Reading: I managed to finish a chapter in Sophie’s World this weekend, about the Epicureans, Neoplatonism, and Mysticism. As I read, especially the mysticism section, I kept thinking about a friend who said, “I think our kids should read Sophie’s World because it will show them that there’s really nothing new—these same big ideas and philosophies just keep cycling around again and again.”
I’m also reading Enchanted, by Guy Kawasaki, for the book club at TheHighCalling.org. Distracted by my garden, I forgot to write and link something on Monday. Having finished the chapter on “How to Use Push Technology,” however, I’ve resolved to have someone snap another profile picture of me, preferably featuring a Duchenne smile. And next time I prepare for a message, I shall revisit his presentation guidelines.
Playing: To celebrate the end of school, the kids asked to go to The Children’s Museum. As we walked in: Jelly bean art.
Some of you have mentioned that you may begin posting a Curiosity Journal, as well. I’ll toss a Simply Linked tool up here for you to link up if you write one of your own. But when Monica starts up her Curiosity Journals again, I’ll send you back to her place. She started it; she should host.
And though I don’t have pictures to prove it, I’ll have you know I rode the carousel and played Pac-Man—this week’s attempt at play.
Learning: A friend of ours manages a young musician who comes from a financially successful family. He said it’s been hard to motivate her to do what it takes to move ahead in the music business because things have been relatively easy for her up till now. He said, “She needs to wake up in the morning and ask herself, ‘What can I do today to become a better musician?'” Apparently she doesn’t think that way.
She could take lessons to improve, but doesn’t see the need; she doesn’t even practice her instrument unless her manager has scheduled a practice session.
The past couple of days I’ve awakened with a variation of that line rolling around in my head: “What can I do today to become a better writer?”
I know that reading quality literature and practicing writing daily will help me to improve, but I’ve also taken a concrete step that prioritizes my work: I’ve relocated and reorganized my workspace.
The family was okay with letting me convert the dining room to office space.
It’s one of my favorite rooms in the house, with light streaming in through the big window.If this space works, we can close it off for privacy someday.
Plus, I gained an extra writing desk in front of the window.The kids can practice piano in the next room over instead of two feet behind my head. I’m tucked away from the main traffic flow, hopefully minimizing “pop-in” inquiries from the kids.
I don’t know where we’ll eat when company comes for dinner, but I already feel more productive as a writer and editor.
Reacting: Today is my grandma’s birthday. If she were alive, we’d be celebrating her 115th birthday. Yesterday I carried a basket of clothes to the back yard to hang them to dry. A mourning dove cooed, and I thought of Grandma’s house in a small town in southern Indiana. Those birds sent out their mournful song in the mornings in her neighborhood, and I’d often help her hang a load of laundry on the umbrella-style clothesline.
My parents would drop me off to spend a week with her in the summertime, and I loved waking up in the front bedroom under fresh sheets spread neatly on the big double bed, a loosely woven purple cotton blanket folded back. In the narrow, horizontal window, she displayed a collection of colored glass bottles. Light streamed in through the colors, morning magic. I blinked myself awake, rested and safe.
In my memory I can still walk through every room, from the baker’s cabinet in the corner of the kitchen to the day bed along the dining room wall; from the collection of gardening books on shelves in the living room, to the glass jar of leftover yarn balls sitting next to a chair in Grandma’s bedroom. It’s all still here, inside me.
I can still wander out the screen door and hear the spring stretch the wooden frame shut with a solid “thunk.” Under the grape arbor, I pluck a Concord grape, manipulating the skin off with my teeth to suck the sweet, cool insides and chew the sour skins before spitting them out. In my mind, Baby’s Breath still blooms white behind the garage and orange day lilies line the side of the house. For a while, my grandma made rag rugs on a loom that she set up on a small porch. I can see its threads and recall how the shuttle slipped across to bind the strips of cloth.
When Grandma passed away in 1987, the house was sold, remodeled and turned into a rental after the possessions were divided among my mom, uncles, cousins, brother and me. Though the structure remained, the home as I knew and loved it has been gone for decades. I haven’t set foot in it since.
Why, then, did it hurt so much to hear from my mom that the house burned down last year?
It has sat derelict all these months. Mom and Dad drove to visit the cemetery on Memorial Day last weekend. Mom snapped this photo of the beloved house, her childhood home.
Next to the porch where the loom once sat, under the window that once framed the gleaming display of colored glass, a pink rose bush blooms.
Writing: I don’t anticipate writing a memoir, but I do write from memories sometimes, as evidenced above. My poor memory concerns me—what if I have all the details wrong? As I think back to childhood, I find that with the exception of Grandma’s house, I can’t drag up various scenes as detailed as I’d like. I think I may have sort of turned off some part of my mind, choosing not to listen or mentally accept what was said at times. What I carry with me to this day ends up sort of sketchy.
But I think it must be important that I have carried the memory with me in a particular form, even if I haven’t retained the events as accurately as a reporter.
I felt somewhat affirmed when I heard a report on NPR about memoir:
Memoirs have to be true, says Lee Gutkind, a professor at Arizona State University and a specialist in creative nonfiction. But you can’t apply journalistic standards to a memoir — there’s a difference between facts and the truth.”It’s your story, that’s what a memoir is,” Gutkind says.”
It’s your own personal truth, and it is not necessarily factually accurate, and it’s not necessarily the truth that other people have possessed.”
It’s my story—my own personal truth—even if it isn’t necessarily factually accurate.
And so I may begin to write them down, these memories, these stories, incomplete or inaccurate as they may be. The child I once was experienced them in a way that made sense at the time, and I’ve carried the stories with me all this time. Several friends have urged me to get them down, so as part of my personal writing discipline, I intend to preserve some of these moments somewhere on the hard drive of my computer or the pages of my journal.
Photo of Grandma’s house taken by my mom. Jelly bean art and home office photos by Ann Kroeker.