Time for blogging… Sitting by the Duxbury bay view, slate water flattening into horizon line, in a house by the sea rented with six other Boston area poets and prose writers, every year for be it thirty seasons for them, maybe ten for me. A time to be in relation with notebook and computer screen for a week and also laugh til you hurt dinners that taste better than anything ingested at home.
I forgot to bring the graphic memoir work so I will ‘have to’ write anew. A new piece or the beginnings of that nonfiction book about growing up with… well, growing up with whatever it was I grew up with. Everybody’s got something, the name of a new memoir by a contemporary tv reporter, says it all.
It’s spring in New England, a very appreciated time, this year in particular after a heavy-duty winter. It’s also when everyone feels that pressure to do everything, plant everything, prune everything, mulch and fertilize and mow and deadhead and water and water and water. Everything. And then it will all die. Again. A metaphor for one’s life. All that energy spent and then we die.
I take a long walk on Duxbury outer beach at low tide, finding the winding path among the multicolored beach rocks, skirting the ebb and flow of the crashing surf. It’s on this walk, as it is along other walks, that I begin to imagine what I want to say in my next writing project. An amazing thing – that the right brain yearns for times spent doing other things than thinking about the particular problem to be solved. Times like in the shower, or driving to somewhere, or maybe digging in the garden. There it is, the very idea that has seemed so illusive. Maybe it’s not the best idea, nor the most unique, but it’s an idea appearing when there was none. The brain is limitlessly surprising.
I’ve been thinking of connection. Connection to children, to lovers, to friends, to family. They say it’s all that matters in the end. I say that it is a huge piece of what matters, but maybe it’s connection to oneself that trumps it all. I am working at listening and responding first to myself, and then going out and doing the same with others. Writing and art are one way. Blogging is another. Maybe sitting and hearing a heartbeat is another. It could be mine. It could be yours. Kabump. Kabump. Kabump.
Gloria Steinem spoke at Smith College last week at a conference about women. Many young women from India and Africa and Moslem nations attended. Gloria Steinem is as graceful a person as I’ve seen in ages. Stunning in her elegance and smarts. She spoke about domestic violence and its being the foundation of warring nations. About women being a threat to males because we own the means of reproduction, the only thing men can’t do. About the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria. Everything she said seemed pithy. I long to be pithy. Pithy. Pithy.
Another pithy woman, Irene Butter. A member of my manuscript group is writing a young adult book about Irene and invited us all to meet the protagonist of the story. Irene is a Holocaust survivor who was interned at two concentration camps and then survived. She became an economics professor at the University of Michigan and also began speaking at schools about her experience during the Holocaust. A most impressive woman who has won awards internationally, and most noteworthy has hundreds of letters from school children, mostly middle school aged, who tell her about the impact of her story on their lives. I wept watching a short documentary about her life, full of her speaking to these children and their enrapt faces. Inspirational.
I couldn’t find my library card amidst all the flotsam and jetsam in my wallet. I continued to rifle through the stack of cards… AAA, the free entry to all state parks I’d scored at age 62, the Mass General Hospital blue card for the mammogram services I didn’t trust my local hospital to handle correctly, the Holocaust Museum membership and the AARP card.
“So many cards, so much junk,” I announced, nodding my head back and forth.
“Yes, it’s true,” agreed the calm library staff member. He was young, fairly nondescript male (is that a requirement for library staff, that they be modest, not stand out?) wearing a plaid shirt of some sort and a pair of chinos, average height – what was that for a male, 5’9”? I was average for a woman, 5’5”.
I continued to look down into my wallet’s bowels.
“But some of it is beautiful,” he countered. He didn’t mean the stuff in my wallet. He meant in life.
And at this I looked up and saw him. He was a person, be damned, a particular, unique human being. We locked eyes and I smiled with pleasure.
“It’s true,” I said. “You are so very right.”
I had found a kindred spirit, a soul who gloried in the wonder. I would have wandered off into my own inner chatter about serendipity or karma or some such spiritual natter if he hadn’t continued.
“I was looking at this book the other day about moths. All these moths. Amazing…” He seemed spellbound.
“Oh,” I said. “I’m afraid of moths.”
“Hmmm,” he reconsidered. “They were just photos, not live moths…”
“Yes,” I said. “I can imagine they must be beautiful.” I did not want to rain on his parade.
“They were unique, mostly symmetrical patterns…”
“Artistic displays, huh?”
“Yes,” he answered.
I looked behind me. There was a small line forming. “When I first learned to drive I had to take my car on a freeway every day to drive to college,” I explained. “And all these moths would come flying at my face from inside the dashboard.”
“Oh, I see.” And with that we figured out how to handle my missing library card.
As I left with his instructions about what to do next time I came in, he threw out, “Just come find me. I’m on it.”
I felt incredibly taken care of. Think of it, my own private library person.
Two days earlier I had gone to get a bagel at the local coffee shop, and as I walked up to the counter, the young, gangly guy sporting one of those partial goatees called out, “Lisa, right?”
“Oh my god, you have such a good memory,” I said.
“Plain bagel, scooped and toasted with cream cheese,” he announced confidently and with a hint of pride.
“You are amazing. How can you remember everyone who comes in here?”
“There aren’t that many folks who ask for a scooped bagel.”
Was that it? When I got to the car and found a toasted scooped bagel with no cream cheese, I ran back to the café.
“I only have selective good memory,” the young man joked.
“Yes, I see,” I said with a smile. “But you select for the important information.”
I knew this was the truth. Something about getting older made it more than obvious. It was all, every damn thing, about relationships. Those with the people we love, but even those with the guy at the library and the coffee shop.
I had seen them after they had shown themselves as the specific individuals they were.
It is summer and, while spending time at the Cape, I remember the research article I recently read about the sound of water being soothing. No surprises there. I am lying down at the shore and listening to the waves hit. It’s windy at the beach. There are few visitors, scattered widely along the small dune leading down to the breakers. It’s the moment that the waves curl over, even here in the brown Atlantic, that I covet. I could sit and watch for eternity. Is it a universal pleasure? I know people who live on the coasts, both coasts, who never bother to come and see the glory. They live in Hollywood or Pasadena, or even Santa Monica, or Manhattan, Brooklyn, Newton and Cambridge. It mustn’t call their names.
It’s in my genes, the love of the sea. A childhood image… there I go, barreling into the waves, fearless, swimming for the cold of it, for the rocking and the floating and the I could swim to China and no one would notice of it, out, out past the jetties, past the little old men snoozing in the swells, hands folded over pregnant bellies, eyes closed, trusting the waves to pull them home. Out beyond the marathon swimmers doing their relentless crawls, one arm snaking past the next, head to the side, sea pouring out, the mouth open like a cistern, and then down into the deep again. Out past where the lifeguard could find me, so far that I couldn’t hear the whistle even if one thought to blow it. Would I have listened? Come back, you’re too far out, return to shore – the bullhorn warning, a big open mouthed pantomime I couldn’t have witnessed even if I tried. That far, I tell you.
You wouldn’t catch me attempting that today. This breezy moment at the shore I go up to the tush and no further. A lot has happened to tamp down my courageous streak. I think long and hard about death, about risk, about benefit and loss. I’m an actuary of life’s possibilities.
Shush, roar, quiet. Shush, roar, quiet. Silence. I lie still and write and read for hours. A different sort of connection… to the natural world, and to the self, I suppose. Something about the curl of the wave, the hiss of the water over pebbles, creating sand. It’s all epic. An epic story. I’m fine with that.