Skip to main content

Featured

Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

(we are all) mothers of invention


A mother by invention, I took care of N for a week, then E after they both got sick. It felt comfortable, natural. The rhythm of bowls of soup and tissues, finding a new movie to watch, an extra blanket during a nap. It is dead cold out there, -32C today. Waking up in the hard air, I remember moments from my childhood on the farm. The downstairs toilet was always frozen over, and we would pee in it, trying to melt the layer of ice at the bottom. Under ski masks, inside metallic snowsuits we plodded down the driveway for a quarter of a mile to wait for the school bus in the dim light. We were the first ones on, and the last ones off.

Coming home from school, I would lay down in one of the fields, dry stalks of wheat poking through the heavy snow. I would build tiny amusement parks for the mice to play in. A slide. A go-kart track. A swimming pool.


I am working on a book that touches on some of this. The story about building worlds in the snow, Wild Asparagus is deeply personal. At the end, I jump from the dinner table and run outside, convinced someone is calling my name but no one is there. Just the mountains, an empty tire swing and the dogs. I crouch down in that tall grass and hide. I don't want to go back inside.

In the beginning, I thought being a writer was a bit like playing god - deciding people's fates, orchestrating each path, making it rain, making them fight. I watch E spending an entire day coming up with names for the girls in her stories. This is the initial thrill, the exhilaration of being able to control something. Eventually, we learn that humility is the final destination. Listening to the characters, instead of telling them what to do. It sounds so simple now, but it took me years to embrace.

Somehow, I had to surrender to the stories.






Every time I pass a garbage can that is on fire here, every time I open a box of eggs in the market to find half of them broken I have a choice to make. No one is watching. No one seems to care. It all adds up to a moment of surrender, or choosing - inventing. There is no controlling anything here. There is no fresh pen, no empty piece of paper. It may read like a story, but it isn't one.

No, we have to invent our happiness.



Comments

Annie said…
I love the photos.

And, I found that acting is like that, too. At first you may think it is about you, and your "decisions", but then you realize the thrill of giving in, and letting the character take you over.
liv said…
That is SO E. with the little cereal flower...hahaha Love it!!

Yes you struck a nerve there. I find the same in painting. The portrait is IN the paper, the canvas. It's just a matter of bringing if forth with the brush.

And humility is one of the greatest secrets of life, isn't it? To truly understand and embrace it is a miracle , a liberation. The gateway to so much. Thank you for the reminder.
ah yes, humility, M. And long live the powers of your inventions. What an exquisite post!
Mely said…
Lovely post.
Happy Valentine's
Marco North said…
Thanks Mely, same for you! I have a blood orange sorbet cooling in the freezer, and am working on some pumpkin tortellini. the kitchen windows are completely steamed over.
Banker Chick said…
What an artist your are in everything you do! I hope everyone is feeling better.

Popular Posts

best personal blogs
best personal blogs