To Reach The Green Light At The End Of The Pier
FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES: "We are saving ourselves through the words," says Eleanor, the leading lady of a novel-in-progress. This exploration into the creative process -- which includes plenty of distractions/tangents /thoughts & rants by Eleanor, her Biographer, and selected guest artists -- will continue until Eleanor is certain her story is "right." (But we dare not jump ahead of ourselves.)
There will be the occasional typo (as Eleanor points out), and much of this is intended to be "original draft" -- what comes out of our mouths (heads) first, and then set down in that order. Not all of it will be included in the novel, but all of it is happening in real time.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Eleanor: It's quite a fine thing to be moving ahead at a decent rate of speed, and even sometimes going too fast for your own good, and it's another thing when you can see this big wall ahead of you that says, "500." I told my Biographer to slow down, to stop the engines for a little bit, but not to stop writing, of course. We will take the best of the best for these final postings, and though I cannot predict when they will begin, I have a pretty strong feeling that it's going to be very soon. To become part of the creative process, all you need to do is read. There are no entry or admission fees, and everyone is invited. My Biographer is in The Little Room as I speak, writing in his Moleskine notebook, and deciding on the strategy. The strategy after all is everything. The approach, I mean. He already knows my wishes (or my demands, depending on how you look at them). And I just wanted to let you all in on what's about to happen.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Eleanor: We are still here. We have not disappeared. We have not run away. Right now we are listening to Townes Van Zandt singing "If I Needed You" on repeat mode, and we are weeping, because we know how Townes died, and that maybe it didn't have to happen like that, you know? We have been thinking. We have been thinking about the world, our world. We have been thinking about what happens next.
E: We have 26 postings left, after this one. To 500. Then we're finished. Done. Over. What happens? We go up in smoke?
I don't know, to be honest.
E: Well, maybe I sort of need to know.
Some people want us to delete everything. That would be a kind of performance art, wouldn't it? Just hit the delete button.
E: Would I still exist?
You will always exist, Eleanor. You will exist long after I am gone from this world.
E: Why do people die?
Because they have to -- eventually, I mean.
E: But I won't die.
I don't plan on doing anything drastic. You might live forever. I don't know. Just one person has to keep believing in you. One person is all. Ten years from now, 50 years, 100 years.
E: Will I still make sense to people then?
I need to make sure of that. Yes, you will.
E: What will I do when you're gone?
You mean, when I die?
E: Yes. I'm afraid of that.
You don't need to be afraid.
E: But I am. Will you sing "If I Needed You" to me? We can turn off the music, and you could just sing it -- for me, and maybe I would not be so afraid anymore.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
"I did not want to be a tree, a flower or a wave. In a dancer's body, we as audience must see ourselves, not the imitated behavior of everyday actions, not the phenomenon of nature, not exotic creatures from another planet, but something of the miracle that is a human being."
-- Martha Graham
Eleanor asks: Was I a dancer in a former life? I mean, in some of those pages you discarded, in those files that got lost? (I always thought it was suspicious how you could just allow files to be lost. That isn't fair, you know. To me.)
Was I ever a dancer? Please tell me, because I guess what I'm really trying to say is, I want to be a miracle.
Here, I'll give this to you and you read this quote and you tell me -- am I going to be a miracle in the final draft? Because if I am anything less, I might as well be a a leaf on a tree. And a leaf, it dies. It falls. It dries up into nothing.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
"Like all pure creatures, cats are practical."
-- William S. Burroughs
Zelda was 18 years, 9 months old. She was indeed a pure creature. And she was practical in terms of self-preservation/ survival. She had to be practical with all of the moves she made with me -- a dozen or so since 1990, and through the up times and the down times. She adjusted to her surroundings. We were together.
Zelda (after Zelda Fitzgerald) was my beloved companion, best friend, a muse. She was always there for me, and I tried to be the same for her.
Zelda died last Friday morning, her last breath taken as I held her. She also got one final purr in. And I held her for as long as I could, until my body warmth was making her body warm. I couldn't help but feel everything that was once Zelda, in feline form, was slipping away from me, even as I held her tighter, closer.
