The cheerful slant of spring sunlight is coming through the kitchen window. It plays across the covered mound of bread dough rising in my well-scratched, old Pyrex glass mixing bowl. The rest of the afternoon will be punctuated with kneading, punching down, and patiently waiting for rises. By oiled black cast iron pans. The aroma of baking bread will fill the house as the sun sets.
This sudden bout of bread making follows a week of industry. Painting, mending, cleaning, pruning, and weeding with great determination and gusto.
Now I’m trying to resuscitate my blog.
You might think it’s corona virus hunkering.
But it’s not. This is my emergence. Not hunkering at all. The tackling of chores put off after months of hunkering to do another rewrite of my new book. This version, 3.5, required eight months of hunkering.
Since I started this novel in June of 2015 (a month before Leave the Dogs at Home was published by IU Press, a year before I had surgery and radiation for breast cancer) there have been several manuscript hunkerings.
The first draft was finished in a daze from a concussion after being knocked silly by a distracted driver in a left-turning car bowled me over as I was crossing the street on an October evening in 2016. I thought that draft was magnificent, at least while I was writing it. Later I realized, thanks to some honest readers, that it was anything but. Still, all but one reader thought idea had merit; it was worth the slash and burn of total revision. Worth the hunkering.
I have loved the book. Hated it. I have put it aside. Gave up writing all together for a bit.
I have taken travel breaks. To Istanbul and Athens. To Russia, China, and Europe. To Paris twice with my daughter. Paused to help my sister when she had a couple of strokes. Sagged while saying goodbye to my dogs Lila and Diggity, my cat Cirrus.
Put my all of the rest of my life aside to work on it. Gave up all of my other writing to write it. Papered my office with diagrams of the story arc and post-it note character pathways. Lived with winding stacks of books and thick files. Renewed subscriptions to newspaper archives many times.
I’m not complaining. I like myself best when I’m writing. When I’m a crazy woman up until three in the morning, wandering, writing, researching, muttering, rewriting. My head full of the story, the images, the music, the passion. Dreaming about it. Eating it. Breathing it. Writing it.
My new book is a story about the time that made this time.
It's story of a determined young woman finding personal truth in the upheaval of the hippie antiwar and counterculture movement. Years later in a 2022 America fraught with extreme social and political tension, her hard-learned stance puts her life on the line.
There were just a few short years when people truly believed they were going to change things for the better. Believed in their music as a social binder. Together they could stop the war, make abortions legal; pull communities out of poverty. bring real equality to our society. There was a real sense of optimism and hope that the country, the world, was on the cusp of a new system of love, trust, and brotherhood. We talked about eco systems, and you are what you eat.
But we all know that was a pipe dream. Life went on pretty much as it had before. A few things changed, but the big picture did not. The hippies cut their hair and got mortgages.
And today, we are so far, far away from the ideals of equality and peoplehood, from the Woodstock Nation. So polarized that we can’t even agree to hunker down together.
It makes me want to hunker down. Except, that's exactly the wrong reaction. I'm going to get out there, and listen, and let my voice be heard where it can be heard, in my own town and neighborhood. It's like Fred Hampton once said, we have to deal "with what reality is, whether we like it or not."