|The road upon which we are ramblers|
I am rich in friendship, bound to a few women I've known for decades, to many that I've known for years, and to several that I've known for only a short time. I met my friend Chris at a writing workshop a little more than a year ago and fell in love with her at another writing workshop up in Tomales Bay last fall. I say fall in love because it was that but not that -- it was her reading her writing and me reading and listening. It was me reading my writing and her reading and listening. The deep connection of writers. I sat to the right of Lidia, our workshop mentor, and Chris sat to the right of me. I was aware at every moment of these two women on either side of me -- Lidia's blond braids and red boots, her Cheshire cat smile, the way she coaxed eros out of all of us and Chris' wide cheekbones, her dark eyes and silence, her coiled energy that unfolded in words on paper. I heard Chris read her life several times during the five days we met in workshop and sat in witness to what some may deem unbearable about that life except that some would bear it and do so gratefully. The power of Chris' coiled energy rippling outward from the page, her sweet voice. I do that because I can. Because it's an honor to be witness. As a mother I am rooted to the earth. My lap is broad. My hands are large. I would have gathered Chris up into my arms as she read, placed my hand on her head, my palm to her forehead, my fingers a cradle. I held her words instead. They held me.
I say fall in love because it was that but not that -- it was getting to know her through conversation about books, about our lives, over food and wine, Chinese fortune-telling, laughs. She brought beads to Sophie the first time she met her, looked in her eyes, spoke to her. I imagine she heard Sophie's voice such is her quiet, her coiled energy.
Chris is the big sister I've never had.
On Friday night I took Sophie to the beach and picked up Chris. She had told me earlier that she would be happy to accompany us sometime this summer to the beach, to spend more time with Sophie. We walked along the water for some time, got soaked at high tide and then walked back to the car where Chris held up a towel as a shield while I changed Sophie into dry pants. When I sat Sophie in the wheelchair and began to pull her hair up and into a hairband, she began to seize, and Chris asked what she could do, how she could help. She shook the sand out of a towel and gently draped it around Sophie, covering even her feet. There's nothing to do, I said, and there is nothing to do. There's nothing to be done, really. Nothing has been done, really. It's been the same every single time Sophie has had a seizure. Nothing to do, nothing to be done, nothing has been done, nothing. That's what it feels like. Energy coiled in me as Sophie expends it. When it was over, Chris said, I've never seen one before. And that was everything. As a mother I'm rooted to the earth. I speak in confident tones. I reached across the wheelchair and put my arms around her, my big sister, my witness.
It is not what you have but what you have lost that links the reader and the writer. The longing to repair loss is in the rhythm and tone of the written piece, not in its words. The rhythm is where the reader senses the writer's truthfulness, as unerringly, I think, as an infant senses whether the person who is holding it loves it. The writer and the reader are always singing along together, both confident of the tune, but the writer more certain of the words than the reader. I understand what people are saying in their letters to me. I might say, What am I supposed to do with the sorrows people have confided in me? But isn't it the same thing as I want them to do with my sorrows, published to them? Don't do anything for me but know about me. You know this song too, don't you? Well, won't you help me sing it?
Nuala O'Faolin, Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman
Where She Came From
Too Much Hope