Observation

On February 28, I was the guest author at my friend Gale Cunningham’s book club. They’d read my novel, “Intentional” and had smart questions and interesting comments. It was fun. 

Then Gale brought out a little book I’d done years ago with photos from my series of paintings of fabric. It got some “ohhs” and “ahhs” and someone said, “Wow, you can paint and write.”

One of several small books I created on Blurb.
https://www.blurb.com/b/609580-images
One of several small books I created on Blurb.
https://www.blurb.com/b/609580-images

And my response was that I’m really bad at science and math. I could have added foreign languages, sports and a lot of other things that other people are very good at. I know, you shouldn’t have to apologize for being good at a couple things, or rationalize away their value by telling what you’re bad at.

But I did it, and what’s done is done.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the two things I am good at…art and writing, and basically I think it comes down to observation.

Photo by Lukasz Lada

Seeing: as an artist you see details, that tiny edge of yellow in the pink sunset, that a particular shadow is made of blue and green and purple and not just variants of black. Details. And then you take those visual details and arrange them into something new and interesting. In writing, particularly in fiction, you’re observing the visuals (that tiny edge of yellow in the pink sunset), but also behavior, and interactions between people; then rehashing, embellishing, reducing, enhancing, and reimagining what you observe into something new.

Is this what makes me sensitive to details in everyday life—that wrinkle in the bedding that I have to straighten? Noticing. All the time noticing. The loose hair on my shoulder? 

Or maybe it’s a bit of obsessive-compulsiveness.

I used to be good at dancing too (I don’t think it has anything to do with anything).

So, tell me, what are your strong suits? Bragging is encouraged here…

Dead Elephants

When my kids were little, we lived around the corner from the library in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts. Every day when their father went to work on the afternoon shift at the Air Force base, the kids and I would walk to the library and gather several picture books that we brought home. They cuddled up close on either side of me on the front porch steps while I read to them. One day I read them The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff.

When the mother elephant got shot, both of my little children cried and cried. I thought, oh no, I should never have read that book to them. After dinner they asked me to please read them the Babar book again.

“Any part in particular?”

“The part where the mother dies.” Continue reading “Dead Elephants”