Five years ago yesterday, I was using a walker to move.Continue reading
And so we begin again.
2018 was not like any other year. I look to the year that starts today with a sharp sense of all that I got wrong in 2018, but there was also much that went right.
I watched my daughter play a lead role in her school play, trying hard not to embarrass her from the audience as my face, my hands, my posture all shouted “OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOU AND I AM SO PROUD OF YOU” louder than my voice ever could. She hit her stride in school. She sang in choirs and bands and alone, to herself, in happy moments.
There is little that makes me happier than that sound.
My wife/best friend/partner-in-crime and I moved even closer together in a year of intense triumph and intense sadness, though it was hard to conceive how getting closer was even possible. Sometimes as you weep for what is lost, you desperately need to hold, and be held by, the love that remains. I was never judged when I wept for the loss of my parents. She knew she was marrying a man who loved deeply, at least in part because there was no hiding how deeply I love her.
But there is much of 2018 I will not seek to carry forward. I turned inward. I read, somewhere, recently that creating art is writing a love letter to the world. But I’ve not felt great love for the world-writ-large this year. I’ve been shown great kindness by friends and strangers. That doesn’t mean I’ve wanted to send a love letter to the world.
I have to change that in 2019. There have been other periods of my life where I was a writer who didn’t write, a sailor who didn’t sail, a guitarist who didn’t play. They were not happy times. Wisdom isn’t about not making mistakes, but not making the same mistakes over and over. And I know from experience that we act our way to right thinking, even if we wish we could think our way to right acting.
So my wicked cool 40th-birthday-present guitar is coming out of its case today. I will see if I can still play the Smiths’ song I mastered in the fall.
This blog post is going up for no one, really, but me.
I will exercise. It is too cold to sail on Buzzards Bay, but I will walk in the sunshine at least literally today. And I will try to reconnect with the people I have neglected. I wrote the first essay in what may become a (long-contemplated) collection this morning, sitting in the same blue chair where I drafted my novel in 2015.
At some point, we must turn our attention to the living.
William Butler Yeats’ brilliant and haunting In Memory of Major Robert Gregory played in an endless loop in my mind last week. More exactly, I heard Ted Kennedy’s voice paraphrasing, in his eulogy for his nephew, the closing line of Yeats’ eleventh octet: “We dared to think that [he] would live to comb gray hair.”
Arthur C. Traub, Jr., at different times in his life a soldier, scholar, horseman, and daddy, lived to comb gray hair. And then, robust and strong, on the day after Christmas he lived no more.
I still don’t know why we were forbidden from going into my mother’s purse.
We were not a house of taboo places. Other than Christmas-present-hiding-season, no part of the house we grew up in wasn’t all of ours.
My current shirt and mood
I have lost track of how many times I have declared my novel “finished.”
The first time I heard Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane,” about the controversial murder conviction of black boxer Ruben Carter, I pulled my 1972 Chrysler New Yorker into a rest stop off the highway so that I could allow myself to be riveted. In my memory it is summer and I fumble for a pen not yet gummy and ruined by too many hot days in the car, and for a napkin in the hope I would be able to record the name and search for it at a record store.
Times were different then. Google did not facilitate such searches.
The story surfaces because it so closely tracks Emily Dickinson’s much-echoed remark to a friend named Higginson : “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” And because this weekend, Bob Dylan was to be in Sweden, months after the Nobel Prize banquet, where members of the academy were to meet up with him before a previously arranged stop on his current concert tour.
After the announcement that Dylan was being given the prize for 2016 that Faulkner got in 1949 and Camus was given in 1957, the boo birds came out in full voice. Writers from every part of the talent spectrum started responding in green ink, tweeting and posting on-line their disdain for the selection. Several took the easy cheap shot, asking haughtily if they could submit their fiction works for Emmy awards, or nonsense along those lines.
As so often happens in the world where social media values immediacy over all else, the boo birds – while seductively snarky – are mistaking ignorance for wisdom.
The first literature was sung.
There was no singing today.
There should have been. One of the traditions that Carrie brought with her into our marriage is calling family members on their birthdays to sing the happy birthday song, sometimes in tune, sometimes in time, sometimes both.
Such a thing never would have occurred in the Traub house growing up. That is less a good thing or a bad thing than it is just a thing. But the Carters never missed the chance to call and sing, and that practice is now as deeply rooted in our house as brushing our teeth before bed.
Carol Wagner Traub 1942-2016
Slow Train Coming
I have, in a sense, been waiting for this since I was a 4-year-old little boy who didn’t really understand why mommy was going to the hospital and I was sleeping at Uncle Ronnie’s. After the mastectomy that granted her another 42 years, her sons and infant daughter were brought to see her at the hospital. Among my earliest memories is hugging her in her wheelchair there and crying as I said: “Mommy, don’t ever run away again.”
She never did.