Not to brag or anything, but I was a carbo-scarfing, chronically napping, antisocial television addict way before that was cool.
I was born to be that way, is why. And I mean that literally.
A weird thing about me is that my memories begin from about one minute after I was born. This is rare, but not four-leaf clover rare. (I was twenty-three before it finally sunk in for me that not everyone has as many memories from the time they were one minute to three years old as they do any other three year period of their life. Take away: long memory doesn’t equal brilliant.)
Along with how mind-blowingly bright it was in the delivery room (fun fact: what newborn babies are screaming is I need sunglasses!), one of my very first memories is of being held upside down by the doctor who delivered me.
When I suddenly found myself dangling in the cold and vast midair of that pea-green tiled room (in, as it turned out, a hospital in downtown Nashville), my first and only “thought” (because it wasn’t so much a thought as it was–I don’t know what you’d call it–an Immediate Foundational Imprint) was this: So this is life.
I totally assumed that I was experiencing the entirety of what it was to be alive. Because what else would I think?
Lay in a pan of warm water; stare into a woman’s huge deer eyes above what I now know was her white medical mask; be transfixed by a light attached high on the wall behind her, because the beams pouring out of it means has to be alive, even though pretty soon you realize it’s not exactly; hang upside down in midair.
Fast forward sixty-two years, and the coronavirus has placed me right back to exactly where I started: stuck in a state of suspended animation, feeling as if everything has been turned upside down, like I can’t touch anything, and like a power far beyond my control could at any moment drop me to the ground and kill me.
So. This is life.
More specifically, though, relative to the broader life I’m living today, I, two weeks before the coronavirus grounded us all like the angriest dad since Darth Vader, concluded my time as a freelance writer for the major daily newspaper here in Asheville, North Carolina. Over the course of some 3.5 years I had written for the Asheville Citizen-Times a real-time serial novel (Ashes to Asheville), an advice column (Ask John), and a column called Around Asheville.
In early March, its executive editor, Katie Wadington, left the Citizen-Times in order to move up in the ranks of Gannett Co., Inc., which owns the newspaper. (In late 2019, Gannett merged with GateHouse Media, Inc. to become the largest newspaper chain in the U.S., with over 260 newspapers in 46 states. Yet another round of Gannett/Gatehouse layoffs has begun at papers all across the country. Because, when you think about it, is a robust and independent press really all that important?)
Ms. Wadington’s tenure at the Citizen-Times started at the same time the paper agreed to publish on their website “Ashes to Asheville,” and her exit from the paper seemed like the right time for my own. My (amazing, but whatever) novel Everywhere She’s Not had been published six months prior, and I felt that the time had come for me to get back to writing fiction.
And that’s what I was doing when this freakin’ virus took over the world. I’d written the short stories The Very Best New Year’s Resolution, You Will See That I Have Left, Valentine’s Day — and then, boom: the virus froze my pen.
Turns out that when the imminent death of the whole human race is on the table, it’s difficult to think stuff like, “How can I make this sentence a little more succinct?” or, “Does this character need more backstory, or is it enough to know that she used to dress her bed pillow in a little-person’s tuxedo and spend the night whispering sweet nothings in the ear it didn’t have?”
So I gave up. I stopped writing.
But then, on Good Friday, I found myself basically obsessed with the twice-married, 73-year-old Vietnam war veteran widower whom I’d suddenly begun imagining. So I wrote his story, publishing Easter the next day. And telling that story seems to have unclogged my writer’s pipes.
But not in the way I expected it to. Because what I have found myself wanting to do since then is blog again.
I started blogging in 2007. In 2014 I suspended my blog in order to concentrate fully upon writing my novel. And I’ve barely blogged since.
But now I find myself missing the direct and personal communication that a blog affords. I also feel like I want to keep an ongoing journal/diary of my life during this full-on freakish time, and a blog is ideal for that.
Mostly, though, I miss the strong sense of community that my blog once created and nurtured. That was largely why I wrote my blog. (Well, that, and . . . to do this work.) And now I very much again want to hear your stories. I want to know how your life is going. I want to know how you’re doing. And I want to be with others as they respond to your stories, feelings and experiences.
All of that said, I am more than aware of the fact that today blogging is dead. The only way anyone’s ever been able to bring people to their blog is by linking to it on Facebook, and for years now Facebook has charged you an arm and a leg to show your friends or fans that you’ve posted something new on your blog. All a blogger can do these days is write and publish a post, try linking to it however they can, and then hope that anyone shows up to read it.
Which . . . I love, actually. (Susceptible as I am to missing the days when I considered a failure any blog post shared less than 10,000 times. I used to do 300,000 views a month. Now that many views a year is amazing.) The whole, “Is anyone hearing me?” thing actually works for me.
I was born to it, is why.
The best thing about writing a blog that you know few people are likely to see (at first, anyway! and probably forever! but we’ll see!) is that you can write about anything you want. No reason to sweat boring people in a room that’s empty. A-whoo-to-the-hoo!
So the first thing I’m going to write about–well, the second thing, starting with tomorrow’s post–is about . . . (drum roll, please!) . . . straw bale gardening!
You’ve heard the rumors! You’ve read the . . . I don’t know . . . random Facebook posts! You’ve seen the photographs!
Speaking of which, those are our straw bales above, as of this morning. This is our first year trying to grow Actual Food in the things that I’ve mainly ever thought of as Halloween decorations.
But more on all that tomorrow!
Until then, thanks for reading this. Please share, etc. And I’d of course appreciate even the most cursory comment, just so I know you were here.
Love to you! With all of my heart, I hope this finds you and yours doing well and staying healthy.