I am back in South Florida, although it doesn't feel like South Florida, since it's 43 degrees here. When I left, we were having highs in the mid 80's, and now the temperature has plunged.
And yes, I've become the wimpy Floridian who turns on her heat. When we first moved here in 1998, I wondered why anyone would have heat when it so rarely got cold or even chilly.
I expected to be gone for at least part of the week last week, and so I left blog postings to run when I wasn't here. Last Monday, we left to meet my parents as they vacationed on Marco Island. A week ago, we got the call that my grandmother had died peacefully and in her sleep.
You may remember that for much of December, my grandmother has been sick. I've been expecting her death, in a way, and yet it still surprised me.
Last Thursday, we packed up our cars and headed north. And we've been travelling ever since, laying our heads down in a different bed each night--at least, that's how it felt.
I thought I might be able to get some Internet connections, but between rural travels and family priorities, it was not to be. So, I will likely post some reflections on what I've seen and what I've experienced in the coming week.
While I was away, Karen Weyant put my chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents, on her list of the best chapbooks of 2011. Wow. I loved her short review, which gave me hope that my poems aren't swamped by despair. I look forward to reading her chapbook soon, and she's created one of the all-time great titles: Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt. If you go here to pre-order before Jan. 17, you get a special price of $6--hard to beat that deal!
In addition to a lot of driving, I did some reading (note that the lack of Internet access means that my reading time escalates). I've written about Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, and how that book was a bit of a slog for me, with a wham-bam ending that took about 20 pages and in some ways, made no sense to me, even when I read the ending twice.
Happily, I also had some great reading experiences. I read Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers, which was every bit as wonderful as I expected. It's a book about what happens when the Rapture--or was it the Rapture?--happens, and the people you'd expect to be taken aren't taken. How do the ones left behind make sense of it all and go on with their lives? As I was reading, more than once I said, "This book is the perfect post Sept. 11 book!" And as I kept reading, I thought that it was far broader than that, since very few of us will escape having to wrestle with having been left behind.
I also read Kate Racculia's This Must Be the Place, a book that I didn't expect to love as much as I did. If one of my work colleagues hadn't recommended it so highly, I might not have survived the first 20-50 pages, since the conflict that catapults the plot into action is the unexpected death of a character. The husband of the dead character travels back to her hometown to try to discover what her shoebox of memorabilia means. There's a great subplot that involves teenagers that seems very realistic to me. The novel revolves around questions of love and belonging and identity and art and work in ways that are both familiar and quirky and unexpected. It's a great first novel, far greater than most first novels, and I'm happy to say that the ending of this book did not disappoint in the ways that so many books have been disappointing me.
So, here I am, back in my chilly house, trying to regroup. Before my end-of-December travels, my schedule had already been disrupted by my severe cold and eye infection. I spent much of December eating homemade Christmas cookies instead of meals. At the end of September, at work we found out that our work was switching to an annual year accounting of our leave days instead of by the fiscal year, and we had to use up all of our 6 months of leave time by the end of 2011 before the switch. So even work has been disrupted, what with my leave taking and the leave taking of others.
In short, it's time to get back on track and time to remember what the track should be. Time to get back to regular exercise and more than one serving of veggies a day. Time to start sending poems back out into the world. Time to get back to writing poems. Time to think about larger manuscripts.
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