But Dierdre's question reminded me of something my son once said. His sister, then four years old and newly a reader, had just noticed a book in the house with her mom's name on it. She said, "Mommy, you wrote a book?" At which point my son, age seven, piped up excitedly, "Yes, she did write a book! Didn't you know? Mommy is famous, it's just that nobody knows it!" We still laugh about that. And it's still true.
|Truman Capote wrote his first novel at Yaddo.|
At Yaddo, I rose at seven each morning and walked up a hill to the next building for breakfast. All the artists in residence took meals together in a dark wood paneled dining room full of gracious antiques. After breakfast, we stopped by the kitchen to pick up lunch boxes that had already been packed for us, then went back to our studios to work. I had been assigned an expansive old world room with a wall of windows looking out onto the woods, a room I was told Truman Capote used to prefer. I would sit at the white-painted desk and write, or lie on the chaise and think, or wander the gardens allowing my characters to whisper what happened next, watching them play out the action across the screen of my brain, and it was the most comfortable I have ever felt in my skin, except for when I am mothering. I was working on my second novel at the time, the one that never got published because my editor back then found the homeless mother and child at the heart of it "too sad," and found one of the characters, a young hustler, "appalling." Yet never have I felt so in the flow of the creative process as I did in that place.
Appearances didn't matter. The men had stubble on their faces and the women barely combed their hair and our clothes were rumpled and often mismatched and it mattered not at all. We would crowd into each other's rooms late into the night, talking and laughing and reading from our work or showing short clips of our films, or we would troop to one of the artist's studios to view an installation or listen to a piece of music still being composed, and I remember feeling that these were my people, these were the ones who knew me at my core and I didn't even have to try and explain.
If I could go back there, I would write fiction again. I would reenter that world and allow it to claim me again fully. Until then, my concentration is too fractured and captured by all the things I want to capture it—my husband and children, my elders, family and friends—and also by the thing I often wish I could escape, the need to make a living, but of course the latter is necessary to support the former and that's the way it is and I don't rail at the fates about it, because I am so freakin blessed and I know it.
And so I blog because as my husband knows better than anyone if I don't write I will wither away. The gifts of blogging are unexpected. I can go to Paris. Or hold my breath at discoveries made in an art museum in Chicago. Or visit with friends in Ohio, Florida, New England, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, somewhere in Canada or Antigua or New Zealand or a gorgeous spot on the California coast where I can almost feel the spray of the surf on my skin. And this is where I have found the people who most remind me of that November at Yaddo. Everything is so immediate and relentlessly unfolding, life as it happens pierces right through, and this is how it is to be alive, to feel everything so keenly yet not come undone because there are people who even if they don't understand exactly are willing to bear witness. It is sustenance.