Aunt Josie had dementia the last years of her life and one of the really nice things about hearing the same stories every day was that they are imprinted on my memory. There was also a certain comfort in knowing, from experience, the right way to answer every question. Sometimes I would deviate from my usual responses to see if it would affect the outcome but it was a mistake. Standing in the dim blue kitchen she would tell me about a sermon she heard as a child. “The minister asked, ‘What do you suppose is the most important word in the English language’, and she would pause to let me guess. I knew to shake my head and hesitate before offering, “Love?” And breaking into a grin she would tell me, “Do!” A few minutes later she would start the story again. I once answered “do” before I was to know the conclusion and failed to get her grin, just a confused silence that hurt to see. And the blessing of dementia is that it was forgotten moments later and I was given a chance at redemption.
So what am I doing?
I am sadly not at Emily and Brendan’s big party this weekend.
The school year seems so suddenly close I feel a bit frozen in my tracks. Harriet is done her summer essay. The laundry is more or less caught up. Garden is okay. Meat is at the butcher’s being smoked. Lambs are grouped by size. Grass is cut. It feels like we are just waiting now.
. . . . . . .
I did finish the Barbara Kingsolver book and I think if we met, we would get along just fine. No one would do the research she does without a deep and passionate interest in science which I can appreciate. The farm life, the gardening, and cooking, relationships within farm families, and descriptions of nature all ring true. I do like her books but I don’t love them or at least not all of them. About half way through I feel that her political agenda (which I agree with!) is starting to beat me over the head. I also don’t like things that are too neatly packaged. When all of the characters are beautiful and the writer carefully chooses details that are just too perfectly convenient, I get tired. She is no Marilynne Robinson, but neither am I, and if her ego can be kept in check she may be a great writer yet. I don’t want Kingsolver’s idea of wisdom. I just want the quiet truth so I can figure things out for myself. Some of us like the answers and others of us like the questions.
Here is a quote from her own website:
I struggle with confidence, every time. I’m never completely sure I can write another book. Maybe my scope is too grand, my questions too hard, surely readers won’t want to follow me here. A novel is like a cathedral, it knocks you down to size when you enter into it. I falter and fidget and worry it won’t be good enough, and then the day comes when I give myself permission: just write, I tell myself. No one has to see it, you can throw everything away if it’s terrible, we’ll keep it a secret unless or until it becomes wonderful. And then I get to work.
See what I mean?
I wish she had more faith in the reader. But she is moving in the right direction.
2 thoughts on “Doing”
I agree with you entirely about Kingsolver. I enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle more than any of her fiction – I think she’s a creative, inquisitive writer with a good sense of humor. And I had been attached to her early novels as a teenager – but when I returned (Prodigal Summer, most recently, out of newfound loyalty based on A,V,M) I felt as you. Why hit me over the head with your politics? I’m sure most of her readers, like you and me, agree with them! So sad to have her characters behave in a way that seems ultimately motivated by her broad social commitments. It flattens. I do think her dialogue is great, she has an ear I appreciate.
And I just returned State of Wonder to the library. Perfect! The rare entertaining, thoughtful novel – wish I’d had it on a vacation. I am still thinking of Easter as if he were mine. Thank you for the rec.
And Robinson is one of the very best, ever.
All for now, I left my kids in the bathtub and they are probably unrecognizably shriveled by now…
“Bean Tree” might be in my Top 10 fiction list. Thank you for the lovely time with Aunt Josie.