Connecting online, the velocity of the earth spinning blows my hair backwards. We are careening through space and history: blood-curdling screams, shouts of joy, a baby’s first giggle, lovers kissing, hot fudge dribbles, camel bells jingle, and radio static muffles the news. How can I rest? As the world groans and heaves with sorrow, as the excitement of hope ignites nations recreating themselves, as a new generation finds its voice, will I be one of those who will cross over the hilltop to the promised land or will my bones settle to dust in the wilderness? Is this choice mine to make?
Waking up after a short night’s rest, I wasn’t thinking about any of this; my brain felt fuzzy from lack of sleep. Two words came to me: “cloying” and “drizzled.” The sheets turned back revealed a pillow beckoning my return to sweet slumber. So, after my morning duties tending family, disrupting chaos by running “sweep” through the house collecting detritus, plates and cutlery to wash, re-stacking books and junk mail, dislodging dirty clothes from dark corners, launching the wash and the dishwasher, feeding the birds, taking out the recycles, feeding and outing the dogs, I had a choice: return to my cloying bed, my unwashed eyes yet yearning to slumber, or challenge myself to stay awake for another day of activity sleep-deprived. Passing by the bedroom door, I felt like Dorothy at the edge of the soporific poppy field on her way to Oz. Knowing her story, I resisted entering and thought about “drizzled.”
Over food, “drizzled” invites a voluptuous feeling of abandonment, acquiescing to the sumptuous delight of a titillated palate tingling with delightful sensations. To combat “cloying” I needed something “drizzled.” Not being much of a cook, and even less of one at dawn, I could only think of my best friend in Manhattan, JB, a gourmet cook, and how she would have found something worth drizzling. And there it was, sitting on my kitchen counter, a gift from her: fresh Greek honey from thyme blossoms.
Upon returning from Kefalonia, JB had mailed me a package containing farm-gathered honey from Sami and luxurious bergamot tea from her stopover in Paris. Bergamot, it turns out, grows along the Ionian coast of Italy, so the tea sweetened with honey produces a full-blown, Mediterranean balloon of seacoast sunshine ricocheting in space, stopping time, and leaving a cool, azure mint aftertaste you can feel hours later if you draw in your breath. Add to the experience, toasted baguette with sweet butter drizzled with honey et voilà, the cure for a thick-headed, hazy morn. Maybe I have tasted the promised land after all. May we ever renew each day with the good and sweet blessings of hope.
Working in academia, reading "my" satirists, I felt that I "knew" them. Maybe that is what good writing does, makes you feel a personal connection to the author the way the eyes of any portrait seem to "follow" you. But I felt their reality was more important than the dishes in the sink, kids squabbling, the car breaking down, and the brass band oom-pah-pahing down Main Street a block away. What grabbed my heart was a feeling of kinship with these writers -- not the critics, not the academic assessments, but the soul, the passion of the writer at work in a world gone mad. I identified with that. Over the years, professors told me, "You can really write!" and then critiqued whatever needed retooling to conform to the academic mold. I'm coming to terms with my writerly self to whom my practical self shouts, "Sit down and shut up!"
As for the dissertation re-write, it's been only slightly tweaked the past couple of weeks. I've combed through bibliography, looked at forthcoming conferences and who is writing what. Reading recent articles, few are the footnotes I find that reference texts written more than a year or two ago. What does that say about memory? Historicity? Continuity? The value of the critical canon? Perhaps the tsunami of current media causes people to forget that literary history harbors creatures and landscapes still undiscovered -- not only extant texts, but also extant meanings that our post-modernism shatters, deconstructs and reconfigures in its own temporal image. Drawn into kinship with the actual souls who wrote, I am revisiting not only their works, lives and ideas but also my own as I wrote my dissertation. It is not for popularity that I edit my little monster, but because the dead, or something alive in me, won't let me abandon the project.
Today, he was able to sit and talk a while, conscious, engaged. The lights were on and someone was home behind those big brown eyes of his that have been vacant all too often. He says, "I've gotta hang on and you've gotta become a famous novelist." Focusing beyond death, the precipice doesn't frighten him anymore. This is a tremendous victory.
I've always been the fearless one, well, except for heights. I challenged that with rock climbing. When I thought about my spouse, Custard the Dragon came to mind. He didn't realize his own true value or strength. My Beloved studied anthropology to make himself talk to people. He was a natural with little children, but grownups fundamentally frightened him. But as an Anthropologist, he had an excuse to interview them and find out their candid stories. As a Professor, he was Important because he was articulate and wrote interesting books. He had a little gold-plated sign with his name on the door to his Office. He went to Meetings.
As he loses bits of memory and physical adroitness, the veneer of his self-image tears away from his flesh, no longer clothes him in the comfort of socially acceptable behaviors. The curtain draws back to reveal the actor sans make-up or costume. His thin frame casts no shadow as the rafter spotlight engulfs him from a 90-degree angle. He sees not the audience, but himself, vulnerable, a soul scantily clothed in flesh. It is from this place that he becomes dauntless. Here, he does not cringe. And it from this frail, beating heart whose brown eyes, serene like a child's, gaze into mine that I feel the most fearless love I have ever known from him.
Write a brief bit of fiction using the prompt "Pepper."
Eldridge put pepper, salt and butter on his grits, not sugar and milk. “Damn Yankees” used sugar, sissifying grits into something akin to rice pudding. Eldridge’s grits stood up proud like Bald Mountain with a buttery lava core and flecked like a coon hound in zesty black pepper. On Saturdays, he would arise as usual at dawn, but added to the sunny-side up eggs sizzled in sausage grease, grits and Jimmy Dean’s a toast, splashing vodka into his morning orange juice from his stash under the front seat of the silver blue, ’62 Chevy Impala.
I have enjoyed the One-Minute Writer and C. Beth's steady supply of prompts. This weekly win prompted me to get my blog going. Thank you, C. Beth!