Easter, Father, flowers, Hyacinth, Memoir

Love, Delivered.

Funny what starts a trigger. For me, it is hyacinth.

My first: delivered to the back steps of my childhood home on a snowy Connecticut March day, the potted bulb cradled in pink foil tied with a white bow, buds tightly closed on verdant green stalks leaning bravely into the winter wind. Tucked between the stems, a minuscule florist envelope, the card reading From the E. Bunny penned in my father’s funny half-script-half-print, signed off with his signature smiley face adorned with a small squiggle of hair. Oh, Dad. I felt so grown up I thought I would burst.

And a few days later, as the centerpiece on the Easter dinner table, the flowers opened to bundles of lilac blossoms, the fragrance — mingled with lamb, mint jelly, roasted potatoes — imprinted on me forever. My first, of almost forty, potted hyacinth delivered by florists to my door over the next four decades, whether my dining table was in Connecticut, Seattle, San Francisco, or later, Boston.

My father died in March, 2011. I held his hand those final days and rambled on about all the things I could and would remember about him and us, thanked him for so many things, even got a faint smile once or twice. But I forgot the flowers. When Easter came a few weeks later there were lilies on my table. My doorbell didn’t ring. I lost him all over again: it’s the little things that can hurt the most.

Spring is here in Seattle, the bulbs are bursting. Walking a neighbor’s puppy this afternoon we chanced upon a garden flocked with those white, pink, purple spring bulbs. The fragrance staggered me and left me breathless. All those memories firing and triggering and my heart bleeding just a little. Did he realize that eight years after he died I would still half-anticipate the doorbell, a florist delivery person standing on the step holding a foil wrapped pot? That I would miss seeing the lopsided grin of his silly squiggle person on those cards? That just a tiny whiff of the blossom would make me cry? I will never know what made him begin that tradition. I do know that at Easter I miss him the most.

As a parent I often reevaluate before the holidays and think well the kids are grownups now, they can’t possibly care about this tradition anymore. Then I remember his simple gesture, repeated over and over; the pink foil, the little skip of joy in my chest, the smell of a hyacinth bursting from the bulb. How it felt to have a father.

We are never too young, or too grown up, for love to be delivered, in any way.

EBpic

 Kingsland Kitchen, Portland, Oregon

Standard
#AWP2019, Memoir, New Vocabulary, writing

Gathered Together.

I am in Portland, Oregon, for the yearly AWP — Association of Writers and Writing Programs. I am not on a panel, am not a published book author, will give no readings and cannot expense this: I am, however, one of 15,000 attendees that have paid the fee to marathon through three days of fast-paced workshops and readings on topics that will range from sexuality, travel, teaching, #metoo, memory, trauma, health, gender, publishing, literary agents, every and all literary genres to digital poetry. I will learn new words. My feet and head will hurt by Saturday night.

I did a trial run to the conference center on light rail this afternoon. Our 2019 host city chose to rain hard today, the humidity rising from our shoulders as we were corralled through the the registration area like airport security. Behind me, I saw a famous author I hoped remembered me from a workshop in Seattle. Waving madly at him, I thought; what gives me the cred to be here with him?

Tomorrow quite early I will  have a good coffee with an extra shot, probably swallow three Advil, purchase a day pass for the train and swim upstream through the escalator masses to find the ballroom where author Pam Houston’s panel convenes on writing about intimacy. Then I am off and running: Colson Whitehead’s keynote, Lidia Yuknavitch’s reading, Cheryl Strayed’s talk about her writing process, workshops on trauma, healing and humor. I will end the three days with a panel talking about being 60 and writing about death. If I hold up, eighteen sessions. And I may even attend a yoga class or two for writers.

I will watch people read famous author’s name tag as they pass him in the hallway, stop him, talk with him, ask him to sign one of his books. My name tag —  Alexandra Dane — won’t ring any bells. I will be handing out my business card to anyone who smiles at me, and if I am lucky they might read my blog, a few of my articles, remember me next time.

Yet a common denominator brings us here; on Monday morning, all of us will face a blank sheet of paper. Each of these 15,000 writers will search to find the first word of many to write something that will make you, the reader, think.

Our name tags are the same color at AWP2019 for a reason: under the dome of this conference center we gather together — young, old, famous and not famous —  and learn how to be better writers.

Humbling.

IMG_5444

Billboard on the building across from my hotel room.

Standard
At The Fault Line, Bravery, Memoir, Read, Support, writing

At The Fault Line

Today, Friday June 8, I am reading one of my recent essays at a ticketed event in Seattle. Eleven writers in my memoir group have crafted, honed and polished their words with grace and guts for the last few months. Writing a personal trauma story is a naked enough feeling. To read it in public takes exposure to a whole new level.

Last year, after my diagnosis and series of surgeries, three years of writing a manuscript went up in smoke. The questions came fast and hard, especially at night: do I bury my mother’s story, interweave mine, move on from past to present or take the story present to past? Do I even have the skills to do any or all of this? Do I want to?

When I finally wrote down the words which became my essay, “We Don’t Know Everything,” I felt there had been a nuclear explosion in my head; the collision of my story, my mother’s story, cancer information and understanding illness, all locking together in believable — and unbelievable — ways. All the pieces will be sharing, for lack of a better word, the radioactive fissure — the cracking of the fault lines —  that comes from speaking out on trauma. Eleven times over.

This is the second year of this event At The Fault Line. I hope we do this forever. The experience of professional coaching — by our mentor Tara Hardy —  speaking our words aloud into a microphone, into the atmosphere, into the ears of friends and strangers, validates our writing. And our existence. And our purpose.

Last year we sold tickets at the door. This year we have been sold out for almost two weeks. I am watching the seedling of a mighty tree of storytelling grow and grow and grow.

The stories will crack open hearts, from the mundane to the profound, from folding laundry to holding an Alzheimer patient. I am so proud of all of us.

Buddha

Standard