It’s been a cool day, gray and on the edge of rain. Brendan asked me to open the bay window so I can hear him count how many times he can bounce a birdie on his badminton racket. (Fourteen is the record.) I set up my laptop in the window seat, happy to surround myself in light, no matter how filtered. A pot of soup bubbles on the stove, chicken stock with onions, lots of carrots and Yukon gold potatoes. My children don’t like chicken in their chicken soup, which causes me a dilemma, since I certainly want chicken in mine, and they need more protein than they think. I wonder how small I can dice chicken… the soup is thickened with red lentils, which have dissolved by now, and perhaps that will be protein enough. I will put large pieces of chicken in the broth and eat the chicken myself, perhaps.
I am revising an essay I’ve revised more times than I can recall. (Hint: it’s about a sailing trip.) All the revisions total, let’s see, 24,000 words (there may be some overlap of several pages). Each reader so far has said “this has the makings of a great essay, but it doesn’t know what it wants to be.” One said, maybe more of this and the other said maybe more of that. I’m sticking with the main premise: the essay doesn’t know yet. I wish it would tell me. The readers’ solutions: 1) you’ll only know it by writing it, and 2) drop your feelings into your heart and write from there. Hmmmm. Am I trying to make the essay too big? Am I leaving it too small? I’m still turning each piece around, asking the essay to please enlighten me. I ask while chopping potatoes and cleaning the sink, while folding towels and putting away blankets.
A bowl of chicken soup later, the vegetables are buttery-soft, just how my children like it, and my daughter quickly says “nice lentils, Mom.” Her favorite. She leaves every visible onion in her bowl as she moves to practice her violin. (She hopes to bribe me into something, I’m sure.) Brendan is in the tub soaking, where he will make up another story in his head. Both are writers, starting forty years younger than I did. Scott is out at a meeting, missing this glorious soup.
The sky opens up here and there, tomorrow’s weather as much a mystery as “what my essay wants to be” when it grows up. I will send it to my advisor tomorrow or the next day, and pack for a writers’ conference.
Earlier this weekend Byron visited, transforming us into tourists and tourguides, exploring our downtown and showing off our scenic drives. We shared plates of fresh clams and chowder at our favorite seafood dive. The whole day was an incredible treat, meandering and leaving all work projects behind for a few hours.
And while I was walking past the Sweet Magnolia Café, a woman opened the door and said, “Oh there you are. I drove up from Boston. I know you from The Glen Workshop in Santa Fe last summer, and I was hoping I'd run into you.” As I live in a town of 30,000 and I’ve not walked past that cafe in several months, this seems like a good sign I’m in the right place at the right time.
Now the edge of the clouds rolls back and the sky is still blue, though it’s seven p.m. Time to call in the boy, who is birdie-bouncing again. The girl, who is devouring her dessert, asks if she can tuck into her bunk and read. Yes. The boy will eat his dessert, too, and hopefully sleep a little extra before we start the school week, again.
And I will interview my essay again after they go to bed: what are you about, anyway?