In the early light, is there anything that holds more promise than a school building? Students arrive via bus or car or bike or foot, teachers too, all bringing a tangible energy, filled with all the opportunity in this day. I always smile driving up the hill to this grand building, the original section completed in 1928. I have spent nearly 3 decades working here, discussing story and craft and everything in between with students from 9th grade to 12th. This year that hopeful energy is even more palatable, because we are back full-time and in-person doing whatever is needed to keep our community safe, even graciously donning a mask. Heroes if you ask me as sacrifice has become the norm.
I am not sure exactly when I became so intrigued with myself as a subject worthy of significant investigation, but that fascination certainly goes way back. Long before the confessional style of my Nine Cent Girl blog emerged, in my fiction, pockets of memories or infatuations or revelations can be found. Like the story I have been working on since last November about Mrs. Hendrick. After being left by her husband of several decades for a younger woman she took wholeheartedly to the bottle, and the array of pills prescribed by her Doctor. But instead of making her the stereotypical victim of her sad circumstances, I thought, why not allow her choices to emerge as legit survival mechanism? Why not allow her some dignity in her decision to keep going, come what may, chin up, albeit tipsy? After all, isn’t that how I spent one too many nights during my COVID confinement? I met Mrs. Hendrick head-on in my imagination and fell hard for her.
“This is my mother’s room. I’ll leave you to it,” and like that the plainly dressed daughter moved down the hallway and closed her door leaving me to meet the grande dame solo.
I knocked with two small raps. A husky voice commanded a double “come in, come in” and with that I turned the brass knob and pushed my way into what might come my way.
Not just a bedroom, but a boudoir, all apricot and violet, silk and velvet, seating around a marble fireplace complete with fire, and in front of the double windows, she sat at her mahogany dressing table and gold lacquered mirror from which I watched her reflection apply black eyeliner with surgical precision. There was a half-filled martini glass at her elbow and a smoldering cigarette in a crowded ashtray. Her platinum hair was teased up high and gathered into a french twist, and even though her caftan was flowing and voluminous it did not hide her many curves but instead gave them even more dimension. Before she moved on to her second eye, she took a meaningful sip of her drink, a lingering puff of her cigarette and let her gaze drift up to mine. She motioned me closer.
Weekly last winter bottles toppled my recycling bin while her’s were discretely collected, but together, I imagined, she and I would soldier on through. I have yet to finish the novella for Mrs. Hendrick, but I do hope she makes it with her silks enhancing her every subtle move from boudoir to dining room to wherever she envisions, as I hope to survive beyond the next chapter headed my way clear across into a smoother horizon.
Perhaps fiction is always thinly veiled truths, as are my blog posts. Full disclosure, I am ultimately intrigued with the tangled strings between all the people I love, even between the casual encounters and the decades of an ever evolving me. What else matters?
There are plenty of reasons to be angry these days, as the inane Jim Crow voting restrictions are in play once again, along with equally archaic restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. Of course there is the Big Lie still being shouted by the last President to throngs of frighteningly delusional crowds, while the Senators in his pocket want us to ignore the largest attack on our Capital in history as they are culpable in its making. There are the heat waves rippling across our continent, most notably this summer in our Northwest, that overwhelming affects our brown and black neighborhoods far more than the suburbs of white Americans (listen to The Daily to hear about these measured temperature ratings). This cruel aspect of climate change is here to stay, ahead of even more destruction to our planet. The list of inequities is too long for me to even cover a fraction while the bridge between truth and untruth seemingly unbuildable now, as so many Americans aren’t willing to see the clear horizon ahead.
In my home, we are, with the deliberate intention of finding some joy, absorbing the tranquility of our backyard gardens. Blooms everywhere are making that decision an easy delight. Normally my blog is filled with 9 cents worth of advice, neatly placed between photos, but mid-July, I’ll allow you to saunter through the post, take in the lush abundance of color and shape, let the crazy world roll away and consider this day’s good flower news.