Millheim Retreat, Day 2: Three Vignettes

7:39 am

Oh, that was a rotten night of mostly not sleeping. The unfamiliarity of a new place but also the heat and the absence of my pillow. I am a tender flower.

I did get another hour and a half or so of writing on the memoir last night and it’s brought me back up against another difficult section. Though as I write that word “difficult,” I’m laughing because exactly which part of this is easy?

I’ve just come from a quick visit to the coffee shop, which has wi-fi, so I got my little technology fix, and now I’m back at the kitchen table with papers spread around me, waiting for the arrival of my friend, another writer, who is coming to share the space with me today. I am very accustomed to feeling dread and frustration surrounding this project, but this morning, on a day that promises to be uncomfortably hot and humid and whose air smells frankly of cows, I feel good. Happy. Ready to start.

1:58 pm

Spent the morning writing vignettes. Or, more accurately, transcribing stories I’ve told about my father as close to verbatim as I could manage. I began with the stories I tell the kids and am now moving on to others. I’m not sure what these are. They are small paragraphs and feel sort of like they could function as embellishments in the structure of the book. Dividers? Interludes? I don’t know. Maybe they’re just an exercise, nothing lasting. But it suddenly seems important both that I tell these stories in my life, and that I enact the telling here on the page. This is a different kind of telling from what happens in the long memoir chapters. I’m not crafting as much, but instead trying to let the words hang there the way they do in my life. There is a level of crafting, of course, because even in the telling and retelling, I shift and polish words and memory constantly.

7:22 pm

Just back from dinner and my mouth doesn’t know what to do with itself, where to focus, how to describe what’s happening inside.  Garlic scape pesto. Preserved lemon. Strawberry-rhubarb compote. Aggressive, assertive, acidic, acerbic. Bitter but delicious. Untempered. Inharmonious.

This review could go either way and it will, but not tonight. Going to finish Heaven’s Coast and go to sleep.

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