The week of the Daughter. Once a year, Johanna comes here. Once a year, we go there.
Preparing the bedroom: years ago, I made special frames for twin beds, to be used stacked or side-by-side as a king bed. Week before last, we had Moshe and Beate as house guests, and the king bed materialized. This week, we had Johanna, and the twin daybed manifested. There was such a delight in preparing the sleeping for both, spreading the clean sheets, arranging the blankets. The hidden delight is that the two twin foam mattresses are from our earliest days in Lancaster, 1977, beds for Eli and Jo. Same ones, with dreams and summer sweats imbedded in their cores.
The Orff concert: I love Carmina Burana, and know it down to the soles of its shoes. The lobby benches were filled by other early arrivers, and we all played musical chairs to give comfort to those most likely to appreciate it. This was a one-night-only concert, and the house was sold out. During Carmina, I noticed a lady in the row in front of us, very bouffant hair. I can’t for the life of me sit still when listening to rhythmic music, but I’m in the minority. So I loved seeing this lacy coiffure bouncing and nodding along with me. When we were leaving, I stopped and greeted her, saying how much I appreciated seeing a kindred soul. I think she was tickled.
Sowing seeds: Johanna gave me packets of seeds for my birthday. My usual habit is to buy starts, but she said I’d enjoy broadening my horizons. I’d done a little and now have mighty favas about to bloom, but most were still in their envelopes. I spent a luscious afternoon being tutored by Jo in the ways of propagation, including how to make mini-pots from newspapers. Our front deck is now devoted to caring for sprouts-in-waiting.
Chaplin binge: we all decided to drink way too much wine and watch Chaplin films. Seeing One AM together was the culmination, rolling with laughter on the couch, celebrating absurdity wedded to genius.
SFMOMA: on our last day together before handing her off to her brother for their own reunion, we hit the art museum. We split off into three onesies and agreed to recombine at 3 PM at the café. There’s something wonderful about doing separate treks and then sharing responses. I spent most of my time being completely flattened by Anselm Kiefer; in particular, one very three-dimensional painting with scrunches of weeds (Die Meistersinger) kept making me fall into it. It was so much like the unkempt fields I would hike as a little girl escaping her house.
Art Explosion: and we finished by joining up with Eli at his art collective’s exhibition. Ye gods, the vigorous artistic ferment, artists of all persuasions and all media, on offer at this warehouse warren. Wonderful stuff.
And then we hugged hello and goodbye. We’ll see Johanna in September on her own turf in Italy. We know this see-saw rhythm from many years, and a parting is blessed by its anticipated reunion. Still, there’s a tug when the hug lets go.
The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
If it doesn’t, if it takes its first draft as gospel, it might still get published, might still become a best-seller and even give license to kill in service to its great truth, but success will come at a cost.
What the rewrite may do—a danger as well—is more than smoothing out the prose or finding a different way to say “suddenly.” It may give the piece room to breathe. It may, on the other hand, let you see where to trim the fat, and then to force yourself to do it. It may, as with our forthcoming GALAHAD’S FOOL and as with life, allow two characters’ relationship to deepen and evolve in response to his response to her response.
Above all, with persistence and luck, the multiple stages of revision might allow the Moving Finger to see—at least with the visual acuity of its fingernail—what the damned writing actually says. It’s so easy for the Finger to scribble out utter crap for the sake of proving it can scribble.
Better to look at it, to ask “Is that the best thing I can say right now?” and “Is that the best way to say it?”
That’s not to say that everything should be carefully ground and filtered to creamy texture. There’s great appeal, and sometimes great truth, in writing that’s immediate, spontaneous, volcanic—if it comes from the finger of a master and if it’s read with a critical eye. More often, though, the unexamined sentence, as manifest most severely on the Internet, inspires a rewrite, as—
The Tweeting Finger taps, and having tapped,
Gets shoved back up the butt.