I began writing in this blog a few days after my birthday, last year. It couldn’t put it off, press it down any longer, the desire to give words their due.
My plan was to write for a year or an arbitrary number of hits, which ever came first. My writing in this venue was about finding my voice, learning, again, to stay faithful to a work. In a manner of days, I will eclipse that arbitrary number of hits. I don’t advertise this blog, most of my friends and family have no idea of it, I don’t use my social media site to promote it. If you read it, I asked you to or you probably write yourself and that makes you a special kind of, oh so welcomed, kin to me.
I was in the Target today, buying a movie…I turned and saw the hardback books. The mad and passionate crush of my life, Pat Conroy, has a new book out. It is about his reading life. His, like mine, encompasses so much of who he is and has become. I flipped through, fairly confident that my mother would buy it for me as a Christmas gift. He recounted three major influences. A dear woman, a teacher in his home town, Beaufort, who actually wrote and published and James Dickey, whose poetry is my very favorite and whose Jericho lies strewn across my living room/ reading room/writing room, coffee table. This worn and beloved book is the only thing I asked for when we cleared my grandmother’s home in Columbus of treasures. I got her sofa and the beautiful marble top coffee table that it lays upon as well. Then he mentions Thomas Wolfe. Pat describes reading the first page of Look Homeward, Angel, and what happened in him as he read.
I know all of Wolfe’s works. I know a bit of the writer’s history. I know his is perhaps the epitome of southern stylized writing. I know that he represents a life road that I did not take, now twenty-five years ago, when I chose not to press my way into the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, of course. When I turned from my heart’s desire to write, and took the money and stayed home to study “bizness.” My best friend in life went on without me, to her own particular brand of greatness. I stayed home and made people happy and lots of damn scholarship money. And later, in college, when I had a chance again, I stayed on still, unable to free myself.
I have never read Wolfe because 1.) I never had to as a business major. 2.) I have never dared to because it has always symbolized the other life that I thought that I wanted to live.
In the aisle today, I heard deep in my soul, “Go get the book, and read it when it that magic number turns.”
That will just give me time to read “your book,” Miss Amy, first. I bought that, too.
I know this, I knew it profoundly as I drove around the perimeter of Chapel Hill a few weeks ago. (I took a detour on the way home, Kim and MK.) All is not lost… much is gained these years I have wandered west of all I thought I was to be. Nowhere did the thread of my calling break, only I. The father of my very nemesis here in the hinterlands was one of Thomas’s best friends at UNC. I’ve seen all the pictures of them together. What are the odds? Had Thomas lived, he might have been his godfather.
Just this month, my first friend and I have newly connected and deeply so. And my new best writer friend whose life and mine have from eternity been destined to collide, hails from Chapel Hill.
I am standing in that aisle at Target, thinking about stories I have learned to listen for and see wound around sticks and stones and solitary statements, that are not. I think of Thomas Wolfe, and that it is time (finally) to read, Look Homeward, Angel. I drive to the library and check it out. I wonder who has last opened the pages of this particular volume. I sit in my car and read by the good light the warming day affords ( as it is nearly Christmas our temperatures have climbed again to the 70’s.) I skip over the unnecessary introductions and open to that fateful first page. I see myself in every phrase.
“The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute -winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is window on all time.”
-Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel