Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shared History.

Christmas is Florence was a grand occasion, as usual. I spent ample time with my childhood friends and loved every moment of it. It's always a special treat to see my friends of 20+ years and reminisce about our former lives.

Here's what we look like right now:

We're missing one person, but you get the gist of it: despite our crazy childhood antics, we turned out to be well-adjusted women (for the most part).

But aside from catching up and having a drink at the bar, what really takes us back is visiting our old haunts. Mariann and I, for example (she's on the right of me), took a walk around the old neighborhood twice -- and the second time, we visited the old graveyard of the family who owned the golf course and probably the entire neighborhood back when it was a plantation.

It was just as magical to us last week as it was 20 years ago. The modest little picket fence -- I spotted  it from across the green and announced that we'd found our destination -- the names of the Muldrow family, most of them born before 1800, and the peacefulness of the place, despite its being in the center of a popular golf course. It's always felt like our place.

That's the thing about the memories I share with my childhood besties -- we share them collectively, so they feel real and not simply a fictional part of our individual minds. Yet, they don't feel so real that everyone else (random golfers) understands. It's a secret, shared history.

Not to sound too corny, but as I get older, I really value the bits of shared history with my old friends. And not just the childhood pals, but those from high school, college -- anyone I've known for years. When I was growing up, my nostalgic mother always talked about the passage of time (she still does, actually) and hinted that nothing survives it: not friendships, not locations, not ideas.

Thus, I am grateful for the people and ideas that have followed me throughout the almost-35 years that I've been alive. As a sensitive and artsy person, I have the tendency to focus a great deal on loss. But honestly, there is plenty that I've kept in my proverbial pockets as the years have rolled by.

Here's to 2015.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On the Art of Transitions.

A few years ago, when I started working on my book, I realized that the hardest part of writing (at least for me) is the art of creating a transition. Thus, I would never abandon the story "between scenes," so to speak. I figured that in order to make things easier on myself, I would reach a stopping point in the middle of some action, so the momentum would still exist when I got back.

This "action versus lull" theory has bled over into my reading habits as well, particularly if I'm enjoying a book so thoroughly that I don't want to stop at a part that might cool my passion for the narrative.

I've tried to explain how hard transitions are to my tutee and probably to any other writer who is willing to listen to me -- including my freelancers, because it's true for magazine articles as well.

But what I didn't realize, until today, is how true it is for real life.

I've always thought of the time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day as a "lame duck period" of the year, when nothing really happens except, well, some people undecorate their homes, I suppose, and get ready to resume real life. You might argue that it's not everyone's favorite place to leave the year -- which is why The Christmas Cliff exists. (You know how everyone insists on seeing you before Christmas, as if the world ends on December 25th after the gifts are opened? That's the Christmas Cliff.)

So, I am proposing a new tradition -- or transition -- for this year, instead of leaping blindly from the action of Christmas Day to the action of New Year's. Let's make the most of those funny days in between. Let's continue celebrating and making merry and enjoying the time off from work (if you have it). I know I said that I'm wary of transitions to the point that I avoid them at times in literature and personal writing, but, if I start facing them in real life, maybe I'll get better at digesting them and creating them for the page.

Writers, after all, often draw on their own experiences. I appreciate y'all being part of mine and helping me bridge to the next chapter.