when the sun drips down bedding heavy behind
the front of your dress all shadowy lined
and the droning engine throbs in time
with your beating heart . . .
(comments off - sexy, blog-incompatible version here)
I tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall . . .
Sorry about yesterday. I don’t usually post unless I have some time to hang out in the comments section with my buddies, but the day got away from me. You know how it is.
I’m going to take an internet break for a week or three and spend some time focusing on my work. Currently I’m choreographing the first sex scene and berating myself for whatever horrible kink in my mind drives me to write this kind of thing. Please tell me you have felt this way about your writing. Please tell me you’ve gone all the way with your shame. Tell me you’ve written that story, that scene, that thread of dialogue you can’t bear to show another person because therein lie the clues to who you really are, and tell me you showed it anyway. Tell me you sent your opinion out like a virus. Say you will like me even if you read what I think. Even if it’s not correct. Even if size does, god help me, matter. Tell me I will not be an outcast on humanity’s island because I can’t tell the difference between anger and lust, because I think women like to put up a fight and man’s driving motive is to rule his little corner of the world. Assure me, I beg of you, that you’ve got some whacked-out beliefs of your own regarding the human condition and the many ways in which we screw each other over. Say you don’t mind if I go there.
Scale of 1-10: Where are you on the shame meter?
All my kids are in the house this morning. It’s strange to have the teens here as visitors, suitcases in the guest room, folded-up quilts at the foot of the bed. Yesterday I took them (of course) to Powell’s, then to the vintage shops and lunch at Deschutes, very touristy. We are finding a new equilibrium as adults in the world together. I am still their mother, of course. I’ll be here for whatever they need. But I didn’t offer the house as a residence or beg them to move to Portland as I thought I would. That hand has been played. Portland is and always has been my dream, and they have dreams of their own, and needs and plans and big bright ideas for what their futures may hold. I can accept that. I can buy their plane tickets and reel them in at Christmas and we’ll bake cookies and decorate the tree and shop for odd little gifts to wrap and tuck underneath, and in the meantime there are the nine hundred internet means for keeping in touch. There are care packages to send and phone calls to make. There are lives to lead, for all of us.
Tomorrow I will work on my manuscript. I’ll wash the sheets and deflate the air mattress. Restock the cupboards and cook a dinner for three. Life will resume along its current trajectory and I’ll get back to work. And if the bedroom looks too empty when I pass by, I’ll close the door and crank up the Fleetwood Mac and try like hell to remember that mothering is about more than the wing and the nest.
How do you handle change?
When my sister was here we spent some time at Powell’s. I came away with a couple of gorgeous new decorating books: Modern Vintage and Flea Market Style. It’s been a while since I’ve paid much attention to interior design, but these books made me stop and realize how good things look right now. I love the secondhand chic, mix-and-match bohemian thing with modern lines and plenty of kitsch. I’d happily live in any of these rooms.
Our rooms are looking pretty sparse at the moment, what with the move and my tendency to avoid collections. But the style of the region has reawakened my nest-feathering instincts and I find myself craving some clutter. Suddenly I’m on the hunt for colored Christmas lights and linen tablecloths, banged-up mirrors and old silk scarves. Yesterday I scored a colorful weaving from a lady whose parents brought it home from Mexico in the 40s. The day before that, two down pillows embroidered with flowers. I usually hate shopping, but I think I’ve discovered the joys of junking. I think this is part of a re-imagining of the way we’re going to live, here in Portlandia. Whatever the case, you’re looking at my new hobby.
My mother is rubbing her hands with glee; she’s coming out to stay next month, and for the first time ever, she won’t have to talk me into stopping for a yard sale.
What are your prized possessions, and where did you get them?
