“Watch out for potholes in the river bottom – step in one and you’re gone forever.” My mother’s words warned us children as we waded in the swift currents of the American River on a hot Sacramento day, but she could have been warning me about my recent life.
Taking on the Editorship of the Camptonville Courier has been like slipping into a pothole and I’m only just now coming up for air. For the past three months I’ve been navigating the unfamiliar world of publishing, where I’ve been pushed up a steep learning curve, challenged to learn a foreign vocabulary, and driven on by unrelenting deadlines.
Three editions later, I emerge from my hole and look around at my “normal life.” Though I vowed I wouldn’t sacrifice writing on my novel or practicing the cello, that’s exactly what happened. So yesterday, when I realized that I had actually written, practiced, and planted seeds in my vegetable garden, I felt a surge of hope. It’s said recovery sometimes sneaks up on you!
The uncanny thing is that this experience has found a way into my writing. At times, I don’t know whether I’m writing a novel, or the novel is writing my life.
Here’s a scene from The Desk, touched with magical realism as the present-time character, Christie is unknowingly nudged by the apparitions of her great-grandmother and great-granddaughter conversing at her bedside as she sleeps. (Note: “The Desk” was the former working title for “Heart Wood” before 2020, and “Christie” is now “Harmony.”)
“Everything has the same urgency to her,” says the short, plump one with the stiff lace collar that prickles her neck. “She’s paralyzed by her despair for the future and damming up her own power.”
“And thinks she can avoid it by saying she’s retired. Now where the hell did she get that idea?” The tall one flicks her long sandy-colored braid over her shoulder and crosses her arms in disgust.
“She doesn’t know the desk’s power.”
“Maybe the desk needs a little help?”
“A little nudge?”
“No, I’m thinking something bigger.”
* * *
The night is deep and dark when I awake making plans – not in my usual sleepless pattern where thoughts wiz across my mind like neutrinos in a vacuum chamber. These particular thoughts are organized, concrete. I observe them, allowing each one to pass by as in meditation, waiting for them to dissipate as they usually do so I can return to sleep.
But they don’t. My eyes dart back and forth as I listen intently to what seems to be outlandish plans to run the community newspaper. In one swift move, I am out of bed and seated at my desk, taking notes.
© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2014, except as otherwise noted.