May 31, 2007
For the past six months, I’ve been challenged in managing my time like never before, with the fulfillment of a lifelong dream – I’ve become the editor of the community newspaper. With this position, I knew my marketing time and travel would be severely cut, but I resolved that my two oldest friends, writing and singing, would not be abandoned. I was warned that my new job would “eat me up” and I determined to set benchmarks to prevent that from happening. The first was to eat one meal a day with my husband. Three months later I added the “privilege” of taking two days off in a row at least once a month.
Now I’m at the six-month mark and I’m doing this! I’m managing, but as the phenomenon of turning into your parents and the price of avoiding it is “constant vigilance,” I could say the same about finding time in the life of a small-town journalist. Or maybe it’s not finding the time, but identifying the time. Maybe it’s just being better organized. It’s a new pleasure to contemplate the week ahead and choose what reward or retreat I’ll indulge in each day – a play, a meal, a walk, a singing session, a book? Compartmentalizing and deadlines have been my friends as I work towards goals, and now I find that they’re even more important. I’m writing all the time, and talking to people, and feel more than satisfied. I still sing in my choirs and I have exercised patience and attention more than ever before. I go for walks to ocean beaches and through forests to mountaintops regularly. I treat myself to reading about one book a month, more or less the same amount that I read before. I’ve cut down my reading on the Internet. I do so much computer-gazing at work that I avoid it at home. I’m gazing off more into the distance or shutting my eyes as I work on the computer, trying not to fixate on the screen. I won’t deny that creative writing and Port Gamble Publishing have gotten less of my attention. I’ve joined a writers group and confess to envy mixed with my congratulation of another member who’s recently had her book published by a reputable, mid-sized publisher. But as I still enjoy walking, singing, reading and conversation, I also require a time a place, a respite from everything else to just write – freely, stupidly, whinily, truthfully — and to remember the “olden days” and the wealth and freedom of not paying attention every minute, of not always being the agent of my own destiny, but waiting for someone else to authorize (authorize, I never thought of the irony of that word with writing before) what I’m to do. I participate in a memoir-writing group and realize I am still in search of the organizing principle for my book, The Wild and Holy Child. Is it the sacraments of the Catholic Church, as I first thought, or is it stream-of-consciousness style poetry, or would random snapshots of people a la Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio work best? I love to write, I love to experience the profound satisfaction of “nailing it” so that others can find comfort and beauty and recognition in what I publish. And I’m still a seeker. I doubt I’ll ever feel total legitimacy, except in what I commit to pen and paper, or fingertip to keyboard. My life, like that of most people, is practice of the techniques and art of balance.
Through books I’ve found a wonderful entree into worlds and thoughts I may never experience on my own. Yet I ponder what makes some publications (in the broad sense, including movies, songs, blogs, as well as books, newspapers, and magazines) widespread while others languish unseen, unheard, untalked-about?
While Al Gore’s movie was undoubtedly helped by his profile as President-Elect, and Chief Sealth’s statement has been passed down through the last century to those of us who see ourselves as stewards of the earth, lesser-known authors haunt me with their valid and beautifully-written books.
Jonathan White’s Talking on the Water: Conversations about Nature and Creativity, published in 1994, just came to my attention. White interviewed giants of the conservancy and environmental movements, including a descendant of Chief Sealth, the founder of the Sierra Club, poets, novelists, and anthropologists, all in the interest of asking questions, of furthering a vital conversation.
I picked up This Fiery Night by Joan Vatsek at a used-book sale, intrigued by the 50s-ish cover drawing of fez-covered men in long robes running through a street scene. This forgotten book, published in 1956, relates the drama and viewpoints of various communities as the Muslim Brotherhood rose to challenge British and French colonial interests, with the Soviet influence emerging. The book describes the disparate segments of the population through individual viewpoints and the turmoil and violence as Egyptian nationalism and self-determination gained power.
Another little-known book, Summer Mockery by Helen Weber, describes the racial unrest following a nightclub shooting in Milwaukee, after which a police officer was also killed. Riots followed in which two more people were killed, and Weber was instrumental in the investigation which followed, interviewing those participants arrested during that time. Since the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle in 1999, U.S. riots are a thing of the past, but as we watch others around the world protesting, this book describes the injustices and frustration that U.S. citizens experienced that now inflame much of the world.
I’m also exploring the trend towards publishing smaller, essay-style books, having come across two excellent prospects: a graduation advisory essay, and a retrospective of Peace Corps days in India. Another inspiration is a retelling of Romeo and Julia with the feuding families being sect-style Christians and unreformed Hippies – the ideas just never stop coming.
And my latest read is Lincoln’s Sword by Douglas Wilson. One of this book’s themes is Lincoln’s ability to write midst the interruptions of war and the presidency – another reason he’s my hero.
Summer beckons. Here’s my schedule for the next few month. I hope to see you at some of these events: June 9 “Celebrate Publishing” Writers Roundtable, Orcas Island Public Library 1 – 3 p.m. June 20 Annual meeting of Columbia City book club, Nola’s Restaurant, Bainbridge Island, 6 p.m. June 21 Presentation at BPNW monthly meeting “Dirty Little Secrets and Some Bright Lights” about small-time publishing. Good Shepherd Center, 50th and Wallingford, Seattle, 4 – 6 p.m. July 31 Madison AL book club meeting, Indianola Country Store, Indianola, WA – 7 p.m. August 13 Friends of the Library Book Fair, Eastsound WA
Also, check out the new links on my website, www.FishermansQuilt.com – beautiful photographs of Nora’s world in Alaska. I hope summer is easy and fruitful for all of us!