Bird, book, songs, & strange dreams

It’s clear by now (as if I were ever in doubt!) that writing a blog neither comes naturally or easily to me. As I’ve said before, if I have anything of substance to say, I write an essay. If I have something of absolutely no substance to say–but which I am nevertheless, perplexingly, determined to say (but at least I am wise enough to make it ephemeral)–I write a Facebook “status update.” (On the exceedingly rare occasions when the latter is true and I can manage to say what I perplexingly enough feel compelled to say in a very few words…and I remember to do so, I will “tweet.”) So whence the blog post?

I think maybe this is whence. Something like a list, but not exactly a list.

Eight years ago (good lord) I began a novel that I have set aside numerous times in the years since (other books were written instead). The novel, one of the protagonists of which is a young magician, began with a scene that in the present iteration of the manuscript–which I have been back to working on quite devotedly since last summer, and hope to finish by the end of next summer–occurs a good two-thirds of the way it: it features a cockatiel. A scene I wrote, without the least idea what it was for, as the idle response to the idle question (asked by I don’t remember who), “Do you suppose your bird is jealous because your dog inspired a novel?” I wrote the scene–the magician, his wife, their baby, their pet bird–to amuse myself. I am reasonably sure that Tolstoy, Henry James, George Eliot–all my great heroes–never began a novel this way. (For that matter, I doubt very much if Cynthia Ozick or JM Coetzee or Philip Roth–my contemporary literary heroes–ever did either.) Nevertheless, here I am, eight years and many hundreds of pages (most of which have been or will be jettisoned) later.

Today I had a pretty good day’s work on it–after two or three weeks, maybe a month, of pretty bad days’ work on it. You just never know when it’s going to go well, when it’s going to go badly.

That’s item 1 on my “list”–that today my work went well, well enough so that I’m going to stop for the day (before I ruin it). I am smack in the middle of a section about the magician’s wife’s mother. Whom I didn’t even know would be a character in the novel, much less an important one, when I began it.

Item 2: Two weeks ago, my own beloved cockatiel died, suddenly and unexpectedly, and I will never know why or how. (Yes, I understand that she was “just” a bird–and “just” a pet–but she has been a boon companion all these [thirteen] years.)

And 3: Some days–today, for example–my life seems wonderfully full and surprising. (I must remember to remind myself of this, and to enumerate all the wonders of it, when I am feeling gloomy.)  Singing, for one thing, keeps my life bright and hopeful, and reminds me to breathe at the right times. This week alone I’ve sung with the Harmony Project, I’ve sung in the car–on the way home from a Harmony Project rehearsal–with a group of children I am very fond of (and they all sang the tenor parts, which they have listened to their father, the driver of the car and another Harmony Project member, note for note–so we made harmony, all the way home), I’ve sung with the people at the Commons at Buckingham, who are transitioning from homelessness, and I’ve sung all by myself, both practicing for the Harmony Project concerts in December and for the “finding your voice” class that my husband and I have been taking at the Jazz Academy here in Columbus. We each had to choose two songs to work on–and next week we’ll be recording them. He chose two songs about feeling bad–the 12-bar blues “Love in Vain” and the country song that might as well be a 12-bar blues song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”–and I chose the cheerful, goofy, sweet “Let’s Do It” (Some Argentines without means do it/People say in Boston even beans do it) and “There’s A Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York” (Come with me/that’s where we belong) from Porgy and Bess. (These song choices sum us up very nicely.) We have class tonight; I look forward to it all week. It’s the first thing in years that Glen and I have gone out into the world to do together regularly. Last week we scatted.

And 4 (I’ll stop at 4, for no particular reason. I could go on. I always can go on): Last night I dreamed that I left Glen for Glen. Yes, that’s right: there were two of them, they were indistinguishable–except that one version (I don’t remember which) had shorter hair than the real-life Glen has. I was torn between them in my dream–I didn’t want to leave one for the other. And then I woke up, shook my head–dreams!–and went back to sleep and dreamt about finding three pairs of very beautiful, expensive gloves in my daughter’s room. I wanted to keep one pair–I must have bought all three for her, I thought, and she wasn’t using any of them–but when I asked her, she said no: she loved them all, she’d rather I left them all for her. And so I was gloveless. But I didn’t mind. I was glad she liked them all enough to want to keep them, even if she wasn’t using them just then.

And that is my blog post. Who knows when there will be another.




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