As you might guess from the length of yesterday’s and today’s posts–the squares turning into rectangles–writing these short is getting more difficult. The years feel unwieldy now rather than obscure. I’m working to contain rather than to remember.
2008: I start the year excited about returning to Italy–this time to the Sirenland Writers Conference. It’s the perfect storm of writing conferences: Dani Shapiro plus Hannah Tinti of One Story plus Le Sirenuse–where Cal and I went on our honeymoon and where we returned on our 10th Anniversary and on our 15th. Dani’s husband Michael persuades me to join Facebook for access to the Sirenland group there, and just like that, I fall into Facebook. In February I begin my career as chauffeur to the stars by driving Richard Russo from Columbus, where he was speaking at the Library Foundation Dinner, to the Atlanta Airport. Then it’s off to Zion National Park in Utah for Pamfa–Pam’s writing group. In March my first novel is one of ten finalists in the Emory Goes Novel contest. I’m in Dani’s workshop at Sirenland, and I submit a section of novel #2. One day, as we climb 1700 old stone stairs to lunch, a sudden rain sends torrents of water cascading down beside us. And I’m not a foodie but oh, the food… Kathleen gets engaged–we will be adding another Sam to the family! Jack graduates. Cal and I see Allison Kraus and Robert Plant in concert at the outdoor amphitheater at Chastain Park in Atlanta. In August I go back to Pam’s ranch in Colorado. In the fall we settle Jack into Chapman University in Orange, CA, where he will study digital arts so he can create video games. And… we are down to one. Sam begins high school dreading four years of individual scrutiny. He continues the football thread as a backup quarterback. I start the countdown to no children at home. I also begin a conversation with Cal. I’m tired of living in Columbus. And I want to spend more time near water, at the beach I think. I write all the time–working on the new novel and on stories too. And I decide to start a blog. Within 24 hours of making the decision, it’s up and running. Which is unlike me. On September 29th, the stock market crashes–falling 777 points. I sit in my car at Publix listening to NPR as one bank after another fails. Amandah and I and the husbands hike the 23 miles of the Pine Mountain Trail not knowing it will be the last time. 51 books this year with so many highlights: Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather, Light in August by William Faulkner, and The Gathering by Anne Enright. In December “Into the Woods” is published in Storyglossia. When Coldplay sings Viva la Vida, I want to bounce up and down.
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
“Unwieldy rather than obscure.” I have been admiring your sharp memory all through these years. My mind doesn’t organize itself so finely. What happened when I was 51? I couldn’t really tell you…. I have no written records for most years, with the exception of a few trips. Where I can *start* to say at least some things that happened is when I begin posting to Flickr (photos). But what bands I went to hear live? Those will never be pinned down again, and some will be simply forgotten….
You might be able to piece together more than you would think. After all, I’m not relying on memory alone. I took on this project/series specifically to spend time with each of my years–not as a test of what I could remember but as a reason to remember. So I look back at our photos. I glance over my calendar. If no world events occur to me, I google what happened that year. And often a large event will remind me of what I was doing. I never kept a journal but I did keep lists–of the books I read, of how long it took us each year to hike the Pine Mt Trail, of all the computers we bought. And when I started using Spotify, I would start a playlist at the beginning of each year and add favorite songs along the way. And then there are certain personal events that stand out, and it doesn’t take much to place them–like what year a story was published. I think memories have to be dusted off from time to time or the particulars become murky and lost. Which is another reason to do a project like this. I’m enjoying your travel posts!
Even for you, that was a very packed year. MORE ON THE FOOD IN ITALY! Just ONE memory of something delicious, please??
Do you remember that first part of Song of the Lark, when she’s a little girl in her cold bedroom, and she talks of getting up with the early frost? I first read that in high school, where I grew up in VA, and I lingered over those words because I was so fascinated by the possibility of such cold temperatures. I remembered it well when we moved to Maine and I finally understood what it means to be genuinely cold.
The failing banks–terrifying. For a while there I wondered if we would be flung into another Great Depression. It seems we decided to put it off for about 10 years. Grit your teeth and hold on tight….
Little asymmetrical balls of fresh mozzarella and thin thin slices of parma ham that melt like butter on the tongue…
And no memory AT ALL of the Song of the Lark–I tell you, in and out.
YUM! yum yum yum
You’re cracking me up over what you supposedly don’t remember about the books you read. My MIL says the same thing. You’re both very, very busy, active people, whereas I am deeply sad if I’m not sitting or reclining the vast majority of my day, so that probably has something to do with it….