Life gallops along. Last night on the phone my friend Karen said, I know it means you’re living when time flies by so fast, but man, oh, man–
I spend most of my time in the diner, and life in a restaurant is a whirl of tasks and people and hurry. I love the whirl, mostly. I find it energizing, full of texture and surprise. There’s humor or grace or revelation waiting around every corner, and probably that’s what I find so addictive about it–never knowing what will happen next, who you’ll meet, how they’ll be. But despite the satisfaction, there’s still the need to slow it down sometimes. To step aside, to stop the ride. To live, or maybe it’s to realize that I’m living.
I walked some bills to the P.O. box last night just before the start of dinner, and since I wasn’t waiting table, I decided to go a few extra blocks. It was one of those mild actions that is actually somewhat radical. Fall leaves rustled, the breeze was cool. A few vehicles passed, not many. I saw things I’ve seen a thousand times before: the particular tilt of a porch, the angle of a fence, the crack in a chunk of sidewalk. I gazed at a door I love on a little house behind the brewry. Art deco, embossed wood panels, little panes of glass above. I realized in that moment of looking: I live here, on this stretch of shore along Superior. I’ve lived here for a long time. I’ve seen this door before. I’ve always seen this door. When I was twenty five and thirty two and forty four and also now.
It doesn’t end up sounding like anything when you write it down, which is the trouble with writing: trying to articulate the unarticulate-able. All I can say is that it was something.
Two words came into my head. They always do in such moments: Hurry! Hurry!
It’s the title of a story in a book by Brenda Ueland called If You Want to Write.
A little servant girl was in my class. She was sickly, pale, wore glasses, and had poor teeth. She timidly apologized for not coming to the class oftener, and for not turning in more writing, but the lady she worked for did not like it very well when she went out in the evening.
Twice she sent me through the mail on tiny scraps of paper something written in pencil. Here is one of them:
by Miss Lee Frisbee
Rushing thru the kitchen getting dinner, then the serving, waiting on fussy tots and the numerous little tasks that must be done. Then the dishes, stacks of them, tidying up the kitchen, getting the tots off to dreamland then guess what the time may be. Only 9 after a hard day’s work should of been thru an hour ago. Hurry! Hurry! when you hurry so fast you just can’t hurry any more. I heard that word so much that it’s boresome to hear it ever again.
I’d really like to walk down town some day and really mosey along at any rate of speed desired and hear the words ringing in my ears “Idle, idle,” instead of “Hurry, Hurry”–and even tho no cash to spend just go window shopping.
My big news in the last few days is that the next novel, The Education of Ivy Blake, (a companion to Prairie Evers) is done. Done! Soon I’ll see galley proofs, then Advanced Reading Copies, and then early in June, the book itself, on shelves. It’s a fantastic feeling. Even though a lot of creating a novel is just sheer heavy lifting–a channel swim, Anne Patchett called it–in the big picture, the work was a joy. I did it for Ivy, who is so optimistic when she has every reason not to be. I can’t wait for readers to meet her too.