Saturday, April 4, 2009

Notes from the English Department

Rosa y Luna, photo credit:Sandra Edwards

Last night we decided to take the coastal route on the bus ride home from Vina del Mar. We got off far enough from the steps that lead up to our house for a chance to walk along the breakwater. The tide was high and waves splashed over the rocks, their last wisps directly below us. The moon lit the clouds, mottled like doeskin, and the rocks held the sheen of water and foam.

We found a path to a rickety staircase. My husband went down and sat on a lower rung that was right above the tongues of the waves. Susana spoke of how she swam naked with a friend a year ago in the sea, how cold the water was, and how much she wanted to do it again. When Bill climbed up to us, Susana said, "My turn," and glided down the steps, stepping on to the top of the rocks. Waves broke over her feet as she balanced above the water. I have lousy balance; I envied her ability to stand there, poised and laughing, as the waves surrounded her. She came back happy with wet shoes and pant legs. My emotions have been ebbing low. What a gift to watch the sea in the moonlight and to hear laughter in the midst of it.

Today has been the first day I've wanted to write fiction again, after nine months (!) of time off. I've worried that blogging might take the place of making stories and novels. It's so immediate. Satisfying. And after a tap of a key, people can read it! Is the purpose of writing to be read? Or does writing itself, most of which stays in private nooks of computers and journals, the gift? These questions are too facile, but writing is lonely, and if you do it truthfully, hard work. With Internet and blogs, we are in a new world. What would the Bronte sisters do if they had blogs? Walk upon the moors, in the heather, and then come home to blog? Would novels be written?

I'm grateful that I have had the opportunity to be modestly published. I'm grateful for friends and relations who have read manuscripts during times I was still learning to believe in myself as a writer. Yesterday I was contacted by one of my most brilliant students, a young woman named Michelle Berger who was writing novels as a fifth grader. She told me she'd read Heron's Path, and it was the type of novel that she loves. A reader. Great joy. And yet, even without that reader, a writer writes.

The ocean is not far from my door. When it's especially quiet at night, we can hear it as we fall asleep. I open my window in my bedroom when I iron and watch small sailboats, seagulls and, on hot days, the usually smooth surface transformed into whitecaps as far as the horizon. I want to put life in words. I need to put my life in words, even if they're about a girl with six tentacles or two sisters who are not sisters, one of whom turns into a bird to take her real family home. Or to write a blog like I am tonight.

I don't know how this time in a foreign country will transform into fiction, but I begin to believe it will. We return in three months to California, and our life in Chile will be a dream: a cloudy night sky over the sea, saying the words for clouds and fog in Spanish, and watching a friend standing in the foam as waves rush past her feet. I will have these words to make it real.


Moderator: Michelle said...

Very beautiful imagery you painted in this post. At least you have some great memories of South America to recall whenever you please. Are you moving back to California, permanently?

Harry Allagree said...

Alethea, keep, keep writing! You have much more to say in the future, and so far you say it extremely well. Can't imagine that, like fine wine, it won't continue to age and mature. Writing is a calling and, IMHO, you are definitely called!