Sunday, March 27, 2011

Living well is the best revenge.

Two things:

1. I know I never returned to the placeholder post, that repository of memories (which had just happened, and weren't then, but are now) I had rushed to write as I was leaving Arkansas a few weeks ago.

2. My house got broken into in the interim.

No, three:

3. I spent a Sunday thinking about writing in a workshop with Crescent Dragonwagon.

What #3 taught me about #1 is that growing up in the South was formative for everything but my scholarly writing. It's the filter through which all impressions seep, regardless of my distance in time and place from my childhood. Every exercise we did in the workshop pulled up words, pictures, people, practices, feelings, fragrances, and textures...both actual ones and the texture of lived moments...from a relatively compressed period of my life.

What #1 taught me about #3 is that Crescent, for me, and unfairly perhaps, is more than a writer, teacher, and cookbook author. She is fixed in my mind as the former owner of Dairy Hollow House in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It was the first restaurant that brought together my rural Southern culinary roots and the elevation of local ingredients into visual and gustatory experiences. Things were never the same.

And what #2 taught me about #3 is that a writing practice can be felled with one brief whack of fate. I answered the phone on March 14th to hear my landlady telling me that there had been a break-in. I raced home and found my house turned up side down. In real terms, there was little damage, I didn't lose too much stuff, and I have renter's insurance. But the things that were taken--laptops and camera equipment, primarily--were my touchstones. Someone walked off with my tools for documenting, with snippets of drafts, with notes of ideas, with pictures of trips and people. They took them. And there's something so jarring about knowing that I will never have my memory jogged by looking at that scrap of a note, this placeholder for something I wanted to write.  Whatever was there is gone.

This is really about guilt over procrastination, isn't it?

Maybe. But it's also about those moments that represent breaks from complacency. After the tornado in 1998, I was like a house afire. I traveled, learned things, started voice lessons...I was in a happy panic to do all those things that the tornado had shown me could be blown away without warning.

I wish I could promise myself that having my "recorders" taken would urge me to write and publish and craft and finish. No languishing, no waiting. Daily practice, making time, all that.

But truth is, I know it won't. I have a career and friends and family. I am busy almost all of the time, mostly doing things I love. I'm going back to Arkansas very soon, where I will stack up some more impressions and the backlog of things I want to write will grow, even before I've written about my last trip.

And really, is that so bad? To walk around all the time bursting with stories?

All the thieves got was plastic and metal.

I kept my full heart.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing your thoughts about the theft. I guard my laptop from the kinds of damage toddlers are uniquely capable of. (Spilling a full cup of juice, sending all the contents of the desktop hurtling to the ground, etc. - tonight I found a swirl of ink across the surface of the screen, happy to find it was washable, non-toxic kid marker.) To lose the laptop AND the camera would be breathtakingly difficult for all of the reasons you describe. And yet, your turn-around on the experience is so refreshingly affirming. Thank you for expressing your thanks for a full heart. A nice thought for tonight!