It’s been a busy ten days – one radio interview, one delayed letter from Jayne Anne Phillips, one book reading in Austin, one book launch in Maryland, a gathering of many family and friends in both locations. And underneath it all, an incredible sense of thankfulness. It’s still such a surprise – to have By Way of Water be in the world again, to be in the company of so many fine writers published by Santa Fe Writers Project. For me, it underscores the importance of being in this writing game for the long haul, for the ways a story one believes in might have resonance across time and space. The re-printing allows me to connect in a different way to writing. There’s a room where I keep my faith in my abilities, and now the door is nudged open a little wider. I’m not saying the reprint is essential for my continued work on novels; instead, it allows a deeper, broader aspect of myself to commit to the books I know live inside me and are yet unwritten.
I think of Tim O’Brien’s final story in The Things They Carried. “The Lives of the Dead” opens with this line, “But this too is true: stories can save us.” O’Brien weaves young Timmy’s experience with death, along with older Tim’s many encounters with death in the Vietnam war, into a marvelous exploration of why stories matter. Late in the story, Timmy’s deceased girlfriend answers his question about what is it like to dead by stating that it’s like being in a book that no one is reading:
An old one. It’s up on a library shelf, so you’re safe and everything, but the book hasn’t been
checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody’ll pick it up and
I started writing because my grandfather, my source of unconditional love, was killed by a drunk driver. I missed him and I wanted him back. Even though I didn’t have words for it at the time, I wanted to capture some of his spirit before it faded away; I wanted by some force of magic to make him live again. Again, O’Brien articulates how storytelling is the kind of magic I needed:
The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream
along with you, and in this way, memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits
in the head. There is an illusion of aliveness.
Andrew Gifford and the Santa Fe Writers Project are bringing back to life so much for me –
There’s a book to be taken down from the shelf when someone has the interest, and that’s a gift in so many ways. How can I say thank you enough for allowing others to dream and imagine with me, to let the fullness of my grandfather live and breathe and climb trees and play music? In Cherokee, we say, Wado.