And just like that… I’m almost 50.
2004: My stomach issues post-hysterectomy require a trip to the Mayo Clinic. From there I go straight to Miraval–one of their ads caught my attention–but for my next spa visit, I will return to Canyon Ranch. Facebook launches in February. Martha Stewart is convicted of a felony in March. In July I go to the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop at Reed College and study with Dorothy Allison. She gives us homework and keeps us late. It’s amazing. I stay at the RiverPlace Hotel in Portland. Each evening, in an outdoor amphitheater where they serve wine, I listen to Mark Strand or Abigail Thomas or Denis Johnson or James Salter… It’s like getting to meet superheroes. I subscribe to One Story–my first issue arrives–#43. I love it. Other journals come and go. One Story is a constant. At the kids’ school, I do the minimum; I’m not looking for extra work. And I hate meetings. But when they ask me to be in charge of something I care about, I say yes. The theme of Literature Live 2004 is “Narratives of Adventure.” We choose Erik Weihenmayer’s Touch the Top of the World as the group read. It’s the story of Erik’s dream to climb Mount Everest in spite of his blindness. At the beginning of the school year, I give all the teachers Idea Packets. For the event in November, Erik’s father is our special guest. We have a contest for the best questions to ask him–class by class. We show the documentary, Farther Than the Eye Can See. The students write about their own adventures, and we collect the stories into booklets, print them, and give one a copy. I’m writing stories and still revising my first novel. I read 50 books this year–the highlights being John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which I have never read before, and May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude, which I will re-read many times.
She sees that she has before her an important task: to understand that all the things that happened in her life happened to her. That she is the same person who was born, was a child, a girl, a young woman, and now she is old. That there is some line running through her body like a wick.
Mary Gordon, The Rest of Life
One of the big things that jump out from reading these entries – where did youI find the time to read so much? Only by it becoming LIFE itself, right?
Yes! But honestly I have no idea where I found the time. I usually read before bed, but I must have been reading during the day too back then… Which I for sure did at the beach and on vacations. But other than that, I can’t call up any specifics. In later years the more I write, the less I read. It will be the last thing I want to do at the end of a day working with words. Which is sad.
I, too, am amazed by the number of books you managed to read over the years! How did you keep up with the number of books you read? I am just amazed. I can’t seem to find the time to read for pleasure, unless it’s summer break. I read a LOT before I remarried. My husband hates for a light to be on while he’s sleeping. (I’m convinced that his eyelids are too thin…), so I can’t read myself to sleep like I used to do. Oh well, the tradeoff is worth it. 🙂
I kept a list–I kept lists of everything. Cal hates for a light to be on too–but the kindle light is so dim it doesn’t bother him as much–and no noise turning pages : )
Also, I want to read more Steinbeck now. I read The Grapes of Wrath in high school… LOVED IT. I also remember East of Eden being on TV when I was a kid, and my mom wouldn’t let me stay up and watch it. Must have been risque at times? I should read it now to find out. 🙂
I loved The Grapes of Wrath too, but I had never read East of Eden. I read it at the beach and could not put it down. But I don’t want to spoil it for you!
congrats on your upcoming next decade – what a lot of literacy play and practice you’ve had – wonderful
I’m 47 now and I felt exactly the same way when the day came, that I was officially “almost 50.” Still not sure how to feel about that except to just practice acceptance. whatever that means. I think it means scowling.
The May Sarton book is memoir? If you’ve read it that many times I will have to try it. I gobbled East of Eden in high school–I remember I found it so irresistible I would literally hold it open low behind a student’s head but keep my own head high and look up a lot so the teacher wouldn’t guess I was reading. Even then I was really interested in the form of that book–remember the occasional vignettes and brief character sketches he’d sandwich between big sections? Or am I imagining that??
I didn’t know you’d been to a Tin House conference–HAVE YOU DONE EVERYTHING AND MET EVERYONE?? I’m glad to get this chance to hobnob vicariously through these posts…. (Which is truer than I let on–the implication that I would ever do all this people-ing you’ve done, even if I had the opportunity, well, HA. I can ONLY hobnob virtually. So thanks!)
I have to assume you’ve read Into Thin Air? That book has a strange hold on me. I’ve read it 4 times and I can’t figure out why. I finally wrote a story about an ordinary woman claiming Everest and I’m hoping that’s tied it off.
Oh, look, here comes another very attractive number, so many lines AND curves–48!
Your memory about the books you read is way superior to mine… Once I start the next book, the last one is gone. I hate that.
Going to all these conferences was like going to rock concerts. It was so magical to be in the vicinity of these authors whose books I’d read and to hear them read.
And I’d forgotten you were so much younger than me…
Oh, there’s barely an eye-blink between us! As for remembering books, I mostly remember references to food, no kidding. I still long for the hot chocolate and rolls in What Maisie Knew, and that plum cake in the Dubliners story about the poor lady who’s visiting her family on her one day off and leaves the cake on the bus. One day I will make the cake I imagined from Joyce’s description. Mmm….
I, too, revisited Journal of a Solitude for many years, at about the same age as you, I think. Have not read it for more than a decade, if I recall correctly. Maybe longer.
I am enjoying these moments–years that they are–of your life. It is such a good story. Already, I don’t want it to end.
Thanks for reading, Karen. I appreciate your words. And I don’t want it to end either : )