November 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

This isn’t goodbye, quite.

Yesterday marked a thousand days and thus the end of this endeavor. The last entry should have been last night, but then I wouldn’t have had this wonderful photograph from Antarctica that shows last evening’s partial eclipse of the midnight sun.  And anyway, I was out with my son doing Christmas stuff.

Which has been part of the ongoing problem with A Thousand Days. It started out well, a story a night. But that’s hard to sustain because more and more life intervenes. Life profound, and life mundane. Lists of story ideas grow longer. They write themselves in my head, these stories, but somehow never make it to the page. An old friend of mine uses voice recognition software to get over this particular kind of writer’s block, but it works about as well as that stuff on your cell phone– and well, that’s one more frustration I didn’t need to sign up for.

Just Wednesday I was promising someone that no matter what I was going to make the last story “Why I Live Where I Live,” a love song to Dayton, (and an old idea borrowed from 1970s era Esquire magazine.) And I was going to do it before Friday. But there was broccoli salad and Sagaponack corn pudding to be made and  a long drive north to my uncle’s and then the festivities of the holiday. Black Friday came and went (without a visit to a box store I might add) padding around barefoot in my pajamas half the morning. Before I knew it the partial eclipse of the sun (visible only from Antarctica) came and went, along with that last story idea.

Part of this is Billy’s fault. My old friend, a magical character equal parts vulnerability and bon vivant died last fall, just before his 53rd birthday. He slumped over at his computer watching an obscure YouTube video of a Scandinavian singing “Lucky Old Sun.” He was supposed to go out to a club that night to promote his latest musical obsession, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, but he never showed, which was not Billy’s way at all. It was such a miracle that he’d lived so long, careening around Boston on his Vespa, (and if it was after dark he was toasted) that I suppose we all thought he’d live forever. He didn’t and since the very night he died I’ve been trying to write about him and failing. Maybe another time. I was haunted though. I felt like I had to write this piece for Billy before I could get on to the veritable laundry list of other subjects I wanted to tackle.

To wit-  How to Save Christmas (I think), obituaries, stop lights, muskrats, insomnia, animal wars, Orville Wright, the aforementioned love song for Dayton, and a little piece about Lisa Spinks, a young woman who was brutally murdered by someone she thought was her friend. A half-dozen others. And Billy’s story, which finally is writing about ghosts. But there will have to be some other forum for all of those.

I am very grateful to those who stuck with me, even when I gave them little more than a gossamer thread from which to hang. The comments, support, suggestions, controversy and conversations that swirled around the blog entries have been remarkable, and somehow along the way I got to be an expert on Crooksville pottery on the strength of a single article. I’ve had heartfelt thanks and heartsick outrage left in relatively equal numbers of messages. (Only one time did I hear from an attorney, and once I took his name out he went away. Apparently he didn’t care what I had to say about his client.) If I’d had the will and fortitude to keep writing about murder victims, this really could have been something. But just like my old friend and mentor Steve Huff found, I discovered that writing about violent crime all the time eats away at your soul. Of course, other topics speak to me, and I always intended to get to them, if only I hadn’t been so busy doing whatever it was I was doing.

A Thousand Days has been as neglected and forlorn as an outgrown pony. There it sat on the Bookmark Bar, just waiting for me to click it and start writing. But I was out of the writing habit and without a deadline, I became a dilettante. I’d meet people who said how much they enjoyed my pieces and it would make me sad. I wasn’t worthy of their accolades. Jesus, a whole year went by without a single effort, and before that it had been almost six months. I needed something to make writing routine again, part of the day-to-day schedule, as regular and necessary as breathing.

So I’ve made myself a new project, 30 Days Notice. It is a very short-term blog, and I’m not sure that it will be pretty. I’ll start December 1 and write through December 30. I promise you (and myself) that I will write every single day, no matter what. What month could be more challenging than December for that– when we are all over-scheduled and trying to fit a few more hours into every day? I’ll have to train my family to stop their constant stream of interruption, or I’ll have to learn to ignore them. It’s clear that waiting for them to go to bed to have peace in the household doesn’t work anymore. In December we’ll have house guests. There may be Migraines (I hope not, but I’m a realist.) I know there will be Christmas parties, school functions, shopping, wrapping, shipping, cards, dogs, friends, family.  All those will have to make room while I shoehorn the most essential thing back into my life.

How appropriate, then, to end with something as transitory as an eclipse. Something is hidden, but only for a moment. The curtain has dropped on this show.  A Thousand Days is finished, but you get to be along for the ride (if you want) while I find my feet again, and with that, discipline and self-respect.  If we’re lucky, perhaps it will be entertaining.


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§ 4 Responses to Eclipse

  • Kaitlin says:

    This is a beautiful photo. Voice recognition software is ugh. A friend of mine accidentally turned hers on and we were convinced her computer was possessed for awhile (we were in high school, what can I say?)

    Sorry to hear about your friend, and thanks for the thoughtful comment – you brought up a point that I should probably address in a later post 🙂

  • Rob says:

    Well, I just rediscovered my bookmark to this blog and here I am: too late for the conclusion. But what an honest, beautiful, and moving conclusion it is. I also found a digital photograph of your father today–the one you didn’t like (and I”m not too wild about, either) made by our photographer friend. Thinking of you Larkin, and my wonderful friend Larry, and wishing you and yours the very best.

  • Rob McDonald says:

    Well, I just rediscovered my bookmark to this blog and here I am: too late for the conclusion. But what an honest, beautiful, and moving conclusion it is. I also found a digital photograph of your father today–the one you didn’t like (and I”m not too wild about, either) made by our photographer friend. Thinking of you Larkin, and my wonderful friend Larry, and wishing you and yours the very best.

    • Hello Rob,
      How nice to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words.

      My father’s mother died the day before yesterday (at just shy of 97) and we are once again in the grips of preparing a means to send her off. Of course, this is different, too– it is in its own time.

      A friend advises me that I should have one blog and one only and I said that’s like writing one book. (Though he has a point, maybe I’d have more readers if I stopped reinventing myself.) But there are more essays, ridiculous to sublime, at these sites:

      Speaking of book(s)– didn’t you have one or more in the works?

      I thought of you when Harry Crews died– turns out that Harry’s son teaches English at the University my son attends.

      They say we die two deaths: one when we draw our last breath, the other when someone speaks our name for the last time. Given that, I expect my father to go on for a very long time.

      Don’t be a stranger.


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