I'm taking our writing time today to start two new chapters in my novel Alice in Wonder. One is on Alice's great loves and one is on why she doesn't go to Quaker meeting. Since she's getting both from my life history, I am starting in long hand and on paper in my journal writing to these myself. The theme is loss.
- The loss of a long partnership with a woman because of heterosexual issues, it seemed, tho' the end was brewing for a long time; and the loss of a long term partnership with a man. 20 years ago now. I'll start here.
- The second topic is harder because I have not stopped attending Quaker meeting--but I did for a while. I hadn't thought that would need to be a topic in my novel, but when Alice loses her job she wonders where to continue her ministry and considers going back to meeting. I want the decision to parallel the decision she has to make about whether to go to the Women's Theatre reunion. I find her loss of a place to tell her stories is like me leaving teaching. Different reasons. But like me, she is considering whether writing could replace her lifelong ministry. I think she will have to tell stories and I will have to teach--the only question being in what context. For me, writing is becoming a leading. For her, performer as she is, writing will never replace having a live audience. Off the stage she's a hermit and a complete introvert. (Imagine that! Hahaha.)
After writing this, I packed a handbag with money and journal and went to a cafe to write on love and loss. I wrote for two hours--through lunch and lots of coffee, wishing I were still a smoker to suck up some of the emotion. After all that, I know I will use none of "my own stuff." ("Give me back my stuff" is a line of a jilted lover in ntozake shange's for colored girls.) What I know will inform what I make up for her, but I am writing a novel. No one's life need be riffled through and commented on, least of all mine. But what a marvelous day! I needed to do that.As for me, I have found new life in Quaker meeting as an anchor in my relationship with God and community. One need is becoming clearer--the need for a small group to continue with me after I leave Pendle Hill, a group to help me remain faithful and nurture my novel and book of poetry into publication. . . . I haven't clarified yet how to work with such a group though I imagine it would involve reading my work. Here, no one has to read it--tho' here and there it is happening through my blog. I'll be giving a presentation at the end of this Residency, and hope you'll be here.
And the day was capped with story: I attended the "Finishing Ceremony" of the Radical Faithfulness Program here at Pendle Hill and listened to 6--no 7 stories, counting Eileen Flanagan's, the commencement speaker. Using non-violent direct action to live their faithfulness, these amazing people have step by step entered a way of life they know because they have prepared the ground. Their choice of cause is personal, their engagement is community, and their protest is creative. They believe they can succeed. In this their faith deepens. Finally, I understand Jesus Christ's Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13, elucidated in fiction by Octavia Butler. This was the text of