Yesterday, I had dinner with two friends. Instead of the planned frittata which morphed into an omelet, we wound up with angel hair pasta, blue potatoes, greens & cookies. Only the potatoes, for me, struck out. Cozied by wine, I asked to read an excerpt of my novel-in-progress. Unfair question. I read what I haven’t ever read aloud, and the words felt odd, too slow on my tongue at times. After thinking I was near completion, I scrapped two-thirds of the manuscript and began again. I am using quotations from Virginia Woolf to help me, she who wrote one of the most devastating lines in literature: Mr. Ramsey, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his arms out, but Mrs. Ramsey having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty.
Can one write after this? Once in the first class I taught professionally, and miserably, a young boy came up to me after Winter Break and said, Thank You, for Virginia Woolf. This is why I teach.
My tenure such as it is at Naropa ends this Spring. I don’t know what lies ahead. Some people are more graceful with their exits, saving their goodbyes until the end. But as Joan Didion taught, you need to go to the beginning to arrive at the end.
In 2004, I packed my car with a friend, and we drove from Sag Harbor to Boulder. I thought I was striking out, leaving teaching behind, starting anew. Of course I wasn’t, because I found adjunct work almost immediately. A friend said, becoming an adjunct isn’t pretty, and it wasn’t. I flew out to Cambridge for a low-res; to San Francisco for a once a month job; and Naropa welcomed me with open arms, or a deep bow. I taught Art of the Essay, a course I will end with this Spring, in addition to another on Creative Writing:An Introduction.
Seven years, if I do the math, fly by. Sometimes I still count on my fingers each fall to make sure. I did take a year off in the middle, but what will it be like without the structure of teaching? On my year off, I fell fiercely into yoga practice.
I have decided, as I did as soon as I returned to campus after my year off, I would devote myself to three things: my classes;yoga;and my book. Before my year off, I’d dine constantly with friends. After, hardly ever, even as I became more interested in all things food. So, yesterday, dinner with friends, and it felt like coming home to myself.
The other home, this place I’ve made my home, is where if I spill coffee on my laptop, I can get into the car and drive to the Apple Store in minutes and get help. That’s what I did five days ago, with success. Can home be defined by ease of living? A place were one is secure, at ease, ready to face an embarrassment of riches and hard times?
The photograph above is accompanied by poems on doors at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/mcbride/Doors.html
…I never thought how all the while
what I needed was so simply
a door, to the outside
a door, to the inside
from Becky Birtha
The Forbidden Poems
- A change in human character | Ian McMillan (guardian.co.uk)