Hello, Ceiling

2020-12-13T16:49:43-08:00Categories: arts, brain, Creative, creative aging, dementia, faith and doubt, family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, midlife, Seattle, writing|Tags: , , , , , , |

“Mom is trying to see a bug on the ceiling using binoculars,” my husband texted our grownup children recently. “Should we be concerned?” “The pandemic has altered everyone’s perspectives in different ways,” my daughter responded. “Or is she just delirious from her reading??” Among the many first-ever virtual experiences I had this year was to participate in an online literary reading hosted by About Place Journal. I was thrilled that they had published my essay, "Regeneration," and equally thrilled to be part of the reading. Alas, we had technical problems. The show did go on, but it was stressful. Remember Willie Nelson’s classic breakup song, “Hello, Walls?” --In which he talks to the walls, and the window (“is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane?”) and, finally, the ceiling? (“I’m gonna stare at you awhile.”) In the final verse, he addresses them all: “We gotta all stick together or else I’ll lose my mind.” Pandemic Winter: it’s a little cozier than Pandemic Summer, isn’t it? Me. My laptop. My walls, windows and ceiling. After the tech-trauma of our reading, I guess I just wanted to figure out something in my tiny world, like: what the heck is that winged insect on our ceiling? Instead, it became kind of a Lucy Lucy Lucy moment of hilarity, which really was much more cathartic than actually figuring out what the creature was. (A moth?) And I learned something: binoculars don’t really work very well for indoor wildlife viewing. As I wrote about in my last post, six whole [...]

Emotional Truth: Teaching Memoir in the Time of Trump

2020-02-29T10:33:18-08:00Categories: arts, brain, Creative, creative aging, featured posts, memoir, politics, writing|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sixteen years ago, on Leap Year Day, my mathematically gifted brother left this world. Felled by glioblastoma, he did not have much choice in the timing of his death. But he did have a flair for drama, and it may have pleased him to give a parting nod to the beauty of numbers. The fact is that he died on February 29, 2004. The emotional truth is that he died not on any old dreary winter day, but on a numerically elegant date that only happens every four years. We memoir writers like to talk about seeking, and writing, the emotional truth. It’s an intuitive concept; more what you feel than what you think. Yes, you tell yourself, when you feel you’ve got it right: what I’ve written is what happened, and why it mattered. Or no, you sigh as you stare at the words on the screen: no, I’m not telling it right. I’m holding back. Or telling the wrong story. Or writing around the heart of the matter, instead of into it. Here’s a famous example of emotional truth, from Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast: “I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again,” Hemingway wrote, of a woman who walked in to the café where he was writing; a woman he still remembered three decades later. “You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.” When I teach memoir [...]

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