NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 163 | December 24, 2008
Christmas to New Year’s (2009) ‘Memoir’ Dispatches:
It comes every year around this time from Carol, a plain blue postcard, filled with her thoughts. She was a writing student of mine at The Clearing here in Ellison Bay, WI more than twenty-five years ago. I think she came back again at least once within that same period of time (the ‘70’s?)…then, sort of disappeared, as so many of them do. So many never to be heard from again. But Carol would write occasional letters, detailed, in her own hand, always interesting, always engaged with the greater world of the human condition.
I’m not sure what I ‘taught’ her. A teacher of writing never is. I do know that with beginners (with all writers, in fact) I placed heavy emphasis on poetry, essay and story. Always story. And always poetry—which can make a story sing. While a teacher would like to think he presents a form for the writer to explore, practice, eventually inhabit with his or her own words, own life…it is not a comfort zone for everyone. All you can do is ‘show and tell’—encourage and hope.
I remember Carol as a very delicate woman, small, almost frail, In fact, I worried she was not in the best of health. What I loved about her was the strength she brought to the act of writing, her worship of feelings and ideas, her love of people, her diligent pursuit of getting everything down in her notebooks. (Always a good sign of a writer engaged.)
I’m not sure she ever published a story, an essay, a poem, a book. (If so, she probably wouldn’t mention it.) I’m not sure she works on a computer or has an e-mail address. If so, she’s never communicated it to me in all this time. Basics. Sometimes mystery is a good thing.
But my point (and reminder) here: There are all kinds of writers. And who’s to say one is more important than the other? Who’s to say that a homemade postcard from Carol is not just as valid, or more, than some one else’s published poem?
Maybe we don’t all have to be famous—or seek it. Maybe we just have to communicate. With honesty. With feeling.
I will probably read, write, tell, teach ‘story’ till the day my own ends.
Reading Carol’s postcard last night brought back so much of my own world, past and present. So many of the people I was fortunate enough to spend some time with in a landscape so conducive to story, to practice, to expanding our own lives with words. I am about to start a litany of names here…students/writers/friends I’ve lost contact with, lost through death, distance, turning toward different directions. There’s so much here to be said also about love—which is truly what the act of teaching is all about. But I’ll save those details for another time and place—another story, another book. It’s best we keep this story short, given this time of year, the winter season, all the beginnings and endings. —norb blei
We have heard the stories of the political candidates, and it’s time to tell the story of another year. Addressing my cards becomes a meditation as I write each name and think of you. My address book is a revolving-door record of all those whose stories are entwined with mine, and I say a prayer of gratitude that our lives are linked.
Threaded through the rhythm of daily life are the snags of sorting through “stuff” and the surprises and memories of traveling—a grandson’s first birthday, a sunset over Boston, a week in the green of rural Vermont (four-leaf clovers, a cow being milked, a canoe at dusk), the wedding quilt Mother made years ago when anticipating her granddaughter’ futures, flower girls scattering red rose petals in a daughter’s wedding, a Danish cousin who once read the Oz books to me, and magical days in Madison with family. We have all been enriched and inspired by each other’s stories.
Hearing about the pace and stresses of my children’s lives, I am grateful for the slower speed of retirement. Erick, Yumiko, Maria, and Kent moved from their noisy Boston high-rise to a quiet neighborhood in Newton where Maria started school and I once student-taught. In Vermont Jenny, Per, Solvei, and Aren are well settled in their new home and are committed to the cohousing way of life and shared resources. Ingrid and Joel live on Chicago’s South Side and were married on August 2 in a lovely chapel in Hyde Park. Ingrid in her white feather veil and wedding dress made from lace from a great-grandmother’s dress asked Joel, “Will you take flight with me?”
Looking up with hope to 2009, may we all move beyond our own limiting personal stories, weave them into a greater human story, and find the peace we pray for.
I hope all is well in Door! Peace, Carol
“We require story in order to
link our lives with each other.”
“Americans want a narrative
arc to their lives.”
“Story is how we make sense
of our world.”
–Lisa Dale Norton
“On porches and stoops, secrets
are whispered, songs sung, stories
told, make-believe selves
expanded, and dreams float in
the dim enchanted light like
iridescent bubbles in the sifting
and sweet peace.”
Tell a story of Peace each day.
[Her return address, top-middle of card: Carol C., Ordal 1509 Delmont Court #5 Urbana, IL 61801-5068]