Sunday, January 29, 2006

Where They All Go

I struggle with the knowledge, as a writer and as an artist, that there are probably a finite number of pages I'll write in my life, and inevitably, too many things will be left out. My great-grandmother never looked any different to me. When I was born she was already in her sixties. She remained until she died that tiny, white-haired lady with shaking but strong fingers. I saw her crack a pecan open with her hands once.

This image came to me today while I was walking up Park Avenue. Motion always unhinges my brain: walking, rollercoasters, headlights beaming down a curving road. Even escalators. I thought about where to put that image. An essay? Fictionalize it, and turn it into something some character remembers? I thought about the surprise I felt when she squeezed the shell, and with what looked like no effort at all, it exploded in her palm.

Patience is really an invitation. This is a lesson I'm learning. You have to be satisfied with what you're creating in your own time. You have to trust that your method is the right method, and at the same time you have to be open to how that method might change, and also be changed by teachers and friends, by other books you read, by magazine articles and art exhibits.

You have to be okay with the fact that not everything will make it into the work. In telling you about my great-grandmother cracking the walnut open in her hands, are a hundred other images lost? A hundred-thousand? You have to trust that what comes is what comes. You have to let all the memories go where they go. If she and I were the only two people to ever share that moment, that has to be enough.

1 comment:

Your mom said...

You also saw those same hands make biscuits out of dough pillows that she kneaded unthinkingly and magically into cakes of sheer buttered bliss. Wouldn't we give our last full moonlit night for one of those lost treasures?