Vacancies and Writing and Buddhism and my favorite Sister

“What are your vacancies?” Bethany wrote in her blog, after writing about the voids she feels in her life sometimes. I don’t like thinking about mine. Most of the time I ignore them. If I’m to be honest, I realize my actions have disqualified me from karmic goodness. I abandoned my horse, essentially. Something has shifted in me, over the years, to feel a personal distaste at the idea of buying and selling horses. They connect with us humans, and then we sell them. They move into a life absent from us, and they could be abused or neglected, starved or overworked, and we don’t know.

Sometimes I wake to find I have been dreaming of my horse, and I wonder if he ever misses me. Does he wonder why I just disappeared? I know where he is, but I can’t bear to go visit him, although I know he is well treated. I didn’t sell him, either, though perhaps I could have made some money doing so. I just couldn’t do it. I gave him away to someone who loved him, and then turned away.

Another absence: I shared some writing with a writer friend who has been increasingly successful over the years. She gave me excellent advice, the kind that is at once helpful but also leaves one feeling somewhat down: “Why didn’t I see that? I should have known that.” But the advice was doable, reasonable, well framed. What silenced me was her comment about not really liking my style, although I have suspected for years that she would not choose to read anything I write if we weren’t friends. She has encouraged me as a writer, but she and I write differently. She doesn’t like my “Latinate” word choices, prefers simplicity and straightforward sentences composed with Orwellian transparency.

After her review, I couldn’t write. I sat down to do so and found myself silenced. No matter how much I understand intellectually that writers differ in their styles, and that one can appreciate a writer’s ability without particularly liking the style, I can’t emotionally move past the disappointment of my friend’s comment. And I can’t help but think of my mother, who didn’t like my style either. “It’s too flowery,” she said, every time she read something I wrote, and then inevitably turned to grammar. “You’ve ended this sentence with a preposition. You can’t do that.” Grammar and style. I could never get either one of them right.

I suppose there are other absences, but right now I don’t have time to think of them. I’ve been trying to write this for three days. Every time I start, someone interrupts me. It’s summer. I should have time, but I realize I’m busier than ever. I’m teaching two classes, and Zeke has driver’s ed, and her friends spend as much time here as at their houses, and the dogs need walking, and no matter how much I want to write, something holds me back.

And now, hours later, I return from an evening at Sister A’s house, where we talked about “I am the way and the truth and the light” and about Buddhism and Hinduism and her neighbors in the shelter house next door who bring her the raspberries they grow in their garden between bouts with alcohol. A homeless man stopped by for a sandwich, and the breeze blew the heat of the day away. “OK, I’m going to do my Buddha thing,” I said once, to prepare her and the others for another off-the-wall connection with Eastern religion — Buddha nature in this case. And she laughed and recommended a book by Diana Eck, and said, “You’ll like her, Adah.” This Saturday is her 60th Jubilee, and I’m going.

Right now, right this moment–long may it last–I feel no absence at all.

5 responses to “Vacancies and Writing and Buddhism and my favorite Sister

  1. Dear TK. I love your style, I love your writing, I love your grammar. Next time you write, write for me.

  2. Somehow I always imagine myself as the perfect reader, so I write for myself.

    Strangely enough, my favorite writers, Faulkner and Hemingway, have totally different writing styles, but I still try to emulate both.

    Ultimately, though, what we have to say seems more important than style, though at its best the two seem one.

  3. This morning I was re-reading EIGHTH DAY OF CREATION: DISCOVERING YOUR GIFTS, by Elizabeth O’Connor. I thought of you when I read this on page 49:

    “Also, while we listen soberly to our critics, we will do well to remember what William Blake told us — that we are not better for another man’s praise or worse for his blame.”

    and:

    “Creativeness in the world is, as it were, the eighth day of creation.”

    I am one who loves the way you write!

  4. Dale: You made me smile when I was down. Thank you.

    Loren: “At its best the two seem one.” Yes. And like you I love writers with many different styles. Now if only I could see myself as the perfect reader…!

    am: Oh thank you, for both those quotes. They are lovely. And for making me smile too.

  5. “Right now, right this moment–long may it last–I feel no absence at all.”

    This is beautiful…I think these are the best moments in life.

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