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.
I'm finally allowed to divulge some news.
My poem, "Mother's Day at a Distance - May 2020," won second place in the Writer's Digest annual competition - out of 500 entries in the rhyming poetry category! Between that and getting a commission to write a rhyming ghost ballad for Penobscot Theatre Company, I've had some wonderful boosts to my poetic aspirations this summer.
You can find the poem on my website, in the "poetry" menu.
Hello everyone - I didn't expect three non-blogging weeks to go by so quickly, but I've been barreling along through one of those stretches of time so rich and abundant that it has filled effortlessly, even overflowingly. We gathered on this exquisite island in the sea - Jonathan and I, four children, four kids-in-law, one granddaughter, 5 dogs, and the newest in-law extended family of the groom. We had an illness scare and much logistic juggling, but everything fell blissfully into place.
The bride and groom treated everyone to an emotional upwelling when their officiant (our eldest daughter) gently leaked out some unexpected news about Tessa and Chris:
“In some ways, they’re one of those couples who seem to live in their own little world…a world of ‘tonal stuff’, a world of Oscar. It’s not a private world - they are warm and welcoming to anyone who wants to participate - but it is a world they have built for them alone. Like a language only they can speak… or, sing. In that way, it’s fitting that although I’m performing a ceremony today, I’m not actually marrying Tessa and Chris. And that’s because they made the decision to do that, all on their own, six months ago today.”
So - there was an elopement! My youngest daughter has been a wife since March 12, 2020, and no one knew but them. Still, both bride and groom were deeply moved by the congregation of family, the power of ceremony and shared ritual. September 12 will truly be their anniversary day.
Now they've all gone, but instead of my usual melancholy after separation, J and I are thoroughly content. This week of escape from the world's troubles, this suspension of time and fear in favor of love and shared meals and hugging (and lots of pre-testing), has left us floating, untouchable, at least for this beautiful present moment lifted out of time.
Tomorrow I turn sixty and I’m thoroughly prepared.
The prospect once was daunting but I’m not remotely scared.
A year of contemplation and reflection made it clear:
from fifty-nine to sixty’s just another plain old year.
Oh yes, of course, I’m aging, but that doesn’t make me bawl,
‘cause aging beats the other option – not to be at all.
And being beats not being, I don’t think you’ll argue that,
whether you’re a Trumper or a liberal Democrat.
My body may be sagging and my joints are getting creaky;
my buoyancy is flagging and my plumbing’s sometimes leaky,
but still I find inside myself a growing, sweet, contentment.
I seem to have more room for joy and less for sharp resentment.
I watch my children blossom and my grandchild’s great discovers
and happily assume my place - a sideline Mom who hovers,
prepared to swoop and help whenever someone needs a boost,
then flutter back to my home base, contentedly, to roost.
But truly, life’s much more than that, I’m finding satisfactions
in cultivating aptitudes with life’s reduced distractions.
I’ve found there’s so much more to do, so many paths ahead,
so much unknown to seek, explore, and learn before I’m dead!
Oh, yes, this turning sixty made me stop and think a bit.
but happily, so far at least, I’m feeling fully fit
to carry on, to join the fray, to plunge ahead full speed.
Not only am I harvesting, I still can plant some seed.
So off I go adventuring, beginning decade seven,
to find and cultivate on Earth what little bits of heaven
are always out there to be found, to highlight all their glory,
whatever age I may have reached, whatever stage my story.
My 60th year in 60,000 words – DONE!
Day 366: 291 words, TOTAL = 60,000; none remaining
Fall is in the air, and on my boot, in the form of a yellow leaf. Change – there it is again.
I’m saving words for a closing poem tomorrow, so I’ll be brief. My 60,000-word challenge is ending, but my blog will continue, just not daily. I hope you all know that I love to hear from you. Suggest a topic; pose a question; challenge me with an assignment. I love assignments, especially poem assignments. Don’t be a stranger. I’ll be in touch.
My 60th year in 60,000 words
Day 365: 83 words, TOTAL = 59,709; 291 remaining
(**REMEMBER - IT'S A LEAP YEAR!**)
All summer on Sutton Island we have listened to the tscha-GUNG of nail guns and the brrrrrrrr of earthmovers. Major renovation is underway next-door. This morning, at our inland home, I woke up to the beep-beep-beep of backing-up trucks and the whishhhh of air brakes along the edge of our property. The public works department is reaming out a drainage channel.
This seems to be my life this summer, under construction. Virtually every Earthling’s life, in fact, is under construction. We are renovating, reaming out, rebooting, reallocating resources, realigning goals under new building codes imposed by the pandemic. No one knows exactly where they’re headed, what might happen, or when they’ll reach an end point. Maybe that’s always true, but we feel it more this year.
With the close of my blog challenge, no teaching job ahead, my construction work continues. What will life be, moving forward, age 60? Will I reframe a robust writing career? Construct independent teaching jobs? Build volunteer time for people and projects in need?
I hear Mary Oliver’s voice:
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
My 60th year in 60,000 words
Day 364: 188 words, TOTAL = 59,628; 372 remaining
Hi there. Here we are in the last few days of my 60th year writing challenge, and I want to thank all of you who have come along (or just joined occasionally) for the ride. As I used to tell my students, writing is always a relationship. If I believe that even one person might see my words and find insight, entertainment, comfort, or provocation, it’s usually enough to spur me forward. So thank you.
I named my blog “you’ll never be quite the same” intentionally. Under the umbrella of change, I have written about birth, death, pregnancy, marriage, pet-ownership, moving, aging, growing and developing, seasonal changes, tidal changes, changes in habits, bodies, ideas, relationships, routines, tastes, traditions, popular culture, political climate, global health and security. In other words, change is everything. I’ll never run out of material.
Still, it would help me to know what has worked best in this morass of mental meanderings I’ve led you through. Which posts have stuck with you? When you click on the link to my blog, what are you looking forward to? Is there anything you wish there were more (or less) of?
I would love to hear from you.
My 60th year in 60,000 words
Day 363: 198 words, TOTAL = 59,440; 560 remaining
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.