These days I am spending time trying to absorb everything. With Grey losing teeth all over the place I am desperate to soak up her smallness and sweetness before it disappears into tweenness. And I’m so worried that my lovely Atticus will melt into a stranger way too soon that I maybe smother him too much with love nibbles. I am trying to learn new things and see all the stuff there is to be seen and drink every blend of tea that Stauf’s carries and try every new flavor that Jeni’s comes out with. It’s a little overwhelming.
I have been writing A LOT in my personal journal, starting stories and jotting down characters’ conversations. I ask my professional friends questions like, “What would you say if one of your counseling clients told you about a sex dream she had” because that is the sort of character I’m dealing with, and I’m grossly under-prepared to write her story. I haven’t written longhand for YEARS, and I’ve not been so committed to a story for about that long, too. I should make it a much more regular habit because it is helping with my sanity level.
In this current stage of my life I have time to go to the library. I am reading all the time again, and I feel so much more like my old self because of it. And I’m reading good stuff, too, because I have time to enjoy the writing and not just the story. At my friend Jessica’s recommendation I picked up a few books by Jeanette Winterson. I finished Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in record time, and LOVED it. I worry at how much of this book might be autobiographical. I dog-eared quite a few pages in this book (yes, the library’s copy), so I could copy them out later. Here are a few for you that were so beautiful to me. Out of context they may not be as beautiful.
Describing a sudden, major shift in her relationship with her mother, the character Jeanette thinks to herself,
“She burnt a lot more than the letters that night in the backyard. I don’t think she knew. In her head she was still queen, but not my queen any more, not the White Queen any more. Walls protect and walls limit. It is the nature of walls that they should fall. That walls should fall is the consequence of blowing your own trumpet.”
And just after that she writes,
“At one time or another there will be a choice: you or the wall.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The City of Lost Chances is full of those who chose the wall.”
Gives me the shivers. She writes several times about the past and going home, both of which are intriguing topics for me. Those passages are too long, so I won’t copy them here. But it’s a really lovely book.
Also at Jessica’s prompting I read some of Anne Lamott’s fiction. I’ve read nearly all her non-fiction but only one of her novels, and again, that was ages ago. I picked up Joe Jones from the library and just can’t escape my loving feelings toward Lamott. I so enjoy how she captures her characters. I have no idea how in the world she manages to do it, but her words just work in the most magnificent way. The library is going to start banning me, what with all the turned down corners. I just can’t help it.
“You know why I like Eva so much, Louise? Because she’s like totally a lady. She’s just so neat, you know, she makes me want to start being shy.”
How many times have I thought like that about one of my friends?! The character Louise thinks earlier in the book “you ought to be in love with someone you wouldn’t mind being”, which pretty much describes every single one of my dearest friends. I love them each so much that I wouldn’t mind being them.
This bit had me cackling in bed so loud I woke up Daniel:
Jessie is the only devout Christian Louise has ever been able to stand. Wouldn’t that be interesting to be able to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? I mean, in your heart? It must bring on the sort of security one imagines in an infant marsupial. I’m more like–who was it who said that Unitarians are athiests without the courage of their convictions? I mean, I’m sure that Jesus was one of the Truly Sweet People, like Willie–I’m sure He stepped high over bugs. But that He rose from the dead? Jessie thinks so. But then again, Jessie believes that toasting a piece of bread reduces its calories by about one-third.
Seriously, I wish you would just read the book. Here’s one of my favorite bits from it. This one’s a little long, so let me preface. This is a story within the story. Louise (Lulu) wants desperately to call her ex, Joe Jones, and her friend/co-worker Willie is trying to convince her what a mistake that would be. Willie says,
“Don’t do it, Lulu. You’re setting yourself up. Somewhere down the road, he’ll break your heart again. You call him, man, that’s like ‘you fukker.’ Or like me and speed.”
“You fukker” is shorthand. Louise’s beloved uncle Duncan had been sober three months when his younger brother, Louise’s father, died.
“I need a buffer, baby,” he told Louise.
“But drinking doesn’t work for you–you end up in the toilet.”
“Because I always drink too much. My liver can only metabolize one and a half ounces of alcohol an hour, so if I stick to that, more or less, maybe sometimes just a little bit more. . .”
He had tried before to limit himself to an ounce and a half an hour, and she had seen him too many times when he’d had just a little bit more, but he was determined to try again. Six ounces of wine equals one and a half ounces of alcohol. He would limit himself to one bottle, to twenty-four ounces a night.
He kept a journal of the first night and showed it to Louise when he was sober again: “6:00, scared, but breathing again. 7:30, calm, smart, may not need whole bottle. 8:15, feel I will stride again. 8:45, last glass, want to sleep soon.” Then, in the scrawl of an angry child: “YOU FUKKER! YOU OPENED THE SECOND BOTTLE.”
Seriously, so many little ditties in this one. I truly, truly loved it. Did you get that yet?
So, life has been slow, but I have been very busy trying to just take it all in. I am trying to find little corners of my mind to clean out or dust off. Sooner or later all my pieces might come together. I’ll email friends back. I’ll write here more regularly. But at the moment I’m just soaking it up.
What are you doing these days? Or what are you reading?