Thursday, July 25, 2013

getting ready to push

It's one of those mornings when you just can't believe your luck, to be alive and here. At least, I can't, why am I assuming you feel this? It's fresh, mild and sunny, the birds are crowded, squawking, around the feeder, there are bees - rare precious bees - nosing into the oleander flowers, and the Rose of Sharon bushes have exploded into bloom, mauve near the house and white with red centres further back.

And I am in love, seriously, deeply in love - with my baby, my manuscript. Now I remember how this felt last time, when my first book was nearly finished. Back then, in order to find the solitude and concentration needed to push it through to the end, I flew twice to the Banff Centre, to sit alone for many hours a day in Hemingway, my little round writing house in the woods. It was paradise - the air smelled of forest, there were mountains all around and elk grazing outside, and when I was hungry, I could leave the little house and go to the dining-room, which was full of delicious food and artists of all disciplines from around the world. I could eat and talk and then, filled up, go back along the pine trail to the little house, to pick up my beloved manuscript, almost ready, almost done. There's a thank you to the Banff Centre, which granted me a reduced, affordable rate, in the book's Acknowledgements.

Now my children have their own lives, and I can find that level of solitude right here, in my own kitchen. No mountains or elk, and I have to cook my own meals, but it's quiet, and there are birds. And there's that same excited feeling of getting ready to give birth, of the book nearly ready to head out into the world on its own. I've given myself a deadline - this draft will be ready for the readers I've asked to critique it by my birthday, next Thursday. Then I can take a few weeks off while they read, and then, I hope, plunge back in to finish it by the end of the summer. That's the plan, anyway. The readers may have other ideas. Maybe I am deluding myself that the book has a future.

But I think I'm not, and it does.

I first started work on this Sixties memoir material as an MFA student at UBC, in 1982, and I've written, oh, at least 15 drafts in the last 7 years. So why has it come together now? There's no question that the sudden rush to completion is connected to my mother's death at Christmas. I loved her very much, but I could not publish this while she was there to read it. Now she's not, and I am free.

There's a monarch butterfly, wings outspread, resting on the bannister in the sun. There are wonderful smells - jasmine, thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, and ... and ... I've forgotten the name of my favourite smell. Not lilac, it's .... it's a giant hole in my memory. This is scary. I can smell it, it's mauve, it's ... lavender. Lavender. Lavender.

I'd better hurry up with the work.

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