I wanted to be Kathleen Kelly, her name crisp with that double-kay sound. She was a cool adult, one of the first fictional characters to give me an idea of the kind of life I’d like to lead. Asking a child what she wants to be when she grows up is a question that always pertains to occupation. Though being a bookstore owner was extremely appealing, it was more than the job. With Kathleen, it was about how she lived her life, how she looked at the world around her. Kathleen bought flowers just because. She wore black in the fall and pastels in the spring. Better yet, she was human, not an impossibly perfect idealized person. She said the wrong things and agonized over it for hours, just like I did. We both loved books and the Internet, a contradiction of analog and technology. And like Kathleen Kelly, I tried to hide my online obsession. It felt embarrassing, as if it was a sign that I didn’t know how to act like a human, which, considering I was an awkward preteen, I kind of didn’t.
My earliest memory in life is sunlight patterns on the ground coming down through the leaves of the tree. I remember that before anything else. That sort of sunk into me very early on. And my mother had a question she used to ask from time to time, sometimes when a piece of music was playing on the radio. Classical music usually prompted this question. She would ask, “What do you see when you hear this music?” And I always saw the woods.
Last night on the way home from seeing Kristin Chenoweth in concert I picked up a venti Americano because I had plans of pulling an all-nighter and writing. When I got home I reminded myself that I am 31, not 21, and that I’d regret that decision for days after. So instead I put the Americano in the fridge and rolled into bed. Woke up to coffee this morning and that made me happy.
Things I’m Enjoying:
Recorded an episode of Pickled Okra with Jolene. In this episode we talk traumatizing train travel, boudoir photos, and my recently uncovered Phantom of the Opera fan fiction from 1998. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
I was recently a guest on Misti’s The Garden Path Podcast. Listen! It was such fun talking about gardening and Oklahoma.
This podcast was a fun one to do and I’m willing to bet Elizabeth will be on the show again in the future. Elizabeth and I are second cousins but up until 2008 or 2009 we didn’t know each other existed. Maybe in some kind of out thereway, but our mother’s had been out of contact for almost 30 years. As fate would have it, we had similar interests and genealogy was one of them. Elizabeth stumbled across an ancient forum post of mine from 2002-2004 where I had posted about one of our mutual relatives, wanting to find more information about him. She replied to my post and an email was sent to me and from there we’ve been in contact ever since.
Gardening is another one of the many interests we share and I wanted to have her on to talk about her own garden in Norman, Oklahoma as well as to talk a little bit about gardening heritage. We also touch a bit on the landscape of Oklahoma and how the prairies and central plains states are often overlooked in regards to being a beautiful habitat to enjoy.
In person, the effect of all this is like meeting a mountaineer whose work lay behind her but whose stories of having done it still get passed around as legend. If Holy the Firmpointed to the peak Dillard was trying to climb, and her next book, Living by Fiction(Harper & Row, 1982), was a nod to the people who had gone before her and failed, then the ones that followed, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (Harper & Row, 1982) and The Writing Life (HarperCollins, 1989), told the story of actually doing it. The false starts, the caffeine yo-yos, the encounters in the Amazon or the Arctic—or at church—that kept pushing the horizon further out; the tapping at supporting rock walls and the bolts she’d drilled into them to see if they’d hold; the occasional plummets. All the hard work of staying awake, and the descent. One of the reasons Dillard is so beloved is that she tried just as hard to make the case that we could all do it, live this way, that all you need to do is work with a demented singularity of purpose.
As for her, what is she after, inhaling those hundred or more books a year since age five? That library in the sky of her mind she has built. What is she seeking? “It’s what I’m for,” Dillard says simply, putting out her cigarette. “Somebody has to read all these books.”
Susan Calman goes on holiday. This one is hilarious and I have bookmarked the next one in which she visits the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Feeling a little puny this morning so it’s nothing but sparkling water. Took a hot shower, wrapped up in my fluffiest robe, and enjoying the quiet in the neighborhood. The east side of my house is so bright and awake in the mornings. I love it.
Things I’m Enjoying:
I’m so late to the game with On Being(formerly Speaking of Faith), but I have to say something about it because it’s is one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. So far I have listened to several episodes, seeking out the ones featuring interviews with people I respect and admire (Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Alexander, the Indigo Girls, Brené Brown) and listening to some featuring people I’ve never heard of, talking about things I don’t know anything about (dark matter). Every single episode has given me something to think about. And more often than not, several things. I love that Krista Tippett is originally from Oklahoma. I love that back in April, Jolene and I were wandering around the neighborhood in Minneapolis where Krista records this wonderful show and I had no idea. Just listen.
How Jane Vonnegut Made Kurt Vonnegut A Writer: Kurt and Jane were a nation of two. “The world is divided into two groups: us, and the other people,” he told her. “We’ll win against any combination of powers.” Once married, the pair began figuring out how to run that nation, which was to be, they decided, a nation of love, arts, common decency, and peace. Jane drafted a household constitution: “We cannot and will not live in and be hogtied by a society which not only has not faith in the things we have faith in, but which reviles and damns that faith with practically every breath it draws.”
Kurt was more pragmatic, casting about for career ideas—teaching, reporting, opening a library with a bar. Jane had just one idea, and she pressed it with patient determination. Kurt would be a writer—a great one.