As I write this, it is the last morning of summer. My yearling kittens are crouched in the garden, watching a squirrel on the fence make his way through the face of a sunflower, methodically plucking out striped seeds with his tiny hands, cracking their shells, devouring the kernels. There are piles of hulls, here and there, through the garden, where I have tied the flower heads to the fence or a branch or a gate. Light angles at a long angle, illuminating the withering squash, the tired corn. As I drink my tea, I’m a little melancholy, knowing that this season is turning. It is such a particular summer.
They all are.
One of the things that has come up in formatting my old books for publication in e-format is the recognition that they are fruits of the years in which they were born. This might seem a simple, clean observation—well, of course they are, you might say. In 1993, the peaches were good and there was a lot of rain, and there were certain political events that influenced my views and ideas. Music always shapes my work, so the popular tunes of the time will add spice and flavor.
When I began going through these books, written from about 1990 through 2000 or so, I never planned to rewrite them in any meaningful way. I have so much work flowing through me currently that spending time on finished, whole work seemed a bad use of hours. It is important to me to update glaring tech issues that date the material in negative ways—changing Walkmans to Ipods, for example, and updating language to reflect the moment.
But I find that reading even to do that much is almost impossible, because they hold too much of me, of my life. It is as if the fruit of those months or years of writing has been bottled and turned to wine that now carries the most powerful notes of that period in a way that I almost cannot bear. In reading a category romance from 1992, I am transported to the young mother I was, when my boys were small, and I snatched moments to write from the busy whirl of meals and shopping and laundry and simply loving them. I am pierced with the golden light, distilled to amber in the wine of the book, that gilded us all one summer while I planted a garden. My grandmother and my mother and my sisters and I and all the various children took a picnic to a local park. I thought I was fat. My hair was cut very short, to my ears. And there is my youngest sister, looking slim and happy in her oversize glasses. She longs to be married and isn’t yet. There is my grandmother, down for the day, free before the illnesses that kept her tethered to my grandfather’s side nearly till her own death.
The book carries that day, but there is a mood of earnest optimism in it that I have now lost. I cannot be so young as that young mother. Things sometimes do not work out as I hoped. Things, important things, are often lost as life unfolds, as we live each day. [Read more…]