Thursday, April 15, 2004
Clouds giving way to sun and mild weather
It’s been an interesting few days. I had to drive to Maine to help out with some family business. I had had an idea for an article I hoped would come to fruition on that trip, but, of course, it’s turned into quite something else. Still, it will be worth exploring the article to see where it will lead me.
Unfortunately, this piece will have to take a number behind all the other pieces who are clamoring for attention.
I did some Mercury retrograde shopping, but didn’t find everything I want. I don’t find shopping relaxing. I like to go in, get what I need and get out. The only real browsing I enjoy is in bookshops and junk shops. And my favorite secondhand bookshop, The Book Barn, in Wells, Maine, was closed when I passed. That was disappointing. I always find something unexpected and fascinating there. But it was Easter Monday, and I think that particular place is usually closed on Mondays anyway.
As I went about my duties, I listened. I listened to the cadence of the stories. I listened to the memories. I listened to what’s important to them, the odd Maine sense of humour, the little details that make up a day. I don’t know how or where I’ll use it, but use it I will.
The great thing about being a writer is that nothing is ever wasted. Every experience, every frustration, every joy, every breath is . . . material.
Along with caring for the relatives, running errands, and visiting, I managed to get quite a bit of reading done. Joan Druett’s She Captains has plenty of fascinating information. Some of it is relevant to my current work, and, of course, gives me leads towards further research. I admire people who can hire a research assistant. I need to do my own research because I never know what unusual tidbit of information will set off the bells in my head? Soul? I don’t want to sound too crazy here. Anyway, I often come across a piece of information which is a tangent. Yet, I can make a note of it and follow up on it later and it often leads me to something far more intriguing than my original mission. There’s no way I could communicate this properly to a research assistant.
I finished Carolyn Heilbrun’s The Last Gift of Time, which I’d picked up in a Sag Harbor bookstore the day I headed out to Deep Hollow Ranch. I adore Heilbrun’s work, both her fiction and non-fiction. I nearly met her once, at a conference in England. However, I was too shy. I was in the process of disengaging myself from a spectacularly unhealthy romance. I was ashamed for getting myself into it in the first place, and I felt that I couldn’t discuss anything with her, feminist as she is, because I felt like a hypocrite. It was completely illogical. I could have discussed plenty of other things and never even brought up the relationship. But I was so wounded and felt so worthless that I couldn’t even introduce myself to her. I’m still angry at myself for that entire period of my life. I don’t even want to write about it because that would be flattering the man with whom I was so ill-advisedly involved.
Anyway, I always felt Ms. Heilbrun to be, as she puts it so well in her book, one of my “un-met friends.” Her work has had enormous influence on me because she encourages me to look at things in a new way and to take my blinders off. I’d always despised the character of Gertrude in Hamlet until I read Heilbrun’s essay “Hamlet’s Mother.” She showed me a new way to look at the situation and now I can actually find compassion. I would love to see Gertrude portrayed on stage with the viewpoint of that essay. Maybe, in one of my fictional pieces someday, I can have the characters work on Hamlet and play with it. Yet another project to queue up.
I made quite a bit of progress with Milton Rugoff’s wonderful biographer of the Beechers. It’s a massive volume. I’m concerned because it gives some dates in conflict with the dates I looked up for Harriet’s sojourn in Cincinnati. If Rugoff is correct – and he probably is – I’ve gotten something muddled in The Widow’s Chamber by having Nora’s sister Catherine befriended by Harriet in 1852. Well, I’ll look into it farther – I’ll check with the Stowe Center in Hartford – and, if need be, I’ll fix it. Or at least admit the mistake on the website. I want to research farther Lyman Beecher’s time as a minister in East Hampton, and I’m also intrigued by his trial for heresy in Ohio.
One of my concerns in The Widow’s Chamber is that the women are too modern. However, reading the historical information of the time, the women of the 1850’s were quite progressive. There were plenty of forward thinkers. It seems to have dipped back after the Civil War until after the turn of the century, when suffragettes got back to work, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Seneca Falls convention took place in 1848. My ladies aren’t too far off the mark. They don’t fall into many clichés of the time – that’s incorrectly phrased. There are clichés that in modern times we associate with the 1850’s, and many of them are inaccurate. My entrepreneurial and resourceful women have true roots. For that, I am grateful. And, of course, I’m grateful to the Beecher women, to Louisa May Alcott, to Clara Barton, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the thousands of forgotten women for always working for change, and for never being satisfied to do as they’re told!
I don’t understand boredom. It’s a concept that I simply can’t wrap my mind around. How can anybody ever be bored? The world is a fascinating place, and there’s never enough time to do all the intriguing things that present themselves. There’s so much to read, to learn, to experience. I get completely exasperated with people who complain of boredom. They are quickly ex-communicated from my universe. I have no time for them.
Once home, I toiled. Taxes were due today, and I was determined, not only to do them myself, but on time. Happily, I finished them before noon (I’d started them and had my rages and frustrations and my time of throwing things around the room days ago). But today I feel an absolute lack of creative impulse.
I wrote a few press releases that needed attention. Gotta keep the business side of things ticking. I dealt with a couple of editors who need me to take care of things. I’m playing phone tag with someone I to interview for an article. I put together a packet of informational cards to be distributed in the goodie bags at a writers’ conference in Arizona. I’m thrilled and delighted that I was invited to contribute something. I sent the cards for The Widow’s Chamber. And I worked on the website. I also dealt with some promo business for the blog.
Hockey bliss continues with the playoffs, although the Devils and the Islanders are making me nervous, three games down each. They can both be eliminated from the first round if they don’t win the next few games. Boston’s doing well over Montreal. Toronto and Ottawa are tied. Detroit and Nashville are still going at it – I’m impressed by Nashville’s grit. Colorado and Dallas are going at it. They played an excellent game last night. Of the three games between which I flipped, the Colorado-Dallas was the best. Watching New Jersey and the Islanders each lose 3-0 was simply painful.
Sudden realization: I haven’t missed the theatre at all.