This morning I drove my sister and her daughter to the airport. I’ve been laughing and talking for three days straight, in a way that only happens when my sister is around. She’s the one person who will travel with me from the cradle to the grave, the person with whom I can have a five-second conversation in which no words are spoken, but advice is offered and answered and argued and resolved by means of eye contact alone. With my sister, silliness is unavoidable (dying to tell the marshmallow story, Jen, but a promise is a promise) and adventure is optional. We can putz around the kitchen or get hopelessly lost in the suburbs of Portland, drink lavender cosmos at a riverside bar or walk laps around our neighborhood park, and we’ll spend the hours perfectly entertained in each other’s company.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. We are seventeen months apart, childhood rivals for mommy’s affection. I watched her prepare for her role as Betsy Ross in the school play with such bitter envy in my heart that I appropriated the memory as if it were my own; to this day I see myself on center stage in Mom’s homemade bonnet and apron, fake-stitching the stars and stripes in time to the piccolo, when in reality I was eating my little heart out from my seat in the fifth row. (Which may explain the time I carved her initials in our dining room table in a diabolical attempt to incriminate her.) You’d understand in my place. She had the pink fake-fur beanbag, the Farrah Fawcett hair, Chemin de Fer jeans with laces up the back. Her skin didn’t break out. She could play hacky sack. She was a rebel in liquid eyeliner, banging her head to the Scorpions and smoking with the big kids. I was a dark little emo chick who could not make the boys understand just how easy I wanted to be. Oh, big sister. I stuffed my bra full of cotton balls, trying to keep up.
We are grown women now and the playing field has long since leveled out. But admiring my sister is a lifelong habit, as comfortable and homey as my mother’s kitchen. I wish I didn’t have to do it from afar.
What’s it like with your siblings, then and now?
I am sitting at my window with a lap full of pages. Outside, a crow lands on the street lamp, surveys the neighborhood with a regal black brow. My coffee’s gone cold and my son is talking to himself upstairs; when I checked on him earlier he had a stick in hand and was muttering threats to an imaginary opponent: Back off, just back OFF. Two books are beside me: Heart Sick and The Kingdom of Childhood, and on top of them a plate with two pieces of peach and a blackberry slick with agave, the last bites of breakfast left to eat. The light is soft today and gray, the kind of light that comes from everywhere and nowhere at once, weak smudgy light that leaves the eye sockets in pools of shadow. It’s too dim to read. My index cards are crooked. My hair is wet and my feet are bare–one warm, tucked under my thigh, the other chilling on the footrest. I switch them and put on my glasses. Two men are playing tennis across the street, and one of them drops his racket. Around the corner, I hear a basketball, thunk thunk thunk on the pavement. I need to buy copy paper, a gallon of milk, thumbtacks for the (crooked) index cards. I hope my husband gets that job he’s up for, I hope he lets me get on top. I hope I will be pretty again someday, but the 8-ball says outlook not so good and the crow has flown away.
What are you thinking?
Some good things happened over the weekend. We had dinner with Suzy and her crew–our first company in the new house. (Gazpacho and sammies, if you’re wondering. Peach-blueberry crumble for dessert.) My little guy finally had a partner for Minecraft, and the adults had some great conversations about . . . Well, I don’t know what the guys talked about, because I kept dragging Suzy away to have her all to myself. Which is greedy and un-hostessy, but if you know Suzy you’ll understand.
Another happy thing: I’m off and running with the next book. No, really, this time it’s true. I spent Sunday filling index cards with scenes, laid them out all over the floor, then stuck them up on my bulletin board in what could actually pass for order. There seem to be two doorways, three character arcs, a couple of murders and a fair amount of sex (marked with little pink flags for even distribution). Because I’m a big girl, I even have a premise–Obsessive love leads to murder–and have worked this into each thread of the story, so that love of person, place, and thing all lead to destruction in the end. Ever the optimistic world view.
I sat around yesterday nursing a migraine and congratulating myself for my pre-production work on this novel. There’s a chance this time around that I will begin from the right place, scrutinizing every scene to make sure it jives with the story. I won’t have to get four drafts in before I begin to write what I’m writing about. I have a premise, goddamnit. I am armed and dangerous.
This morning I threw down a thousand words. Skipped right over the gazpacho introductions to the peach-crumble sexy bits.
Some habits are hard to break.
What about you? Got premise?
P.S. Congratulations to our own Erika Marks on her new two-book deal with NAL!
A while back I read another writer’s impression of publishing a book: it’s like carrying a bucket of water to the sea. There’s something so perfect about that analogy. The loneliness, the hope, the utter unnecessity of the act. In an ocean of words and ideas, characters and phrases and stories, each of us has only a bucket to contribute. And once we pour out our offering, what is left but an empty plastic pail, waiting to be filled again, one drop at a time.
Does it ever bother you? Having put everything you have into a piece of work, do you ever feel a pang of regret that there’s already so much out there, and your hard-won bucket of words is as puny and insignificant as a bubble on the surf. Or do you revel in the idea of being part of the conversation, maybe only a small part but it doesn’t matter. You’re in there. And after all, the beaches are yours to enjoy whenever you want to take a dip.
How do you feel about the size of the ocean?