Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Power of writing

One never knows quite what will bubble up from the depths [of the earth/the past] - which is as far as I'm going to push this analogy in order to use this rather beautiful picture of a hot pool at Yellowstone. What I am referring to goes back tohow I feel about writing and partly why I've written things all my life. At some point I realized that the stories others told were becoming a part of my life experience. The first one that really seemed that way was The Yearling by Marjorie Killen Rawlings. But many others - perhaps most vividly the pseudo-funeral scene from Tom Sawyer. Anyway, I felt writing held a secret power and that Rawlings had no idea a little girl such as I was, would be moved by her story, likewise Twain. Yet they made my life richer. I thought if I wrote I might have some of that magic power and it might touch people I could never know.

And so it has, although, now I have been told via a couple of recent emails. When I movd to NYC I had a very heavy trunk of stuff I'd written. Not long after, I saw a brief notice in a New York Review of Books from the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe asking for diaries written by girls growing up in the '40s or '50s. I sent them a box of diaries I had begun keeping when I was 12 or 13. I did not reread them, I was afraid to find out how dull and dumb sounding they were. So I got a thank you and for some years was on the fund raising lists of the Library. That was over twenty yeas ago.

Now I've had a few emails from a young woman writing a Ph.D thesis on girls growing up in that period and she has been using my diaries. She even tells me that a man used them earlier for a book he's published. He didn't attempt to get in touch with me, which is okay, the diaries have no restrictions. I am surprised that this woman can find enough in the diaries to be of use, but she says they are very helpful. Who knew? In the fullness of time, she will send me a copy of her thesis. So bubbling up from much I've forgotten about my growing up years, what I wrote seems to be informing someone and enriching her understanding of what may be her mother's or grandmother's period.

Strange bits of memory were stirred up. One is that I think I wrote of going to a basketball game wearing newly made [by me] Bermuda shorts which had just made it into the fashion magazines at the time. This seemed very daring to me and I was quite pleased with myself. I don't know why that particular incident is imprinted on my memory when there were years of other things.

I have no idea what else I might have written, or even said or done, that has left ripples in the world. We never know, of course. If we think about it, a great sense of responsibility cloaks us so that, to me at least, it finally seems that the only way to live really well is to attain a state of utter spontaneous good will toward all This rare and wonderful state of mind is not impossible -- we have the example of the Dalai Lama and a few others of his sort. How did I get here? Yes, the ripples we all cause in the world with everything we do. The desire that those are positive ripples, not netagative -- but that it is impossible to actually know. Oh, my, this is all bubbling up from those depths like the magma so close to the surface in Yellowstone's geyser plateaus.

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