Sunday, June 19, 2011


This is my nine-year-old dog Wag, in her homemade box safe house.  If she's in it, nothing can hurt her.


Every day I mustLeyline 13
risk or die, care or grow stale, earn my place
on earth or yield it to others. To live well
is to love and to labor, else we leave behind
no sweet, flesh-ripened fruit.

Excerpt below from Proust and Pears, written in late 2010.

I’ve been looking over the earlier parts of this book. I haven’t looked back much as I wrote it because the momentum of my Muse and what I wanted to say has carried me forward like a stream of water after a good rain, but, even browsing now, I see that it all fits together. It makes a whole. I am producing fruit, and this particular year has been especially propitious for fruit. Just as the pear tree produced its hundreds of pears, so have I written so many hundreds of new pages.

I laughed in places–over my visit to Anna White and her choosing the wrong foot to diagnose. Over thinking that Proust, living in his cork-lined room, would not have had the privilege of opening the hen house door to see a hen in a foot deep hole she’d dug looking for tasty bits on the coop floor.

My life is all adventure. Since I began this journey of "my own self," I have had many adventures.  I’ve challenged so many people and situations, but I’ve had what it took to do it, to risk poverty, disapproval (of parents, friends, children, teachers, and other authority figures).

A professor at Indiana University, whom I liked, when I told him I was dropping out of my graduate courses in Comparative Literature, said I was asking to be run over by a steamroller. I don’t know how many times people have told me something couldn’t be done, and I’ve done it. Recently, at Central Carolina Community College, in 2008, the administrator in charge was sure there was no way there could ever be a Creative Writing Program there. Then she herself seemed to be the biggest obstacle, but we did it.

Go to Russia without money? Travel alone? I remember sitting with my too heavy duffle bag in the Leningrad train station at 8 A.M., in 1995, on a cold September morning, before me the mural of Lenin arriving in Moscow in 1918, to declare that the Revolution had succeeded, while I waited, cold, hungry, and getting sick (the train had been chilly and drafty) for Larissa to fetch me to her apartment. She did come and then everything was okay.

I’d had to call her, and the person on ticket duty told me I had to have Metro tokens to use the phone. In despair, I asked the policeman, and he got me the tokens. Thanks goodness. Then I could only leave a message with Larissa’s daughter. Would she get the message?

How Larissa nursed me with sage tea and hot milk with butter and honey, once we got to her apartment. No one bothered me while I waited for her, and yet I felt so alone, so alien, and yes, so scared.

When you take the risks I take, you come at times to such moments of doubt, even torment. Yet I’ve passed through them all and been a better, stronger person for it. I think of going to Robert’s, next door, when finally this house had closed, twelve years ago, and I had the key, to tell them I finally had the land, and being met at the door by his son, a big, burly young man who seemed both hostile and angry. Earlier, there had been Emma, Robert’s wife, who had said, "She’s like us." And her three-year-old grandson, Demetrius, who had run up to me and hugged my legs. I got through that.

I’ve had so many good people help me over the years, believe in me, respond to my writing, my spoken words, my efforts to do something worthwhile.

It doesn’t matter now that some people hated or distrusted me. Robert’s son smiles on me now, and his family have been so good to me the last twelve years.  The administrator writes to thank me when I help publicize the Creative Writing courses at the college. I sometimes change people’s minds about me. Some I never do, but so many people have loved and valued me that I would not have had reach out to me had I not taken the risks I took and encountered the hostility I encountered.

I call it transformation, when you go into difficult situations that need healing and have an effect–often by treating people well and sometimes by fighting with them.

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