May 2009

The river races in flood stage; the pumps have been pulled out once again. It's a tedious exercise putting them in, hoping to start irrigating the dry fields beside the river but because of rain upriver or snowmelt in the mountains, the river rises so high we can't keep the pumps at the bank or they'll be submerged. So we pull them out as dust blows across the young alfalfa sprouts while the river threatens the field.

Parts of this month of May already have felt submerged for me. My website was down (and still is at times) with complications at the server level. Then we thought we had it fixed but the forms don't work. Then on Thursday, the last day I could submit a proposal on behalf of four colleagues for a conference next year, the form zipped off before I could proof read it. So I sent a notice as they said I could asking if the two typos could be corrected. What followed was a notice on Monday that the proposal had been deleted but I was welcome to resubmit it, they'd give me until the end of Monday. Except that then I was away from home.

Our home phone was out of order too so I couldn't call home to ask the file be faxed to me. I had to recreate the proposal and biographical information for the four participants spread across the US all the while wondering why I was obsessing. I mean, it wasn't my fault the form had zipped away from my hands or that it had been deleted rather than corrected. Maybe we weren't meant to submit the proposal. I had to think about that. I had a signing that evening and I could feel heat in my face as I raced through the possibilities of what I might do on behalf of my friends without getting myself in some emotional state that I forgot what I wanted to say at my signing.

I wore a cape of responsibility so I composed, made phone calls trying to reach people to get home addresses etc., things required for the proposal that I had at home but not with me! Finally, close to 2:00 Pacific Time, I went to the website to resubmit -- but the form was no longer there! I called the conference contact in Georgia - it was nearly 5:00 there -- explaining my problem and she offered to type what I sent her into the form at her end which was great. Meanwhile, I desperately tried to send what I'd re-created but I was at a friend's house (they were gone) and somehow I needed a password to send the email out.

Again, I wondered why I cared this much. I mean, they might not even choose the proposal after all that!

Jerry finally drove me to our second home away from home these past years, the Aurora Museum where I could send the file out. I still haven't heard if it arrived....but now I have done my best.

So what would I have done with my day if I hadn't been working on that proposal? That's what I asked myself. I'd have taken the dog for longs walks in between rain showers. I'd have walked hand in hand with Jerry by the secluded pond near our friend's home. I had to sit for a bit to try to decide how I felt about giving up that time for a proposal and if it had been just me, I think I'd have bunched it. But there is this aura of responsibility I live with: other people counted on me. I wonder if my characters don't make choices too because "others count on them" and what do they give up for that? Maybe, like me sometimes, it is easier to give to others than to accept nurture for ourselves.

Fine, I thought: be responsible in the care of one's family. Be present and available in a time of crisis. Keep one's commitments. But it is also fine to let things go...especially when being nurtured is the alternative, filling up with pleasures not often granted. But I chose to use the time to meet a commitment made to others. Time with Jerry is "an other" and time walking with him and with the dog are joys I treasure but gave up for the day. I'm still working on why.

On the up side though, once I sent it off, we drove to accept an invitation to visit the Lewis and Clark College library and meet with the Director, a friend, who showed us the fabulous special collections surrounding Lewis and Clark. Many of the documents are one of a kind including a 2200 codices hand-copied by a woman named Mary Anderson in 1893 replicating the journals of Lewis and Clark. It made me curious about who she was and how she was chosen for the task.

The library acquired many of these volumes as a gift from a private citizen in the Northwest whose passion was Lewis and Clark books. He collected every edition, German, Dutch, English, etc. of Lewis' journals and every book related to the expedition and then donated it all to the college. What generosity! What a lovely way to allow his passion to serve so many. There's something gracious about being willing to part with something that obviously gave him so much pleasure to collect through the years. Scholars, graduate students and interlopers like me had a fine time of it touching leather printed in 1811 -- if only for a moment.

That evening, nearly forty people braved a downpour, truly, in Portland to attend the signing at Powell's Books. One lovely lady said she made her husband (who has shingles) bring her anyway! They all ignored the flu scare and their shining faces and comments after I spoke lifted my spirits. It never occurred to me not to keep that commitment but that was for someone grandmother whose story I tell in A Flickering Light, the publisher, and yes, for Jerry and me too who make our writing life together.

Speaking of the writing life, I'll be in Dallas Texas at the end of the month. If you're in the area, please consider coming out for a couple of events there. Back at home, our weekends are filled too with events in the Northwest including Mothers Day once again in Aurora. Bo is traveling with us to those which is grand.

Hopefully soon my website will recover as a friend of mine works on it diligently; the phone is working again and clearer than ever before. I'm working on revisions of the sequel to A Flickering Light and on my brain-expanding "uncomfortable" writing book about a writer trying to get Oprah to know her name thinking that will bring her fame and fulfillment. It's a humorous book, I hope though some of my decisions about how hard to submit a proposal might be telling me something related to "fame vs. fulfillment."

Eventually, the river will move back into its banks and I've made a promise to myself that before the day is over, I'll take Bo for a walk beside the river, holding Jerry's hand.

Enjoy spring! Warmly, Jane