May 29, 2011
It’s a sunny, mild morning, a day full of the promise of summer. Earlier I took Sallie for a walk along the bay, down Agate beach, up into Donahey woods, and then along First Creek. She galloped along, stopping often to smell things at great length. She was oblivious to anything but the moment–this branch, that fern, this spot in the sand. That focus and a tendency towards joy is one of the things I so admire about her or any dog. I do know that it’s not possible or even desirable for people to be just like dogs, but I don’t think it would hurt to keep being inspired and informed by certain of their attributes.
I was happy too. The sun felt good in my eyes, the lake washed hypnotically on the sand. There are a thousand shades of green to choose from in the woods, and the Dutchman’s breeches and twin-flowers are in bloom. The ferns have just uncurled, and First Creek was burbling in exactly the way a creek should. Just saying those words–Dutchman’s breeches, twin-flower, fern, creek–is a source of great satisfaction to me. I like words. Always have. I used to read the dictionary when I was home sick from school as a kid. Still do, sometimes. In fact most of the things I loved as a kid I still love. Words, books, dogs, cats, cookies, being outside, the color red, riding my bike, walking.
Down by First Creek there’s a log across the water that is like a log that crossed a creek in my childhood. My friend Laurie and I spent endless hours there, only a few hundred feet from her house but a million miles from anywhere, too. The creek burbled and riffled over pebbles. Trillium bloomed nearby in the spring. Maples cast a deep shade. We waded in the water, crossed and recrossed the log. Piled rocks up in mounds to what end I don’t know now. We pretended: to be explorers, I think, and princesses, too, probably. I don’t recall exactly. I do remember the deep, incontrovertible happiness I felt there, as if everything was possible, including and especially magic. Time as a constraint or threat or reality did not exist. We just were.
That’s a state of being that fascinates me, one I’m always in search of, and sometimes find. I found it in the bakery the other day, by accident. It found me, really. Something–a smell, a sound–catapulted me back to the Indianfields Public Library, and being ten or so, about to open a book by an author I loved, Eleanor Estes. I looked her up today, and I think the book must have been “Pinky Pye.” I remember an illustration of an attic window, a setting of a cottage on the ocean, and the word aerie–I got it confused with eerie–and wikipedia says that “Pinky Pye” involved a summer cottage and a pygmy owl, which rings a very faint bell. What was not faint was my feeling of gladness, a deep anticipation at the experience about to come.
I stood there for a moment, amazed at having traveled across thirty five years so unexpectedly. Happy, that’s what books have always made me. Just purely happy.
A college friend wrote the other day to congratulate me on publishing SOUTH OF SUPERIOR. He said as a kid he’d always wanted to be a writer, not so much because he had stories to tell, but because he admired writers so. They were his heroes. Mine too. For that wonderful ability they had to take you anywhere. A writer could do magic and transport you. I just realized, that must be why I’ve always wanted to write. To do that magic.