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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chapter 13 and Valentine's Day and Prayer

I am at Pendle Hill on Valentine's Day Sunday.

I woke at 5 am to wrestle with Chapter 13 of Alice in Wonder.  I have moved back to page 60.  That's right. Yes, I know I had 90 pages, and some of the rest may go back in, but now I have to pick a story for Alice to tell, a story that tips the warnings about sticking to material suitable for children into a genuine warning that she will no longer be allowed to run her story hour if she persists with her odd creativity.  I'm thinking of using "the Emperor's New Clothes." I want Chapter 13 to be a major turning point in the story and I find I am struggling to figure it out.  (Every odd-numbered chapter is her in her story hour.  Every even numbered chapter is Alice's present life.)

As a Valentine to the readers of my blog, here is Chapter 12:

Chapter Twelve: 

Alice needs to write through her anxiety about going to a women’s center reunion. It has been a long time since she’s had such an intrusion into her peace, such a foreign object in her mind to blister herself on.   Free writing has worked for her in the past, so she decides to buy a blank-book journal and a set of Bic Flairs as well, knowing that the pleasurable aspects of writing will get and keep her going: the creamy feel of the paper, the flow and colors of the ink, greens and purples, the place in which she writes. 
Here Alice pauses mid-aisle.  She is at the Chestnut Street Staples on the second floor, but suddenly she needs to know where she will write: at her dining room table?  What color room would be best?  Alice travels through her five rooms in her head: tulip, rose, iris, sea and daffodil.
Her living room is tulip crimson with white doors and white framed windows.  She loves her red velvet couch and chair, her tiled fireplace and built-in bookshelves, her bank of sparkling windows and the photos all round.  This is where she relaxes to watch television and commune with her cat.  But the closet where she stores the boxes she has accumulated over the years opens into this room, and the closet, door opened or closed, unlocked or locked, is too close for comfortable writing. 
Amid the trees of the daffodil yellow kitchen?    Too small.   And her Iris blue bedroom and sea-jewel bathroom are set up for direct and immediate functionality.   Neither should carry the air of indecision.
The rose pink dining room also has its function and set routine.  It must be ready to serve a sandwich, a cup of tea, a salad, spaghetti, and multiple glasses of water set and waiting.  Alice fills six 10-ounce glasses in the morning of every day so she won’t forget to drink them before nightfall.  This is the least used of her rooms, really, just a passageway to the kitchen.  She rarely opens the walnut china cabinet that displays relics of her mother and grandmother’s dining finery.  The still lifes on the rosy walls relax and slow her.  The table’s clean and inviting surface could serve another function.  And she never has company anyway.
            Her six glasses of water could accompany the writing.  The rose room, with dining room table, china cabinet and side bar would surround her with uncooked food and their utensils, framed and looking at her hopefully from the walls.  Her feet would be comforted by the most richly colored of the fake orientals and her eyes would be cushioned by the real oak table and chairs, the dark stain rich against rosy walls and maybe--
            “Can I help you find something?”
A young man interrupts her thoughts, and she, startled, pulls at her purple lock with one hand and waves her basket with the other.  
“I’m all set,” she says and scoots, carefully picking her way down the steep stairs to the checkout counter.
Later, she stands in her dining room and admires her preparations.  She has moved her tray of water glasses to the kitchen door arc of the table which, with its extra board, was now oval.  Farthest from both kitchen and living room door, she has placed her open notebook, its faintly-lined pages already marked with the day’s date.  White star lilies spike out from the bulging bouquet in the center vase, and a matching crystal cup holds the flairs.  She pulls out her chair and sits.
My name is Dr. Alice Deed.  She writes in black for fact.
I almost earned a degree in library science forty-some years ago.
So what?  She writes in pink to chide herself.
So I can work in libraries, nitwit!  She writes in blue for answers.
She stops and crosses out the “nitwit” with red.
I love to tell stories.  She writes in purple for pleasure.
Whatever for?  She writes in pink.
I don’t know--which leads me to believe I have a leading from God.  She notes in her answering color of cool blue.
Haha!  Hello!  She laughs at the first of many dashes she will use if she writes with a flowing regularity.  But now she means to reason through whether or not to go to the theatre company and women’s center reunion.
PROS and CONS.  
She provides headings in black ink for the next page and then giggles again.  What would con-artists say if they had to read enough prose to turn around and write it themselves?  Nobody used to get her jokes back in the day.   She duly makes her entry under CONS: No-one laughed at my jokes. She has written with a red Flair, so now the die is cast, red for caution and green for go, go, GO.
An hour and two glasses of ice water later, Alice’s list looks like this:
I’m a little curious about the people I worked with.
No-one laughed at my jokes.
I’m a little curious about layers in that drama. 
Going would destroy my happy anonymity and solitude.
The door has opened.
Some women I would not want to see again, they intimidated me so.

Some events I don’t want to relive; they took so much energy.

Everything took so much energy!  Especially accountability.

They will question my Christian faith, something that I did too back then, but it is no longer debatable to me.

They most likely will be all white.  And if the Black company members came, none of the white ones will be honest  about racism in the company. Would I be honest?

I’ll feel self-conscious, since I haven’t been a lesbian in years.

I don’t want to go.

