memoir

The verb reckon, says my dictionary, means to calculate, be of the opinion of, or be sure of. It comes from the Old English (ge)recenian, meaning "to count up."

At this time of year, when summer has given way to autumn, I like to spend a little time reckoning with where I am in life. In that, I am using reckon in the old sense: to count up. As in, count up what I have achieved in the year as fall slides toward winter, toward shorter days and longer nights, my time to be more contemplative.

Back in March, I started two new projects: my running practice, and a total rewrite of Bless the Birds, the memoir I've been working on sporadically for the last, well, six years. 

The running's going well. I've settled into a routine of running two mornings a week, and I'm up to 3.7 miles now. I'm not fast, but I am running regularly, and that's what counts. 


Today, in typical spring-in-the-Rockies fashion, the weather pivoted 180 degrees from yesterday's sixty-five and sunny, into freezing rain, mist, sleet, snow, and then steady rain again. When I walked to the Post Office just a few minutes ago, the temperature was hovering just above freezing, and the cloud-blanket was beginning to clear, revealing new snow on the hillsides just above town. 


liminal - adj. [technical]

1. of or relating to an initial or transitional stage of a process

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a threshhold. 

origin: late 19th century; from Latin limen, limin 'threshhold' 

A little over two years ago when I finally got the Certificate of Occupancy for my little house and garage-studio, there were a few things undone still, details large and small I knew I'd want to finish at some point. But by then I'd been living with construction guys coming and going for nine months, and I just wanted peace and quiet to settle into the spaces I designed for myself and this new solo life. 

Richard and me--in shadows--at Carpenter Ranch on The Big Trip, our last trip together

Back in May, I started on one last revision of my new memoir, Bless the Birds, after receiving comments from editors at good publishing houses that they loved the story, but... But it was just too personal, but it was just too intense, but it just wasn't quite right for them. 

As Red's tires hummed a steady road-song on the long drive home yesterday afternoon, I found myself thinking about life as a pilgrimage, a journey undertaken for inspiration or enrichment. As a deliberate spiritual practice. 

Normally, I reserve my weekends for work around the house, or for creek and landscape restoration projects. This weekend, writing called me instead.

(The photo above shows Ditch Creek, my restoration project, right below my house. The shrub with the scarlet stems in the foreground was a seedling when Richard and I planted it 18 years ago. Now it shades the creek, nurturing aquatic insects and providing food for songbirds.)

If you've ever finished a big project of whatever sort, one that took months or years, and required a kind of intensity and focus that left you feeling hulled out at the end of each day, you know something of what I'm feeling after sending my new memoir, the story I call Bless the Birds off to my agent last Monday.

#amwriting: Yesterday at about four o'clock, I read the last sentence of what I think is the final draft of my memoir-in-progress, Bless the Birds. Okay, final except for the subtitle, and that I'm still tinkering with.

#amwriting, as the Twitter tag labels the act of creating story from a blank page. Yesterday, nearly eleven weeks after I began this deep revision of my memoir, Bless the Birds, I wrote an entirely new ending for the book. One that fittingly circles around to the place where the story begins.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  —Buddhist saying

 

Yellow pear tomatoes, round red stupice, and oblong Pompeii romas, all from plants I grew with my own hands, thanks to Renee's Garden Seeds. Yellow pear tomatoes, round red Stupice, and oblong Pompeii romas, all from plants I grew with my own hands, thanks to
The last few leaves on Ruby's cottonwood. The last few leaves cling to the branches of Ruby's cottonwood behind Treehouse. They were still green last time I thought I was finished with this manuscript.
The sunset tonight when I started writing this blog post reminded me of the way we often begin a piece, tentatively, scribbling. The sunset tonight when I started writing this blog post--a scribbled beginning.

Whoever said writing is 90 percent revising had it right.

That's where I am with Bless the Birds. Revising. Oddly, I don't mind it. It's not easy, but I find each pass through the story satisfying. As I dig deeper and refine, I learn more too.

Last spring, I finished the initial draft of Bless the Birds, the memoir I've been working on about Richard's and my journey with his brain cancer. A journey I hope will show us all how to live with love even in--especially in--the most difficult times.

Sunrise at 7:52 a.m. near Winter Solstice. Sunrise at 7:52 a.m. near Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice, the day the sun "stands still" in its apparent journey southward, is the turning-point in my personal year.

My desk in Creek House--the two piles to the left of my computer are Bless the Birds.  My desk in Creek House--the two piles to the left of my computer are Bless the Birds.

Last week was my first full week at home. Monday morning, after the usual contractor consults, I pulled out my memoir-in-progress.