This morning, because it’s cooler and I don’t have to rush out to water everything that droops, shrivels, or turns brown overnight, I was looking at posts from this time last year. In a way, my blog is my journal. Between it and my datebook, I am able to keep track of what happened when. On this day last year, my publisher Mona Fertig sent me two photographs of the advance proof copy of Euclid’s Orchard. I wrote about that here. As I’ve said before, it was a book I hadn’t expected to write. Or at least I hadn’t expected it to come together quite so quickly. I’m very glad it did. I’m very glad the reasons I wrote most of it—facing a potentially devastating health issue—have resolved themselves. The year leading up to Euclid’s Orchard‘s publication was filled with appointments and tests and the year leading away from it had some of those but also the relief that comes with knowing that the thing I dreaded was almost certainly not going to happen. At least not yet.
It was a good year, this past one. My book took me to various places for readings and festivals. People wrote reviews and letters with such generosity. My book took me to the B.C. Book Prizes Gala because of its place on the Hubert Evans Award shortlist and that was fun. Some of the writing has led me to new work and for that I’m grateful. This is one of the best things about the essay form: it can be truly open-ended and you don’t have to think of it as “finished”. It turns out “West of the 4th Meridian: A Libretto for Migrating Voices” was only the beginning of the stories I was listening to in the night as I came down to my desk to work during those weeks of waiting to learn if I had metastatic lung cancer. I’d sit in the dark with only the glow of my laptop light and the tiny desk lamp to one side and feel the presence of my father’s family around me. There is no logical way to explain this and I won’t but it was a source of comfort and now that I know a little more about them, I want to explore their lives. In “West of the 4th Meridian”, there’s a line from Ovid’s Tristia, the letters he wrote in exile in Tomis: “I wish to be with you in any way possible.” To this end, I’m reading books about the Holodomor, about the politics of early 20th c. Ukraine, about the waves of emigrants who came to North America any way that they could. I want to find out who this woman was, the tiny image that was part of my grandfather’s archive. She is somehow familiar.
Time and the essay are related, I think. Spacious and widening, circling back on themselves when necessary, asking questions, pausing to listen to music, to take the air, remembering to keep the mind and the heart open to chance, to love, to the complexities of what a sentence can hold and also to what it can let go.