March Meditations

posted March 3, 2011

March. Sweet, heartbreaking March. Today started with promise, and the sheer lake of ice that is my backyard parking area got a gleen of melt on its surface, and I could see a time in the not-too-distant future when I wouldn’t have to worry about my children slipping and breaking their teeth (a strange obsession of mine.) And then this evening the wind is whipping up, flakes of snow are flying and I retreated into my warmest sweater and wool socks.

We had a fantastic retreat here this weekend. Writers braved the ice storms and any social anxiety to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and share what they had just written with the gang. My friend Kris McCue took some fabulous photos of our Saturday evening HooteNanny in which one amazing young writer revealed herself to be a master of the Nyckelharpa, an unusual Swedish instrument that is part lute, part violin (one plays it with a bow) and part harpsichord. Elle and she played every song Elle knows from her Suzuki Book One repertoire. Beth DeSombre and I accompanied (which was easy–all the songs are in A. To read Beth’s post on her experience at the retreat, check out her blog–and her music. She is wonderful!)

March brings something else for us this year too. This Friday would have been my mother-in-law’s birthday. As readers of this blog might remember, she died a year ago March 13, and we are experiencing what fellow writer Marilyn London-Ewing says is “yahrzeit” a Yiddish word meaning,”a year’s time.” It is a time of remembering; in the Jewish tradition, families light a candle and keep it lit for 24 hours while they say prayers. I feel as though our family is coming out of a dark time into the light, just as the sun is making herself more available to us here in the Northern Hemisphere. As D.H. Lawrence writes in his poem “Shadows,”
…and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and
snatches of renewal
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet
new, strange flowers
such as my life has not brought forth before, new
blossoms of me––

Life goes by very quickly these days. The kids grow, master new powers, tyrants are overthrown in the Middle East, people push away last year’s iPads to get the new version; firm beliefs–ideas that used to work– within seeking individuals are out grown and tossed aside when they discover some new truth.

And my question of the day: John Gardner, the wonderful novelist/writing teacher was purported to say (by his student, my friend and fellow writer Elaine Apthorp), “What actually happens in life, and what you can convince a reader to believe, are two different things.”

Why is this?

The Comments

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  1. I think it’s that way because even the most “true” writing is always fitered through the lens of hindsight and colored by the author’s personal experiences. Additionally, people are prone to believe something they read, so authors who aim to deceive are able to do so.

  2. Have you ever been stuck listening to someone who has no sense of narrative tell a story? It’s so tedious, and sometimes it just makes no damn sense. The difference between “truth” and “narrative” comes, I think, in the ability to prioritize, order, and edit details. When you do that skillfully, your story, whether it is technically “true” or not, takes on a seamless forward motion that sounds like destiny.

    (Disclaimer: my perspective is heavily informed by the type of writing I do professionally, i.e. legal writing. It’s all geared toward getting my reader to see the facts my way and reach a particular conclusion.)

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