Monday, July 1, 2013

THE WRITING (SORT OF) LIFE

...you felt in your calling that from your hand
the seeded word would overrun these ruins and
sprout with the fecundity of bougainvillea.
                                            --Derek Walcott, The Prodigal

For Derek Walcott, born in St. Lucia, bougainvillea must certainly be prodigal; even for my son-in-law who lived in another part of San Diego, and now in the LA area, bougainvilleas were so fertile and spreading that he seemed to be doing battle with them constantly.  But the ones I have planted have been spindly, reluctant to grow, sparsely flowering and difficult.  I have loved the plants since I first saw them on a trip to Mexico, where they poured over roofs and decorated white stucco walls with brilliant, tropical flowers.  But never in my yard.
I am back from a trip to small Missouri towns and farms visiting all my aunts, my uncle, and many of my 39 first cousins, as well as first cousins once and twice removed.  (I never understood all the removed part until my dear husband explained it all to me, and now it makes perfect sense.)  I loved watching my grandchildren play outside, looking for crawdads in the creek and kittens in the barn, and getting to know one of their third cousins.  She was obviously taken with them, because she told her grandmother (my cousin) that she wanted to come out to California with them when they next come to visit.  After a pause, she asked how long it would take to fly here, and when told it was about 4 hours, she said she'd have to remember to pack a snack!  We had several family reunions, which were all delightful, and my daughter, the children, and I spent the afternoon with my aunt and uncle on the day of their 55th wedding anniversary--and I had been with them on their wedding day. They showed me a picture of the wedding, and there I was, a small girl in a very ridiculous hat!  I really wondered what my mother was thinking of giving me what looked like a handkerchief with two ties sewed on to it.  But it's also quite possible I picked it out for myself, since my taste in clothes was abysmal then.
While I was away, I developed (or perhaps it just got worse) a truly horrid bladder and kidney infection which made the return home (with a two hour delay at the St. Louis airport due to some spectacular downpours and lightning displays) and a two hour delay the next day for the train to take me back to Oceanside (due to no apparent reason other than the fact that it is an American train) somewhat uncomfortable.  But I got to the doctor, and in due course (after 3 days on heavy duty antibiotics), I began to feel slightly human again.  
I went out to the grocery store to buy myself a rotisserie chicken, and while I was looking everywhere for the chicken, I managed to get my grocery shopping done for the first time in years.  (My husband had almost always done it for a long time, then when he got sick, our son and one of our daughters as well as our community of helpers made sure that we always had plenty to eat.)  But when I returned home, I heard a hissing sound in the addition, and went over to discover that the water heater had burst and was pouring out gallons of water all over the floors, soaking walls, and even making it into the entry way of the family room.  I called a plumber, who came out and got the water intake stopped, and gave me the name of a company with large fans that come out and drain out all the water and dry you out with extreme heat, blowing noises that sound as if a helicopter were landing on your roof, tear out your hardwood floors and carpet mats and call the asbestos man to be sure none of that is anywhere to be found.  Fortunately, this is confined mostly to the addition, so I can close the door and turn on the air conditioner on this side.  But over there, it feels like the Sahara.
After all the activity this morning, I decided to work on my writing, sent a belated birthday card to my poetry mentor of nearly 40 years, and made a few revisions in a poem.  Even now, when I have only my son left at home, I can not seem to get major periods of time to really get my teeth into my writing.  Yet I have written one book and put together a collection of poetry of over 100 pages, all around the vast amounts of time I have spent raising six children, working as a World Wide Marriage Encounter Team, running a Southwestern convention, an international convention and a Formation through Relationship seminar on Blessed Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body, in conjunction with my dear husband.  
In fact, the day of the flood was the eight month anniversary of his death, and when I realized it, I was at first incensed that he didn't somehow plead with God to stop it.  But when I reflected on it later, I thought, this is part of Chapter 2.  It's the one part of the house that hasn't ever been redone since my parents died in 1999 and 2000.  It became my husband's office after that, but all he did was to put up some vertical blinds and move his desk in there.  So I am envisioning a much larger area where I can write, look out the window at my garden, get my greeting card business started, get a fresh coat of buttery yellow paint on the walls, a wooden plank floor and room for a lot more of my supplies than I have in the cramped little study where I have worked for nearly 30 years. Will it result in a sudden surge in output?  I don't know, but I am eager to find out!

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