2002: For her 21st birthday, I take Kathleen to Canyon Ranch. It’s snowing as we board the plane in Atlanta. As the boarding process continues, it snows harder. We pull back and sit on the runway. The captain comes on and says, “I have bad news and worse news. We’re 37th for de-icing and the flight crew’s hours will expire before we can take off.” We continue to sit there. The captain again, “There are no open gates.” At one am, seven hours after we pushed back, they find us a gate. I think we can drive to Birmingham, where it’s not snowing, and fly from there. I back out of our parking space and skid across the the lot. I pull back in, and we go back inside, where we get in a line the length of the Atlanta Airport. It’s a long night. Sometime the next day we arrive in Tucson without our bags. While we’re there, I swim and run, working on form. I’m training to do each of the triathlons again this year. Howard Norman reads my entire manuscript and sends me 8 pages of handwritten notes. We have a phone conference. I start another revision. On my birthday, the journal One Story publishes its first story. I return to the New York State Summer Writers Institute–my teachers are Andrea Barrett and Howard Norman (for a second year). Andrea waves her hand in the air as she says once she finds out what a story is about, she goes back to the beginning to comb that thread through. While I’m there, I see the passionate Melissa Etheridge in concert at the outdoor arena of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I make the mistake of workshopping the beginning of a new novel I’ve spent almost no time on. Those pages are still in a drawer. I will read 57 books this year–up 3 from last year. My goal is to read one classic every winter. Last year it was Anna Karenina, a re-read. This year, it’s Bleak House for the first time. I decide to reread The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter now that I’m an adult, now that I live in the place Carson McCullers was born, and the place she was living while she wrote it, now that I’m a writer. It’s stunning. For my novel, I read Matisse on Art by Jack Flam. I didn’t know Matisse wrote, and I fall in love with his words.

Underlying this succession of moments which constitutes the superficial existence of beings and things, and which is continually modifying and transforming them, one can search for a truer, more essential character, which the artist will seize so that he may give to reality a more lasting interpretation.

15 days to 60


Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver