I am grateful for friends and family today, the newly minted and the vintage. Yesterday, a friend showed up at my door with the gift of a beautiful, contemplative book (World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil), thanking me for my writing. The gesture stupefied me and choked me up. It always feels like a gift when my friends take time to pay attention to the things I write. To get an additional gift felt nonsensical, then overwhelming. It is, in fact, what I write for, to try and make the world a better place in whatever small way I can, even it’s making one person feel happy, hopeful, quieted, provoked to thought, broken open, elevated, amused. To see evidence that I might have achieved that is the greatest gift of all.
Friends read and edited my early drafts and listened to practice presentations. Others are reading my promo book as we speak, looking for typos. One way-back middle school pal has offered to deliver the book to local bookstores in Vermont for me. Then today, this beautiful poster showed up in my email. A neighbor and friend of the newly minted kind, who happens to be in the book business, said, “I made this for you!”
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
October 16th, 2020.
This is the day I came home from the grocery store to a heavy cardboard box leaning against my back door. I knew what it was, ten Advanced Reader Copies of my book. I plopped it on the kitchen counter, sliced it open, tossed the crumple of brown paper aside, and looked down at two pristine covers, topping two stacks of books. I didn’t want to touch them at first; I just wanted to gaze and take pictures. Makes me laugh to think of it.
I finally picked one up, leafed through, saw the table of contents, the dedication page, the opening poem, the illustrations. In truth, a tiny, critical voice said, “I wish the type were darker. I wish the photos had better resolution. I wish the pages were sturdier.” But that voice was overpowered by the giddy Robin who hasn’t been able to stop smiling for the rest of this day. I wrote a book!
Out in the back fields I walked with Clara, around and under glorious billows of oak leaves, red, yellow, and russety brown. Dark clouds whorled and darkened the rain-spitting day. It didn’t matter. Everything looked like heaven to me. I noticed the smile on my own face and laughed at myself again, wanting so much to share this feeling.
“Bimma, Grampa!” I called up to the sky (because that’s what they were called for so many years). “I wrote a book!
“Mom, Dad!” I called again (because that’s what they were called for so many earlier years). “I wrote a book! It has a table of contents, and illustrations, and poems, and endnotes. And some people will probably buy it!”
It still didn’t feel like enough.
“Thank you for making me!” I called up to the sky, where a lone bird flitted its way to some evening destination. "I'm sixty, and I wrote a book, and I've held it in my hands."
That’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it? That’s the thing that we really care about. Well, at least it is for me.
Mom, Dad, look what I did! Oh I wish you could be here. Maybe, in a way, you are.
This child is manifesting a torrent of becoming. It dazzles the mind to watch her concentration as she ponders the way balls roll, the way dogs scratch, the way her voice is amplified inside an empty cup, the way food falls from her hand to the floor. Even more delightful is her social discoveries. Fiona may have no idea what’s funny, but she happily joins in other people’s laughter. She crinkles her eyes in full-faced grins, repeats any gesture that elicits happy reactions, claps her hands, shakes her head, waves her hands, pants like a dog. She’s learning about play, clowning around, interactive exchanges. Offering positive feedback is irresistible, so she is surely gaining a sense of empowerment. I, for one, am thoroughly in her power.
A writer could spend a life harvesting material from these little natural-intelligence systems that we call babies.
My ARCs are in the mail! These are advance/non-retail copies of my book that will go to book marketers, bookstores, libraries, and maybe a couple for me to share with blurbers or a final proofreader or two.
I am super pumped to hold a physical book in my hand.
I'll keep you posted --
I watched about two-thirds of the 9/29 presidential debate before my stamina gave out. I imagined standing in Biden’s shoes: Here I am. I will ignore his playground taunts, rise above, speak my truth calmly, abide by society’s rules of decorum. But holy mackerel, I would have broken.
Say what you will about this unshamable bully, he is a master provocateur. Dismissing his skillful arts – the arts of cultivating unrest, distrust, self-centeredness, and hatred – has been disastrous to our nation’s soul. And Biden, well, he tried. He didn’t break, but he was rattled. It seems like it would be easy to point out Trump’s multitude of defects, but how do you take on someone who has no regard for rules or civility?
I took my jangled insides – an embroiled tangle of fury, frustration, incredulity, and hopelessness – out of the room. How to recover? I went to bed with a book of poetry. There is a beautiful world out there. There is a beautiful world out there.
Like today. Before a backdrop of fall’s Candyland colors, three muskrats glided like tiny barges around the pond, leaving shining v’s of light across the water. I picked pink asters and held in my hand a black-and-white moth wing that I first mistook for a feather. I crunched over cobblestones of acorns and squashed dropped apples under my boots, releasing their apple-y pungency. A flicker’s white rump caught my eye as it bobbed through the air, fleeing my intrusion. I, too, am in flight, fleeing the intrusion of humanity’s underside, over-exposed, oozing its poison. But out here, with that electronic version of the world momentarily silenced, I felt a flicker of hopefulness. This world here, this world is equally real and with us. Just breathe.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.