Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thinking Back and Forward

A vintage photo -- not the one I said in my last post I would scan in. I am having no luck with the scanner on my printer. But I wanted a backward look. I don't have the specific date but it's likely this picture was taken on my second birthday since my younger brother was born in February and that seems right for the baby's size. It's obviously a warm day and a chair has been carried outside for the photo of my mother and her children. This may be my favorite of the few vintage photos I have, expect perhaps for one when I was a very small infant and four generations were pictured -- all of us first daughters, as it turned out.

Does being a first daughter matter if there is only a brother and no second daughter? Maybe not. The novelist in me thinks there could be a story about generations of first daughters.

A celebratory dinner was last night with all the grandchildren present and the great-grandson as well. Since the two grandsons are not living at home anymore that is an unusual occurrence. The weather has decided to celebrate with me, pushing the 80 degree mark today with plentiful sun and a nice breeze -- exactly the kind of day I like best.

I'm reading Tony Hiss's book In Motion which is about what he calls "Deep Travel". Not long ago I read Winifred Galligher's Rapt, which is about paying attention. Both are talking about being focused. They use familiar psychology terms but they could easily talk also in Buddhist terms about "being present." Both books support an idea I've been trying to write about: reading books that demand attention and time -- like big serious novels in contrast to short stories or the dreadful new genre of flash fiction.
I've written maybe ten pieces that can be called flash fiction, if it's defined as fewer than 1000 words. This is a mental exercise with not much more depth than doing a Times Sunday crossword puzzle. The creation of a situation and a couple of characters is almost a sneeze. That does not mean there is much depth to such pieces -- in fact, just the opposite. The only depth possible comes from carefully chosen adjectives and actions. Reading such fiction is a waste of time and writing it is also, I think, but maybe less of a waste as creative mental exercises are better than passive entertainment.

Both Hiss and Gallagher emphasize the pleasure and importance of deep involvement in what one is doing. This is not possible when "multitasking." Although Gallagher uses the word "rapt", most of her book is about something less totally involving than being in a state of rapture. As I troll my memory, in general, and when writing whatever stories I write, I find I've often been in the state Hiss calls "deep travel" which is why, on days like this, when I am thinking back over many years, I feel they have been very rich in experience. I have not "killed" a lot of time. I've been present in my life enough to be astonished at all it's held so far.

3 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- yes, I would like to read a story about first daughters. I'm not one but have my ideas about those that are. I absolutely love old vintage family photos. I have wrote a bit about my family but still have much to do on the whole project. Also, have original material on some other woman that I would like to put together but time is not always on my side. Great photo!! Enjoyed post. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks, Barbara. I hope you'll find the time to write about your family and the other women. I think you'd find it very satisfying.

rraine said...

i am a first daughter, followed by 2 sons, and 2 daughters. there is an obvious, and sometimes palable, difference in our experiences of family life. i'd love to read something on this. it beguiles me, and i don't have the skills to set it down in words.