Memorial day journey, part I




One day last week I took a long walk. It was time. I’d just emailed off a version of an essay that I knew was finally the way I wanted it.

A year, basically, is how long it’s taken me to get this piece of writing right. The work’s been through a lot (and so have some of you, who’ve given me your time and feedback). Like the Willamette flowing beside me as I strolled the bike path, I’ve seen months at low levels, seasons in full freshet, and now I’m simply coursing between banks – I shimmer whenever sunlight peeks through.

The idea started out safe this time, so I guessed. Last February or March while vacuuming I sensed a eureka building. “Yep. Maybe that’s it,” I said to the cat. “I could do a nonfiction book on that topic.”

I’ve sure wanted to finish a book, you know? To birth and raise a full-length manuscript, and then dress it, set a hat on its head, and wish it well as it leaves the file drawer to seek its fortune.

I felt ready to work under tutelage of the best authorly methods. I started out just writing, simply pouring onto the page my experience, my knowledge.

Except, mm. This is where I’d first faltered with other manuscripts. Knowledge to some degree I’m packing. Experience, sure, plenty in years that keep lengthening. But as before when I’d written to help people, maybe to teach, I quickly shifted into tell-my-story mode. My life, there it is, the only thing in which I’m truly credentialed.

But I reassured myself that I could express my experiences briefly in my initial chapter/introduction, and then move on to the meat of my message. Once people knew me on the page, as when folks and I get acquainted in real life, they might care to listen to my opinions about navigating emotions, relationships, and religious traditions (I had easy goals, see?).

I wrote and wrote, until I found what could be the nub, the gist of what I’d like to ultimately express. Then I pondered regarding my book’s framework. How should it begin?

Memorial Day weekend. I thought back a year previous (two years now). Tim, our son, and I spent a Friday night camping at the coast. We stayed near a place that, for me as well as my husband, brimmed memories. I’d been back before, lots of times. But this particular weekend the recollections surged, a personal sneaker wave caught me off-guard. Dramatic it sounds, but indeed in this locale I had, at twenty-three, faced my life’s crossroads.

To be continued...

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