Monday, January 10, 2011

blessings in drag

so, when i returned home from that blissful visit back east, it felt as though the sky had fallen on my life in california. literally. the roof of the 12x12 was not built to withstand portlandesque climes, and two weeks of steady rain did it in. the leak, as fate would have it, was right above the cupboard I used to store my journals, novel drafts, and art portfolios.

for a week or so i lived in denial (and in de Nile, or so it seemed, as the leaking continued and a steady stream of water trickled not-so-soothingly across my floor), letting the scent of mildew build behind the closed cabinet doors. meanwhile, strained relations with the boys' father snapped outright, my grad application was due, and i inadvertently broke up with my boyfriend.

then i had one of my manic days. all morning i'd replanted the garden, unclogged the bathroom drain (YAY), finished edits on a book, cleaned out boxes of old clothes and toys to make room for the boxes of new clothes and toys we'd brought back, knit an overdue solstice hat for my 94-year-old grandmother, refurbished the compost pile, baked a batch of cookies, a pan of cornbread, and a tureen of soup. late afternoon found me twiddling my thumbs. it was time.

i opened all the windows and lit a stick of incense, but was still unprepared for the stench of mildew that wafted out of that cabinet. nothing was salvageable. old landscape designs, my favorite sketchbooks from a year in great britain, the manuscript of the only book i've ever written that i actually like. uh, liked. shoot. not to mention reams of old journals, years and years and years of a daily and prolific writing habit.

at first i just hauled the whole mess out to the recycling bin in two soggy armloads, wiped the cabinets down with simple green, and shut the doors. but at two in the morning i woke and ran to the bins to fish out my novel. i pinned each page to the clothesline until space ran out, then draped papers over the backs of chairs, along the walk (weighted with stones), over the bare branches of the fig tree. it looked like Wordsworth had t.p.'d the place.

in the morning they were all gone. every page. i'm thick, but this time i got it: LET THE PAST GO. it is gone.

i did mourn a bit longer...this is, after all, ME we're talking about...but in the end i began to feel lighter. i had dreaded sorting all that paperwork out before the move. i hadn't read most of those journals in years. and the amount of hard living i've done since i wrote that novel is worth its weight in plot points.

interestingly enough, the uppermost paper of the pile had been a rough draft of my personal statement/essay for my grad school application. i had been working on it for months, and i do my best thinking when i write by that was the only copy.

i sat down and wrote a new one in thirty minutes. i didn't even edit it, just sent it out. it was the truth. how much time should it take?

and then today, the roofers came to replace the lid of the 12x12. i felt like the star act in a fishbowl so i strapped anainn into his bike seat and took off on an unscripted adventure. we grazed on toyon berries and dandelion, rolled down hills, danced in a sea of sagebrush, laughed and napped and lay back in soft grass gazing at the sky. it was the best day i can remember. i have never loved anyone so much.

so i have learned to take my setbacks with a grain of salt. who knows what they will ripen into?


  1. I'm so impressed with you letting it go. I mean, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering if you would let it go... hey, I wasn't ready to let the novel go, and I haven't read it.

  2. Lovely... By the way, a friend of mine who just moved across the country recently burned her old journals and paper mementos from her younger years. She said it was very liberating... Maybe I'll be just as bold one day! Letting go!!!