A co-worker at the hospital I was working at in 1990 gave me Zelda. She was already a survivor. She came from a farm, and most of the other kittens met tragic ends. Not Zelda. She was one intelligent animal. She knew she had a long life ahead of her. And so she did.
Zelda arrived at work in a big brown box. She stuck her head out to see what was happening. She was so small, but her eyes told me the world about her. Those big eyes, always watching, always curious, always inquisitive. I left the office, took her home right away.
She had to grow into her eyes, but they remained wide open through the years as she listened to me talk about writing, or talk about mundane things like the weather. She liked the sound of my voice. She was quick to purr, and she showed unconditional love that taught me so much about how to love another human being. That may sound a bit strange, but we learn so much from so many sources -- if we keep our senses open. None of these sources should be denied.
To me, Zelda was as much human as cat. All of my Little Rooms I've had, my writing spaces -- Zelda wanted to be a part of them. She wanted to sit at my feet and listen to me click away at the keyboard.
Friday afternoon, I buried Zelda in a flowerbed in front of the house. I covered her with part of a blanket I had as a child. I sprinkled catnip over her. (She loved her 'nip, and when she needed more, I had to personally sniff all of the catnip at the pet store to make sure I found the most potent variety.) I also placed some flower seeds with her -- "Forget-Me-Nots." I doubt they'll grow that far under the ground, so this, a symbolic gesture. Later this Spring, I'll find the perfect plant to place above her.
Yesterday I went to the store and bought two red roses, one for Zelda, and one for the Little Room.
We are in mourning here, yes.
The rose I put atop her resting place seems to like it there. The rose inside the Little Room is nodding my direction.
Although she couldn't get around as easily these past months, Zelda never lost the kitten in her. I hope I never lose the child in me. She remained curious, and intuitive, and she also kept listening, and the longer I'd talk to her, the longer she'd purr, and we both knew we were going to be okay. She trusted me. I never took that trust lightly.
Zelda was supposed to be around when I had my first novel published. I am taking too long, perhaps. She gave me all of those years, and was with Eleanor from her creation as a thought in my head to a fully developed character on the page.
Damn it, I miss her.
See, we looked out for one another, and I am wondering if I failed her somehow. If I did, I hope she forgives me. I hope she's in a version of a better place. I do still feel her presence. I hope I always will.
Zelda -- you were loved. Deeply. I know I was loved, too. We set out to conquer the literary world, and we almost made it when you were alive. I always imagined you sitting on my first novel, quite content to rest there, to fall asleep, gently -- creating something poetic as you did.
I realize that not everyone will "get" this posting, but anyone who has had a faithful companion like Zelda will understand completely. For those of you who have emailed me about Zelda, I'm grateful. I'll do my best to make this grieving process productive. More now than ever, I am determined. I can't control the timing of the industry, but I can control my output, and in making Eleanor's story something "better than good."
I'm going to turn the comments off on this one. There is nothing more to be said, really. Just things to be felt.
Perhaps Zelda did what she was meant to do -- she showed me the way. This path I'm on -- this is the right direction. Thank you, Zelda. Thank you.
I need this grieving process to stop, Zelda, so I can celebrate you and your life properly.
"Fate loves the fearless." -- James Russell Lowell
Eleanor Spain: "You learn by losing. You learn by losing your parents. You learn by losing your identity. You win by forgetting everything you've lost and figuring out your own new beginning. That way you can be friends with life again. That way you can get back the parts you've lost, the parts that really matter. You learn by jumping off a cliff."
Eleanor's Biographer: I am sitting in May Baily's Place, which was once a bordello in Storyville, which is now part of the Dauphine Orleans, a hotel in the French Quarter. I have a drink. I try always to stay at the Dauphine when I'm in New Orleans.
There is a lending library of sorts at May Baily's. It's just as you walk in, or, just as you walk out. Not so much a lending library as a few bookshelves, and the books on the shelves are an odd collection of works that the barkeep tells me he mostly gets from the used bookstore across the street -- the books that are going to be thrown away.
