Hmm. Mindful or Mind Too Full?
Blame it on the sunshine, or blame it on Manic March. But I showed up a day early for a funeral this weekend and a day early for a writing workshop today. When I told my dog walking pal she said, "Better early than late." I also almost missed a borough meeting last night because my garage door was frozen shut. Luckily my son-in-law was home and gave me a ride. (Chip is away. I have been on a self-guided writing retreat. At home.)
The writing workshop is tomorrow (Weds) at noon at the library, and it is with Fairbanks author Nicole Stellon O'Donnell, who wrote this year's Alaska Reads selection, Steam Laundry. She will also give a reading tomorrow night at 6:30 at the library, and I will chat with her and moderate a question and answer session. Steam Laundry is a beautiful book of linked poems, or as she calls it, a novel in poems, all based on a real person, Sarah Ellen Gibson, and her family and friends, who came to Alaska during the gold rush of 1903. I love it. In the very first poem O'Donnell imagines "The men who became street names" meeting in the afterlife, like the "the two brothers-in-law who intersect at the library and the Korean restaurant."
Today I interviewed family and friends of the woman whose funeral I attended twice. Pam was born the same year I was, and we graduated from high school the same year. She lived across the road from me and our sons were friends. She had cancer a long time. It's terribly sad, and yet, she was a happy person. And so brave and faithful.
I have been strict with myself, from deadlines to disciplines (it is Lent), not to mention caring for the dogs. Three golden retrievers is a lot. I'm dog sitting again. "There's dog hair up to my ankles in my living room," I told my 86 year-old neighbor this morning after the false alarm about a fire in the woods near us. "No there isn't," she said. "Any more than mine is full of cat hair." Then I sneezed. I'm allergic to cats. "Use a hairdryer on your garage door," she said. "It'll thaw in two minutes." She was right.
Midday, when I discovered a free hour without a writing workshop, I called a friend and said let's walk in the sun on the beach. Afterward we sat on the porch to soak in the scene, and another young friend walking by joined us for a visit, and after she and her toddler and the baby in the backpack left, my old friend turned to me and said I better get back to work. I had Pam's obituary to write. Pam is exactly why I was in no hurry. I said that doing this is more important. To feel the warm sun on my face and talk with people who matter in my favorite place in the whole world. That's what I Iearned talking to Pam's family and friends, and sitting in that dark church at her funeral. I owe that much to her, and all the others I've written about. "This moment matters. That's what obits teach me, every single time."
"Write that down," she said. "And save it."
"I'm not very good at taking my own advice, am I?" I said.
She smiled. "Who is?"
I'm working on it. Or should I say, playing on it?