids which means I'm too tired to working on potty training issues tonight.
Five minutes later I am driving away and on the way home with two happy kids in the backseat. Except they then begin to fight. The kind of No, you're not, yes I am, no you're not that is designed to drive parents and even grandparents insane. It's the old Stop touching me conversation that can take place for over a thousand miles without a child seemingly taking a breath in between.
Except last night I was too tired to deal with a seven year old and four year old having an eternal argument over imaginary lines. Instead I said -
LOOK! None of that matters! It doesn't matter! All that matters is that right now we are driving down the road. Just the three of us. We are in this car and it's winter and the trees are bare. The moon is out and it is 32 degrees and here we are in this present moment, in this car, on this road, driving through the woods to Zaza's house. And, we all love each other very, much. This is our reality. This is this moment that we are living in. This is our now.
Then there was a contemplative silence from the backseat. No more fighting. I turned on Joe Cocker for the rest of the journey.
Then we had hot chocolate and movies and coloring.
Being a Zaza, a Pawpaw, a Nana or Boo - It's what you make it. The way you make it. I figure these moments where things are not just the same old, same old stoptouchingyourbrother moments will make for better memories. Or at least for stranger stories. And, I can roll with that.
That's what I wrote about in my newsletter that just went out a few days ago. That if you feel like you've gotten off to a sluggish start for the New Year instead of kicking open the doors of your life with guns blazing on photon torpedo speed ready to kick some procrastinating, unorganized, unhealthy choices out the door but instead you are still in bed reading this on your little blue thing-y with a blanket over your head - hey, man - no worries. I swear. January is the getting ready, fix-in to, month. Who can come out blazing every year in this kinda cold? Not me. I'm just trying to survive and clicking my heels together like madness saying, Magnolia, Magnolia, send Spring right over.
But I have hopes that February will settle me in with a hope of March and then green things will be sprouting and I want to be ready for the sprout, like short sleeves so maybe I'll consider picking up these barbells by the desk and curling a few. A do-over, start over, begin again month. That's what it is so let me help you take the pressure of your goals to perfection. We ain't gonna get there. Better? yes, we can all be better at SOMETHING. Be it patience with our children, parents, spouses, and cohorts. But sometimes, patience with ourselves is truly in order. And, I only say that because I need it.
Recently, I started tracking my time the way some people track their coins. Writing down exactly what I'm doing at a given time or how long it took me to finish that newsletter and get it out. (Hours and hours - not the minutes or one hour I thought it would be.) It gives me a better sense of how many words I can get down and how long it takes me to edit interviews for Clearstory Radio or produce the show. And how much time a person say, maybe could spend, say looking for cool little things that writers would like on Etsy - (It's amazing what's out there!) But then I start wondering how many languages I could speak if I didn't watch three episodes of Burn Notice back to back with Husband but hey - we missed Season 7 so we're trying to catch up.
Do - overs.
Some people say they wouldn't change a thing. God bless those birds. I'm not one of them. I would have flossed more. Worried less. Studied physics earlier because there is something about time travel, string theory, particles and atoms and . . . this electric current we call life that is mind-blowing interesting to me. But then so is astronomy (yes, I'd take a trip i a space ship - but hey - only if I volunteered!) and movie making, and writing and . . .
And I'm right back to writing. And thinking that no matter what choices I would have made deferently, it would have led to me writing. And that some of the best time I can possibly spend is rocking my youngest grandbaby (when I can catch him because he is a new story in the making) or riding in the car with my Mother through the cold country-side and listening to her tell stories. And watching one of my husband's favorite stories with him. Or having a Margarita with my sister and sharing stories. Of our children, of our past, of our future. Of laughing with Cousin Deb and our 'remember when's'. And all my do-overs turn to nought. Because even though I might have tidied the rough edges of my life, it might have cost me a fortune in the good graces, the experiences (even from the hard knocks) and an untold number of stories made and shared and still being written.
It's the do-over month. But what I think I really want to do on the cusp of this cold, January morning, is ride into the New Year with a hope for New possibilities and complettions. Think I'll pull up my boots, and tell a few stories.
(Please join me with a great host of wonderful writers at Books Alive in Panama City, Florida February 1 on the FSU campus. I'll be speaking at 9
I am bona fide sick. And been stuck that way for what seems a month. (Cough, cough, cough.) My family is quite sick of me being sick and husband and now, cousin Deb have come down sick and they are trying to pin the blame on me.
"Hey, I tell them, there are other, (cough, cough,) sick people, (cough, cough,) in this world.
And, it's almost Thanksgiving. Which means it's almost Christmas. And, I am so very, happy. Mostly. Really.
Particularly, for an Eyore child. (I have a beautiful little book on my desk - 'Eeyore Be Happy' that sits next to a little pensively smiling stuffed Eeyore courtesy of that great reader Denise Mitchell to remind me to be - happy, happy, happy.)
And while I'm not all Tiggerish crazy happy, in the middle of this messy life and struggling to accomplish all running on a quarter tank of well, I am still pleasantly peaceful. I made it to Florida to gather Mom, her mighty little Scottish terrior Duncan, and her things and return to Nashville. We had an uneventful eight hours or so on the road. No breakdowns. No bad weather. But hours full of stories.
I would ask Mom one question and she would answer. In the quiet, rolling miles, that uninterrumpted space that road trips provide, she was able to fully answer me. To remember things that she hadn't thought about in years. And to take the time to actually finish the story.
These are stories I may never hear again and I try to tap them down to memory, to hold on tight, to help some of them get to the page. My mother is carrying an entire generation before her and I'm thinking how to protect all those tangilble things they saw, they carried, they left behind. I want my grandchildren to know what came not just before them through their parents, and through me, but the before, before. The stories or as Cormac McCarthy might refer to in, The Road as the light.
At my middlin' age of this beautiful between, I have begun to appreciate things in a new light. A grandbaby's giggle or silly dance, my mother watching the sunset or staring at the moonlight. And I'm so aware in the moment that I am standing there with her, holding her hand, staring into the sky that everything has become both now and forever. The moments timeless, and a bit heaven sent.
Except for this perpetual coughing. I think it comes from the pits of hell. And that it's also why God made good Kentucky bourbon.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.