Taking It All In

I am taking a writing class, called Just a Moment.  The name called my attention, as this is what I am doing now, blogging about moments and musings in the wine country. 

I signed up for the class, knowing I would come across as a middle-aged beginner at a night school.  I can’t tell you how humbling it feels, looking like a has-been, a ‘writer wanna be’ rather than someone who has fulfilled one and two careers, thus far, who chooses to continue to learn the fundamentals of writing and get the moments down right. 

I wondered if it was too late for me.  The teacher exclaimed, “It’s never too late to write!  Write!”  Then I remember…”The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”—Mary Heaton Vorse

When I signed up for the class, being the mother of two busy boys, who spends most of her time running around, I was called to its description: Slow down your mind, speed up your pen, take it ALL in.  Whether in the past or in the present, you can use ink, your own to fully inhabit any moment, snare the senses, capture the truth by the tale.  Writing, it is the window through which you can see the world tall or tiny, macro or mini, obscure or obvious. 

I love ‘taking it all in,’ and getting it onto the page, but I had this nagging concern.  How do I write about life in the wine country, moment by moment without boring the reader to tears?  I like the movement in a moment best, so how do I include the stages of story, (1. exposition, 2. rising action, 3. climax, 4. falling action, and 5. resolution.) into a compelling blog, into Just a Moment in time?

I was going to bring this specific question to the first night of class, but when I walked into the room, there was a quote on the board that answered my question.  “Like Chehov, (novelist and short story writer) Andre’ Dubus’s stories contain the arc of a whole life in a specific moment.”  

I went to my garden searching for story.  I picked up the red Dahlia bulbs that were lying in plastic bags for a number of days, pleading to be planted.  I held the neglected bulbs in my hands and thought I would never do to this to my good friend who gave these bulbs to me on Valentine’s day, leaving her to shrivel up and die, unattended.  

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” I thought of this quote by Edward Young.  And I’m the thief! 

As I dug holes 6 inches deep to plant the Dahlia bulbs, I remembered the first day I met my 69 year old friend, sitting on the wooden benches of the town square amphitheatre, the years lining her warm smiling face.  I recalled our walks together and the serious tumble I took when my German Shepherd lunged toward a dog the likes of Cujo, sending me flying into the air, falling hard to the ground.  There she was to get me home.  I remember our exchange of favorite books, for no other reason, than because.  We gave each other the greatest gifts one can give another, time and attention. 

I covered the bulbs with a nurturing top soil made of rain water, fertilizer and sun.  Soon, the red Dahlias will grow four to five feet tall, and when they do, they won’t just be red flowers in the garden, but a colorful show of friendship that will last a life time in my heart, yet taking hold for mere moments in my garden this spring.  

After I wrote this experience down, I understood intrinsically what Dubus meant when he wrote, stories contain the arc of a whole life into a specific moment

Or better still, William Blake’s words, “To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour. ”

When I write about life in the wine country, I must remember to let the journey unfold and allow the day to speak to me in its wondrous ways. 

It’s raining hard outside.  Another memory comes to mind, of how my mother, when it would rain, ran up and down the hall of my childhood home, screaming with deligt in her thick Argentine/Italian accent, “It’s raYning, it’s raYning!”  I smile. 

Her happiness lives in the rain drops.

2 thoughts on “Taking It All In”

  1. Reading today’s blog, Monica, was a refreshing change from just finishing an on-line test on InDesign as the rain continues to pour. This week’s themes: creativity (writing for you), friendship, and your mother provides me, the reader, with the opportunity to reflect about stories in my own life that relate to these themes. I love the way you ended your blog by describing your mother and the rain. In my mind’s eye, I see my mother pruning roses in my Sonoma garden in the pouring rain, something she loved to do each January. Today, in looking at my garden as it rains, in addition to the birds “playing in the fountain,” I see my mother in her rain hat, smiling as she prunes away while the rain adds nutrients to the soil.

  2. Reading your words is a wonderful way to start the week. “the arc of a whole life in a specific moment” – talk about the non-linear aspect of time. I am reading – thanks to Monica – Willa Cather’s “One of Ours.” Another writer who has the gift of capturing the apparently impossible to capture a the description of the moment.

    Monica – this posting also enriches our conversation of yesterday on how we decide to spend our time. The paradox of realizing that I don’t need more than the present moment to work on how I want to be in this world AND that life is quick and needs my courage to actively shape my participation with it in order to be how I want to be in this world. Your attending this writing class is another example of your active participation with “being” in this life!

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