Then the rain came

The cat knocked the plastic owl off the patio pot and its head separated from the body and rolled away, then lay in plain sight with the rain coming down, too hard to fix.

And in the morning I found a dry spot and walked to the lake to clear my head from the dust of the heater, the broken scenes from dreams the night before.

There was my grandmother on her chair in the corner by the lamplight. She was facing the TV, had grown to hate it. We turned off the TV and she started talking, and it was the same tape each time: we went from the past to the present and back again, but rarely the future. We said goodbye, and as I grew older and got into my car to leave, I started to wonder if it would be the last.

I lost the feeling, but didn’t feel enough to describe what it felt like to lose it. I took walks but didn’t turn anything up. There was the level of the lake that was lower and the quality of light and occasional fishermen, but it seemed like the life I saw, my world, had reduced down in response to my lack of feeling. Like one enabled the other.

The idea of moving to Dublin felt foolhardy. If I were honest, it was to feed this life-experience need for story material. I had enough material already, I was afraid of the work and confrontation that would come from doing it. Better to keep traveling, moving on.

I went to a memoir-writing class but it put me back in that student frame of mind, back to the early ’90s in Pennsylvania, a version of myself I didn’t want to recreate. And most of us writers had this vague, invisible quality. I sat right next to the others but didn’t take them in. We all wrote, like would-be magicians, tried spells, flickered in and out.

But there was one girl, I noticed her on the street before the class started. I did laps around the block: within a small radius I could visit three apartments I’d lived in 20 years ago. But I spotted her among the others criss-crossing with their coffees and cell phones, pegged her as a memoirist, and I was right. She was writing about abandonment, trying to reconcile that, and there was an urgency about her unlike the rest. And I thought, while memoir/art doesn’t necessarily require that level of urgency, surely it must help? And I’d lost that urgency about living and writing myself, found it wasn’t so easy to pick up.

The thing is, you can’t really appreciate it or describe it until it’s gone. The way to regain the lost feeling is to feel its absence, and if it’s a darkness (the lack of feeling) that comes with it, you have to feel your way through it step by step, to work your way back.

Fifteen memoirists walk into a memoir-writing class, and 15 walk out with different stories based on what they felt. 

Some have more stories than others, some just feel it more. The story is not what happened, it’s what you felt.







Categories: Memoir, writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Hey friend! Post really spoke to me. Been trying to write up this bear story and it just doesn’t feel right, like you wrote, feel no sense of urgency. And I can’t help but scoff at the irony, how can a freaking bear attack story be boring! Sometimes it feels like adulthood, and the “wisdom” that come with it really hamper the creative process. Sometimes I think the answer is handfuls of adderall and other self-destructive behavior. Anyway, good to see some more posts from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey friend is right! How can a bear story be boring? Good god, I feel you. Anything can be boring and the reverse is true, yes perhaps through the urgency/conflict etc. Sorry you’re struggling but don’t go to the dark side. I run along it myself but it doesn’t pay out really. That’s the confounding but cool thing about writing, you really have to figure it out yourself. Looking forward to seeing you post some more soon, too. Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget your umbrella.


  2. Hello, just wanted to comment, that I enjoyed reading this post, and in particular “We all wrote, like would-be magicians, tried spells, flickered in and out.” cheers, RPT

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really good observation about the urgency factor — something I’ve felt drifting away for quite a while now. Though it feels good, too, in a way. Nicer. Calmer. I probably don’t have that frothy, wild-eyed look I used to have, and it’s a lot more serene inside the old noodle too.

    But there’s always plenty to write about, if one has the inclination.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Amen to that, if one has the inclination. I’m feeling how awfully psychological the whole process is, not unusual but sure interesting to observe. And the only way out is to write your way out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a good insight there, on moving to Dublin. Traveling can be about going towards something, but it can also be about running away. I think I learned that from Bon Jovi, but it could have been Springsteen, I get my working class rockers from Jersey confused. Honestly, the thought of someone as talented as you sitting in a class seems a bit silly to me. Of course, that’s different from wanting to learn and improve, which should be the goal for all of us. But in my mind I see an oversized you sitting at a too-small desk in a room full of little people. Your particular magic has always been connecting feelings, plugging one into another and lighting things up.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That pic should be the cover of ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’

    So many memoirists. Not enough readers. The age old dilemma.


  6. you clearly have your stories within you and right around you, but get off track and forget at times, looking for another place to feed the beast. like dorothy in wizard of oz, it was within her all along, no need to trek to the emerald city to find it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Like Kevin, I’ve been drifting from the urgency, and that’s the best way to describe it too. Thanks for putting that in words. Instead, I’ve been editing my play, which is another kind of work, a different muscle, but still a workout.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interrogating the urgency is difficult. What does ‘need to write’ mean? Without a feeling core, it’s some kind of reportage, observation maybe. Expressing or expelling? Reflecting or renouncing?

    Thanks for making me think.

    Liked by 1 person

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