Dearest and Closest,
It’s been a long time since I last wrote here with the same urgency I feel tonight. I don’t know, maybe it’s that a week ago I began the journey of my book out in the world and all the bewildering twists and turns of publication (and all the work that goes into promoting the book). But somehow, tonight, I feel slightly lonely. I shouldn’t feel lonely, of course. I have a lovely husband whom I adore in the other room working on another application for something--this time for a residency this summer. I have a two-year-old son on whom we dote. A dog I love. A book out—which is damn exciting! And lovely notes from people all over the country who have already dipped into the book and wanted to reach out. But I feel ragged.
Last week, in particular, the first week that my book was really “out there” in the world, was such a strange blend of baring myself, relentless self-promotion, insecurity with dangerous turns into arrogance, and combinations of self doubt and false confidence, it was mind blowing. In the same week I received an email from a man telling me how “damn hot” I was. Another from a woman who asked if I might consider surrogacy for a baby she desperately wants. Others from people who want me to give them books, which is a funny one, because I really do want to give away my book—just hand it out as a gift to anyone who might feel down or lonely—but I also want people to buy the book, so I’m in an etiquette pickle there. And although some people might have been flattered by these overt gestures of, I don’t know what to call them--maybe idolatry?—I, somehow, felt scared. And like I needed to hide to make it all go away. I’m not in Kansas anymore, I wanted to wail! Where am I?
On the plane down to New York City last week, for my first reading, I sat next to a lovely woman—a teacher, now retired—who was reading my book. Ok, I DID hand it to her when she asked what I did, but she proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the flight and read the first four chapters. I practically had to pry it from her hands, saying, “ Really, you can order your own! I need this one for my reading, it’s my lucky book and all my notes are in it!”
In the cab, going into the city that was once my home, it occurred to me that this feeling of being somehow outside of my body, and just sort of weird all over, was deeper than what anyone else was doing, really. It was inside me. And I couldn’t quite shake it. Is this what success feels like, I wondered?
Whatever this was---this bearing of myself in the larger world, when as a writer, I’m used to being alone with my words in a small room--was made more bearable by the fact that my Aunt Sally flew across the country from the Bay Area to meet me in New York so I wouldn’t be alone doing my first reading. This was such an incredible act of kindness and generosity. And then, the reading itself in a rainstorm on Madison Avenue all the way uptown, behind a window literally stocked with my books and a huge picture of me, sat a room filled with gleaming, lovely faces.
Later, there was the pile of books in a Barnes and Noble sitting next to Andre Dubus’ memoir Townie (which really flattered me). And when I was asked to sign them, I saw that wedged in with my books was one called “My Bi-Polar Life.” I laughed and said, “Well I can’t sign that one even though I kind of want to!”
And then, finally, I was flying home, looking out the window to witness the same old story of land that has been developed beyond what our ancestors could have ever fathomed. Up the coast the plane went and dipped down into a fog as thick as cream and skidded smoothly to a halt on my home turf.
The next morning I turned to Dan--the news of tragedy in Japan on the radio--and said, “I need to get out—somewhere, anywhere. “ And so we piled into the car, our familiar place, Master M. strapped into his car seat, Hopper buckled in and Dan driving, listening to “Papa Goose” over and over as we made our way to Wolfe Neck Farm in Freeport to meet the new lambs. They stood shakily on their little legs, their bodies vulnerable and delicate, and reached at their mothers’ teats to nurse; when they got some milk their little tails would twist and shudder with joy. A large billy goat wanted me to pat his rough, oblong face forever, his expression long and serious about my affections. And the calf stood close to his mother, unsure about our intentions. I knew how he felt.
Outside, we walked to the salt marsh behind the farm and back, our feet sticking in the heavy, wet spring snow that, to me, speaks of syruping time. And reminds me of gathering the sweet, light sap with my Dad when I was a small girl. We’d carry the heavy buckets out of the fragrant woods and boil it off in our sugar shack, the sweet smoky smell telling us it was spring again.