life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Men hate passion, any great passion. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

I defy the tyranny of precedent. Clara Barton.

I am faced with an exposition of the most ridiculous kind. It is almost as if, by turning round and round upon myself, within myself, I am finding out the true nature of the world at large. Fie! It is an old shoe, a bastard, losing daily whatever dignity it has gained at its own behest. I am well to be rid of it.

The world itself is an oasis that draws us out of ourselves, to interact and play nicely with our neighbors. I am all about community, of course. Enjoying friends and family is one of the greatest joys on earth. And here is the rub, see. An oasis is only that which stands out in the middle of the wasteland, providing nourishment and the opportunity for rest for weary travelers. An oasis! Yes, there I’ll be bound.

And miss the boat entirely, of course.

Why linger at an oasis? Why settle, why drink, why sleep? If life is a journey, hadn’t we better get on with it? Saddle up the camels, do something, for heaven’s sake. Or if life is a banquet, should we at least find a place that has good food? God. Get me away from these mongrels, who do nothing more than clasp and smile and make us all feel so damned good.

Take me somewhere I can hear myself think. I have work to do.

I am a promethean, which means I take my work seriously not as art, but of the fact of its usefulness, probably more so than many. It is the work itself that is the point, and nothing that comes after. And I have no opinion at all on whether or not the work is successful, only that it is good, and says what I want it to say. Otherwise, why do it? Why produce, unless to express oneself? If I were going to express another’s opinion, or mimic another’s work, what reason would I have to exist? I do honor by the fact of my existence in bringing my own view to the forefront. Which, I realize, is basically what Ayn Rand said, in billions and billions of words.

That being said, too often the world itself gets in the way. Why? Because I am shy, introspective, and withdrawn by nature. I listen too often to others and quiet my voice. I write what people want to hear, I know pleasant turns of phrase, am witty, clever, and so I am quite repugnant to myself. I mimic so well the acclaimed voices. Eventually I must stop, it will be my undoing. The roar in my ears does not go away when I lift my hands from the keyboard to cover them. I shout at those nearby; I am shouting at myself. Only when I write does my real voice speak. You will almost never hear it from my lips. That is the way of things, perhaps it makes me who I am. I no longer apologize for being several things at once, I am who I am. That cannot change, or who would be me? What of worth would I have to offer; again, why else should I exist?

I know things, things that I left out of the most recent work. I am a miner of the soul; I will go and put them back in. It was wrong to take them out –I am happy now that someone pointed it out to me. As if to say, “Why did you not –“ and “It would have been better if you had –“ when all along I truly believed no one would have understood had I done so. I am glad to put them back. They will complete the work as I originally envisioned. I sigh a deep sigh of completion, and gratitude.

copyright Susannah Eanes, 2007This past week was a vacation for me and the children. We went home to the mountains, to the blue sky and clear air of Virginia. We visited post-card towns and had tea & cakes with the vicar –okay, he was imaginary, but we had them outside on the lawn behind the library not fifteen feet from where I first made out with the father of one of them when I was about thirteen years old –and no I did not mention it! That would have been gross. To continue painting the pastoral scene, we shopped and walked and took miles of pictures. We bought fabric at Schoolhouse Fabrics to make new fall dresses for the girls & me, and a cool grey shirt for my son. We lived and breathed and sang and tromped down to Asheville to take in Biltmore and the highlands in all their pre-fall glory. And about halfway through it, while walking along atop a century-old rock wall in Rocky Mount, Virginia, my youngest said to me, “Mommy, it feels like we are in a movie.”

And I said to her, “That is passion, dearest.”

“What’s passion? I thought what happened to Christ was The Passion.”

“Yeah, that’s passion, too. Passion is when you love something so hard it becomes real.”
copyright Susannah Eanes 2007She giggled, skipping ahead. “Oh, I get it. Like how I love my turtles when I talk to them.”

“Yeah, like that.”

“Get me down, Mommy.”

I held out my arms to her and she jumped, landing neatly on the cracked sidewalk. “I love you.”

“I love you too, baby.” And hugged her tight.

She walked on ahead of me, and eventually climbed back up to walk along the top of the wall. “It still feels like we are in a movie,” she said presently.

“That is good, I’m glad.”

“I like it.”

“You should. In fact, that is the best. You should feel that way every single day. Don’t ever lose that feeling, OK? Don’t settle for anything less.”

“Really? ‘Cause I don’t feel this way hardly ever.”

“You hold onto it. It makes you strong. Don’t ever lose it.” And I laughed with her.

The work will be a beacon, when it is finished. Again. This I know. And yes, it is all about me. I am the only one left to tell. It is my mind, my entrance upon the world’s stage. I gather up the bits of straw from the threshing floor – the fleeting bits that fall from my fingers in the times when I must compulsively be writing something about passion, for the voices will not stop – and toss them skyward. They fall on happy faces who lick their lips and feed upon them, devouring the little bits of my heart I’d sewn in so carefully. I am happy to do that, their happiness makes me smile.

But there will be more in the morning. So watch, and see. It is practicum for the larger work, it flexes my working muscles and makes me concentrate on plot and character and making something totally imagined real.

Soon I must leave the oasis. It is discipline, yet it is too much in the world. When I have completed it, it will be time for surgery on the original work. The one that has followed me around for the better part of two decades. That has received two lovely long letters of encouragement from now two editors who press me to add voices to it, find an agent, and submit to, as one put it, “a larger publisher with a more literary (quieter, less pop-fiction-readership-oriented) audience.” This is the work that defines my vision of experience and reality between the perfectly imperfect man and woman. That rocks my boat. That frustrates me no end because I just don’t want to give up and feel all the things working in this mine field makes me feel. And so I take the coward’s way out, and try to make it a popular read. I got what I deserved.

I received the go-ahead to basically be true to myself, my vision, and write what I know. What good does it do within me, when it is obvious that the work would be so much better with it out?
And so I will do. That accomplishment will give me the peace I affirm is the only true peace, in the end. That is the point of my existence.

For nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scatt'ring bright, can love inhere
--John Donne, Aire and Angels