Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poetry to Go

I forget when I first dreamed of being a writer. I've always being a note taker. One of my earliest writing recollections was when the principal came over the loud speaker while I was in math class and announced that President Kennedy had been shot. This was before there was a TV in every classroom -- the black and white video days -- doubtful there was even a TV in the school. Instead, the principal put the radio on over the scratchy squawk box and we listened as the news went from bad to worse and the president's death was confirmed. I remember reaching into my desk and pulling out my assignment notebook and taking notes -- the girl next to me was crying, the teacher was staring up at the box on the wall, the room was still, eyes were glassy with disbelief. I no longer have these notes, but I have a clear recollection of taking them.

Still, I never thought of myself as a potential writer, despite my perverse attraction to office supplies -- a new notebook gets my heart pumping. I love the tactile feel of papers and have been known to test pens on inappropriate canvases. I used to sit at my desk, write on pink lined paper with a turquoise ball point pen with funny smelling ink and pretend I was -- a secretary. I was a girl. I had already learned the hard way that girls could not make captain in the safety patrol, they could only be lieutenants. Those were the days when jobs were listed in the newspaper under men's jobs and women's jobs and in the women's column were teachers, nurses and secretaries. The fact is, I never even dreamed I could be a writer, that was a job in the men's column of my twisted little brain. I chose to dream of becoming a secretary because of the easy access to office supplies, I guess.

So this is how I have always lived -- taking notes. And over the years some of those notes have turned into poems. Somewhere along the way I started to read about writers. Biographies, notes on their lives, birds by birds, blood on the forehead. Live and Yearn. And somewhere between Virginia Wolfe and Annie Dillard, I fell into the life I never dreamed of, yearning for the sunlit desk, sipping steaming tea by the banks of Plum Creek watching the silent snow and forming perfect words with a fountain pen, because that is what writers do -- right?

No where in all the reading I did about the writer's life (extensive) did I read anything about waiting for hotel shuttles that don't come, sleeping in a bathtub when the reservation evaporates, sleeping on airport floors, delayed flights that mean no sleep at all. Dreading snow because it means flight delays, lukewarm tea in ballrooms and pens that explode at 20,000 feet. So, whenever I meet a yearner who asks me about the writer's life -- I insist on listing some of the realities. I mean, really.

I checked into the hotel in Lexington this afternoon and dumped my purse on the bed. This is the first stop on a long trip and I'm excited and nervous at the same time. Nervous because I'm watching the reports of a "complex storm system" that threatens to derail the close connections that will enable me to meet up with Michael (brief episodes of freezing rain) and fly on to Jakarta. (We're looking at several inches and high winds, mayber 30 miles per hour). I haven't started to bite my nails yet, (temperatures should start to drop off around midnight) but that's just because my fingers are on this keyboard after thawing out from waiting for the errant shuttle. (reports of some sleet, big area of low pressure)

Tomorrow I will meet some old and new friends at the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English, (pockets of ice), give a talk, sign some books and head for the airport (storm will sweep across IL and IN and into OH) where hopefully the little prop plane (wintery mix, weather advisory, stay tuned for school closings) that brought me here will take me north to get on a big bird that can fly over the storm.

Annie, Virginia -- you never said it would be like this!

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