I’m having nightmares.
I dreamed of a dead squirrel on my porch that I had to figure out a way to dispose of with a shovel. Good night, where did he come from?
I dreamed Norah took off on a bike ride on a mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee and didn’t come back, although everyone assured me she would.
I dreamed of a dachshund puppy that peed so much it ruined a rare Turkish rug, and the Turkish rug floated away before I could clean it for the owners who were going to be so mad at me. I was housesitting for them in Sewanee and Norah was not back from her bike ride and the rug was Aladdin-like floating away over Monteagle Mountain.
I dreamed a funny friend, whom I didn’t recognize, was married to Donald Trump and doing a stand-up routine about their sex life. It was horrifying. We were in the audience wondering why why why? She looked like the captured girl in “Silence of the Lambs.”
Am I losing my mind?
I just looked her up. Brooke Smith.
Poor Brooke Smith. I apologize. The squirrel too.
Then I woke up and took Norah school.
No dead squirrel, no missing kid – Olive, our wiener dog, patiently waiting to be squeezed. No wrecked rug either.
Sometimes, it’s such a relief to get up and make coffee and Norah’s lunch and look at Olive and the cardinals alighting in the backyard under the bare winter trees.
I’m lucky I have the privilege to do that but I’m heartsick over the headlines and trying to keep up with my daily actions that are part of becoming politically active.
Real and Wonderful News…
Norah is a semi-finalist for the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill. I’m so proud of her. She’ll find out in March if she gets invited to visit the campus for an interview.
My friends, Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, have a great new show on CBS called DOUBT. Please watch it and tweet about it. They are the best and most wonderful friends, and I’m so proud of them. We met in a sandbox in Silver Lake with little ones in LA in 1999. I had a cold sore and didn’t want to talk to anybody, but thank GOD Joan persisted.
My dear friend, Diana Wagman, has a wonderfully weird new story published in Joyland Magazine called “Sustenance.”
I’m taking my ten graduate fiction students to see George Saunders read on Tuesday at Alabama Booksmith. I’ll actually be doing a reading from Lincoln in the Bardo with some other local authors. How is that even happening? Thank you, Jake Reiss and Patti Callahan Henry.
My proposal was accepted to the Carson McCullers Symposium in Italy this summer.
Carson McCullers in the World Centenary Celebration
My presentation/performance will be a creative nonfiction piece about discovering Carson McCullers while teaching English in Ningbo, China and her words saving me in isolation and culture shock and fear of the future and being broke and homesick for the South of all places. (I had run away to China with my new husband, Kiffen, in 1987 to escape the South and go have adventures the way Isak Dineson did. No coffee farm but rice fields for miles around the Ningbo University.)
I want to play bits of Suzanne Vega’s album about Carson McCullers while I show pictures of China, Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama and read the essay. I need to make some road trips to Columbus and Phenix City to prepare my essay.
I’ve never been to Italy. Neither has Kiffen. My parents might even go after the Symposium to meet us. And my sister and her family too. Mom wants to Florence and the Vatican. It’s all up in the air, but I think we should try to do it. Could we do it? Could we pull it off? Go to Rome in July? (Who will squeeze Olive?)
Suzanne Vega has a song called “Harper Lee” as they always compared Carson McCullers to Harper Lee. Carson helped Truman Capote when he moved to New York and then grew jealous of him. Truman helped Harper Lee when she moved to New York and then grew jealous of her.
Her album is called “Lover, Beloved.”
Harper Lee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHYGqn0Rvig
Here is the letter the organizers of the Conference sent:
I had the best time at Kindling Words in Vermont and formed an online picture book critique group, and I can’t wait to get started with them. I was so grateful to be amongst children’s writers listening and thinking about narrative voice. But while I was away in Vermont, Norah had a car accident. She’s absolutely fine and it wasn’t her fault, but it was terrifying and scary to be doing triage between Birmingham, Vermont, and LA as Kiffen was helping too. The man who caused the accident turned left into her as she was going straight, smashing the front headlight and bumper. The policeman listened to his story and asked, “Really dude?” There were other factors and a friend said it sounded like the premise of an episode to “24” but she’s fine, the policeman was great, insurance guy was kind and attentive, rental car was easy, another friend arrived on scene to help, and the car is already fixed.
And I attended “Stand As One” last night in Birmingham.
“Empowering Marginalized Voices in Birmingham.”
I wrote a question to the panel about kindness and empathy toward those who embrace the new regime and how to bear it in our grief and rage.
It was suggested that we listen because we “can’t negotiate emotions” and not be afraid to start the conversation over. UAB Director of the Institute for Human Rights, Tina Kempin Reuter suggested those very helpful ideas.
Here is an essay by the rabbi on the panel who lives here in Birmingham for now. He wrote about the very subject at the following link.
George Saunders talks about “radical kindness.” He also has an “inner nun” editor in his head. Yesterday, at Costco, we saw six Dominican nuns shopping together. I didn’t see what they were buying, but they were so lovely and happy swirling through aisles of Costco in their habits.
I have 72 carefully edited pages of a sloppy messy draft of THE GIRL WHO WOKE UP VULCAN, about the time of HB 56 here in Birmingham when we lived in the worst apartment and watched our neighbors flee a scary, racist law. I’m working slowly to the end, page by page, “bird by bird.” It was the year Norah had to make an immigrant character for an Ellis Island Project for her wonderful teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who turned the entire cafeteria in Ellis Island with the other sixth grade teachers.
One of my lovely graduate students, Marie, came over today to read chapters of her creative thesis about her grandmother, the first African American post-mistress in Birmingham, AL. It’s such a good book already that I know will one day be published.
I love the work I get to do here, but I am missing home and my husband and my son, Flannery, who is out there doing his thing. I miss Lucy, too, whose knee is bothering her, so we’re hoping it’s nothing but an sore knee cap, and I expect next year at this time, I’ll be missing Norah wherever she will be away at college. The day-to-dayness of having a kid at home is rushing by so fast, and I wouldn’t have it any other way but a head cold has made me a little weepy.
Just for today though, I have time to write and plenty of winter sunshine warm this house that contains a contented dog, fresh blueberries, and Valentine roses pink, red, and yellow. And I will go to a reading at ASFA tonight to hear two lovely girls, Rachel and Emily, read their stories.
Finally, here are pictures I’ve come across…organizing files of this back and forth Alabama/California life.
There’s nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book. Carson McCullers