If you want to leave a book and take one, it's okay. If you just see something you like, take it, that's okay, too. I am drawn to a red hardcover that has "Dailyaide 1991" on its spine. The front cover calls this "The Silent Secretary." The book is a daily planner, or a diary, or a bit of both. I take the book with me.
The first few pages are dated December 1990, and are written in red ink, and in French. I can make out a few words, and I keep going.
The first entry in English is dated Jan. 4, 1991. "The shortness of breath gets worse and now my kidneys are killing me at night. I must go to the VA and face the music or die here. Let's face it. I am almost 62, and that's quite a long run. G. will miss me but he'll adjust and take care of (illegible) and the kids. I did the best I could. If only he could get away from the Quarter. Those soulless dead people! I am breathing better but can't lie down. I choke. God help me and save me!"
The next entry isn't until March, and it's written in black ink, and from a different voice. On March 10, 1991, G. (I assume) writes at the top of the page, "I am writing this March 17, 1991."
G. continues: "Joe has been in the VA hospital since Feb. 2. I tried to get him in the VA weeks before Feb. 2, but Joe hates to go there. I suggested Charity or even Tulane but he is as stubborn as a mule! At 1:30 a.m. I get the dreaded call from VA. I was allowed to see him at 1:45. I was sure they made a mistake, but no. Joe, my soulmate, the person most dear to my heart, my one and only love, my tower of strength these past 21 years and two weeks and three days ...."
Next entry, Palm Sunday, black ink. "Started out at 8:30 to see Joe. Got the bus to Biloxi at 9:50 (33.95 round trip). Arrived in Biloxi 11:45. Took a cab to National Cemetery (10 dollars). Stayed with Joe for an hour. A gentleman whose wife passed away came to talk to me. I had trouble finding Joe because they did not put his middle name at the temporary marker. Home at 6 p.m. The TV died Saturday so I am listening to the radio station for the sight impaired. I love you Joe."
The final words, or at least the words at the back of the book -- most likely were written by Joe, probably at the same time be began to put down his thoughts, his fears. It's in red ink, and on the very last page, under the heading of "Memorandum." But I cannot make out the words. Again, I recognize the language -- French.
Throughout the book, Joe (red ink) has underlined some of the "quotes of the day." One of them is this. "The deeper the sorrow, the less tongue it has. -- Talmud." And that quote being underlined, there are so many empty pages. Most of the pages are empty in fact. There are no pages torn out. The book is intact.
G. must have held on to the book, for a while or maybe longer, and somehow it shows up at May Baily's, on a shelf mixed with novels and biographies. I feel it has been a lonely book for some time. Perhaps it came from the bookstore across the street. But you can't really sell something like this. Perhaps G. came into May Baily's and put the book on the shelf, hoping someone would find it.
There are plenty of mysteries that come with this book. Whatever happened to G., for example? And, why should I be the one to find the book, and take it with me, protecting it like a family heirloom -- but this is not my family.
I will translate the French someday, though I suspect it will tell me little more than I've already read. I will keep the book, because I sense more love in it than sadness. I sense heartbreak too, but only in terms of the dying part.
I wonder if some of the pages are written in invisible ink.
I wonder a lot of things.
But the book is calming to me, as though it really was meant for me, for whatever reason. There are lots of stories I could write about the book, turning life into fiction. For now, I'd like just to hold it. In my hands. To feel the warmth. For now, I want to keep it real, non-fiction. For now, I will be the guardian, the protector.
This was an unexpected find, but I suppose every "find" is somewhat unexpected.
Does fate really love the fearless? Eleanor says. Will you write the parts of me that you've lost -- that I have lost? Will you catch me as I jump off the cliff? We can learn together. I know we can. We can start today, can't we?
Of course we can. Of course, of course.
(for angiecd, "on topic")
ELEANOR says: "Please turn the page. Keep reading."
For more of Eleanor and her Biographer -- as well as the work of our many guest artists -- check out the older postings. "Everything is part of the process, and the process is the journey," Eleanor says.