I can’t

Alice nearly writes that she cannot afford to go, but that isn’t true.  She hasn’t taken a trip in years, and she knows the money is just sitting in the bank and in one of many hiding places in her home.  Her eyes involuntarily look at one vase in the china cabinet, but then she hears Miracle Kitty fussing in the kitchen.
“Must be time for dinner,” she murmurs and pushes back her chair to prepare food in the kitchen, popcorn for her and Greenies for kitty. 

Now that her list is made, the only step left in her decision making is prayer. Not that she hasn’t been praying all along, formally or not.   Disturbances in her peace have the same source as the creativity of storytelling: faith in action.  Today was exhausting.  But now she also has the joy of starting a new journal.  It’s been awhile, quite a few years.  Alice is smiling by the time she is sitting in front of her TV with Miracle, both munching happily.


I think "The Emperor's New Clothes" would allow her to examine arrogance and insecurity and find out how her favorite innocent kids would punish such a tricky king, or in the fictional Alice's case, a person who feared others who really are just like her.  In all her sessions, the listeners fill n the details and ask lots of questions

Happy Valentine's Day.

What makes this day different for me is the input from the last two days--seeing Michael Moore's film Where to Invade Next and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night with two friends and then receiving Pamela Haine's annual Valentine's Day letter.

The theme is the many varieties of LOVE.  

Michael Moore's marvelous reminder to the USA that it used to have values that inspired others and it could have them again--or it can persist in war, torture and destruction.  Oh yes, I see his work as love, love of the kind that Aristophanes gave ancient Greece through theatre. Moore makes some questionable choices in depicting racism, but but but ....  Back in ancient Greece, if historians are to be believed, politics revered poets' voices as messages from God.  (See the film when you can.)

And the RSC rediscovered play and the possibilities of community in their production.  They threw out the 3-hour script religiously and dogmatically adhered to by many and turned the evening into improvised play with the audience.  The music and singing was stimulating.  The actors had us talking, dancing, playing with balls. The two love stories became mere background to frolic, while the practical joke on Malvolio--the pretentious and lecherous figure of morality--a Tartuffe--took center stage.  Here was an emperor in new clothes, indeed.  (See the show if you can.)

And the two friends!  

I took Nancy to dinner and a movie for her 62nd birthday which is today.  With Nancy there is the loving comfort of almost 40 years of friendship.  I know she'll be here tomorrow and tomorrow.  And we can talk of pasts and food and family and home like no others. Rosie met at the theatre--we'd had the tickets for months and I decided to go despite being "too busy." With Rosie there is the support of writer to writer, creative to creative, both of us also struggle with the physical nature of that toil--taking care of backs and nerves and muscles when we sit over books and computers most of the time.  Plus, we have the comfort of both being Quakers and able to suggest to each other that there is a role for meditation, a role for prayer.  And we both needed this work-break so very much!

Where to go next in my writing? Why not prayer as a first instinct to lay on the heart instead of mental anguish?  I am at Pendle Hill, after all, a place where, as Artist in Residence, I have an opportunity to deepen my faith. This is actually more important than finishing my book on schedule.

Which brings me to Pamela Haine's Valentine Letter.  I felt so honored to get it, to hear of all the contributions members of her family are making to the world and each other through right relations to resources and sharing of skill and love and time.   I am moved and not a little awed. She starts out:  

Dear loved ones near and far,
We are always glad to take this time to reconnect, knowing that our ultimate security—as well as our current happiness!—lies in the living networks of which we are a part.
And she ends with:
We are acutely aware of all the injustice and peril in our world, and the power imbalances in which our lives are embedded.  We try to stay grounded in the midst of it all, stretching to be ever more powerful while not losing sight of the daily, small things that give us joy and keep us whole.  We wish you the same.
Thank you, Pamela!  Thank you for your wisdom as well as your contributions.  (Pamela blogs at Living in this World.)

And there you have it, folks.  In answering God's call, my book is--yes, it is--an important pulling together and giving back of experience in the power networks of my time.  I've got to stop measuring my preoccupations against others.  I have nothing to prove but to live faithfully.  And to deepen the faith, prayer is the answer, not struggle.

Take that last paragraph and replace "me" with "you," and you have my Valentine's Day message to you:  Live faithfully to your calling, valuing your place in time.  Yes.  Value and love YOU.

I will write more as way opens.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a feast this was, Susan. Thank you, and bless you! In the Alice saga, I most loved the description of her colorful rooms, which are a visual treat to the reader and also set her in place and time. In your notes, I was most impacted by your realization that this opportunity to deepen your faith is more important than finishing your book. It will be finished, even if the time line increases by weeks or months. I am so glad you alerted me to this post. I wouldn't want to have missed it. The performance with the audience participating and dancing sounds glorious.

Sumana Roy said...

I'm in awe of the writings Susan...

Susan said...

Happy V-day, Sherry. I'm pleased to have something to share this morning. I am also delighted to let you and others at Poets United know what I am writing. Thanks for the feedback. I know we also share that need to take care of ourselves physically. Good luck on your own work and search.

Katrina's mom said...

You often speak my mind. Happy Valentine's day. I loved the descriptions of the rooms by the way. . . it's that nesting instinct in me.

Kay L. Davies said...

Wonderful writing, Susan. And I want to see that Michael Moore movie. Love that man for the work he does!
Love the photo of Miracle Kitty.
Hugs and love,

Susan said...

Thnk you for saying so, Sumana.

Susan said...

I have that instinct too! Thanks for stopping by.

Susan said...

Thanks for coming by, Kay! I guess if I had grammatical problems, you'd tell me, right?