Dear Nancy:

It’s Easter morning. A holiday. One that summons memories of some other holy morning and colored eggs hidden on a hillside. I was eight and I was wearing a dotted Swiss dress and patent leather shoes with heels. They were low-to-the-ground heels, but heels, nonetheless, and they made me feel tall and powerful.

I was not a powerful child. Much of my childhood was spent in an easy chair in a living room in a house in a subdivision called Broadview. My mother was badly OCD, so I wasn’t allowed to go outside much, and when I did, I wasn’t allowed to walk on the grass or anywhere dirty or even across the manicured lawns along our street. I was a strange, unhappy child who found freedom in the pages of books. I loved ones about dogs and farms. I loved those small brown biographies of Daniel Boone and Clara Barton and Florence Nightengale. I tried to read Moby Dick when I was nine, because it involved adventures and the ocean I’d never seen.

What I’ve always wanted, I guess, is spaciousness. I mean, wide open spaces. Mountains. The expanse of land beside seas and ocean and rivers and lakes. I love nothing more than standing at a vista. A valley and Smoky Mountains and the huge, huge sky. How I love what you say about spaciousness. “It’s a word I love. It is something that I think every creative person needs, along with the praise.”

Over the years, I’ve pursued spaciousness. I’ve moved maybe thirty seven times. Lived in seven states. Spent two years hitchhiking and sleeping in a tent and working on vineyards and farms as a former lover and I traveled around the world. Have created desks and bulletin boards and rearranged my shelves about countless writer’s desks. I have found myself happiest when I’m hiking, alone, or swimming as hard as I can out to try to touch the dolphins on the ocean’s horizon. Have found myself happiest when I spend a whole day in complete silence, saying not a word to a another soul until my often crowded mind stills.

The spaciousness I’m seeking, these last few years, since my cancer experiences, is calm. Happiness. Centeredness.

Do writer’s inhabit such a place? This is a passage that haunts me from an essay called “My Vocation,” by Natalia Ginzburg. “Our personal happiness or unhappiness, our terrestrial condition, has a great importance for the things we write. I said before that at the moment someone is writing he is miraculously driven to forget the immediate circumstances of his own life. This is certainly true.
But whether we are happy or unhappy leads us to write in one way or another. When we are happy our imagination is stronger; when we are unhappy our memory works with great vitality.”

How to find and inhabit THAT spaciousness? The land between happiness and unhappiness. Between memory and being in the present moment.

Maybe the place I’m seeking isn’t on the page, but beneath it. Isn’t in the lines, but between them. Isn’t in the words, but in their cool blue shadows.

With much love, Karen

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