Art by Mary Azarian
I love to do a lot of things. There’s never enough time in the day, or in the week, or in the year. Music, for one. Never enough time for music.
Last spring I had to get on an airplane. This is not a problem for most people. It is for me. I object to be flying both because it’s an environmental disaster and because it’s a horrible experience. Of which I am afraid. Naturally, I am afraid I am going to die. I do not want to die.
I called the lawyer to set up an appointment to rewrite our wills. “Are you flying somewhere?” he asked. “How did you know?” “Did you last fly seven years ago?” he said. I nodded. “That was the last time you called me.”
I laughed, sort of.
It is apparently standard practice now, in Vermont at least, to fill out an extensive advance directive. This document is not a whole lot of fun. It asks lots of questions I don’t want to have to think about, and I bet you don’t either. Basically, they come down to this: How dead do you want to be before we disconnect the machines?
The document also raises questions about funeral choices, etc. The truth is that I want my funeral to be held before I die. Who cares afterwards? Pas moi, I suspect. So I put that in. Why not?
What does this have to do with writing? Not much. But it has a lot to do with reading. “As long as I can read,” I wrote, “I would like to be alive, even if plugged in.”
Many of us are readers first. But when people ask us what we do, it’s hard to answer that we read. We write, we play music, we garden, we attempt to train obstreperous dogs, we paint, we ski, whatever: we DO STUFF. Yet I have read since I learned how to read. I read constantly. Read a lot. I cannot be without reading material. I take books in the car in case of an emergency. I read on the treadmill. I am an only child, and I was always allowed to read at the table (breakfast, lunch, dinner). I now realize that perhaps this gave my parents a chance to talk to each other without my whining about wanting to read. I still do (read and whine, actually). Bob puts up with it.
For years and years and years and years, most of my reading consisted of books for children and young adults. That was my work and my delight. Now I prefer to read grownup books, even though my status as one is questionable. And I still love long, long books.
I cannot read one on a screen.
I want to hold it on my lap.
I cannot hear one in the car.
I do not like those book-y apps.
I’ve read some great books recently (you tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine). Books that surprise me, please me, challenge me, amaze me. The novel for both young and old people is alive and well! I have enough books in the house to tide me over until that advance directive comes into play, which I hope is never. Too many books to read. I laugh, I cry, they change my life.
Last week we lost power in a magnificent snowstorm. We lit candles. I read. The house was deliciously quiet (and we have wood heat, so it was warm). We couldn’t flush toilets, but I could read. We couldn’t eat, but I could read. No machines purring, no writing nagging at me, no email or internet. Reading!
This is my last VCFA faculty blog post (my choice, but it’s time, even though I suggested this blog in the first place, or so I believe–). It’s been a delight, and I thank you all for reading my ramblings. I’m not disappearing, so stay in touch.
Afterword: for more on writing itself, please read this delicious post by mystery writer Leonard Rosen. It may inspire you. http://lenrosenonline.com/2013/04/harold-his-purple-crayon-and-the-writing-process/