I was sitting by the fire, watching the honeysuckle vine move in the wind. I was waiting for the Steller’s jays to arrive for their breakfast. I was drinking dark coffee in the blue mug with white bears. And thinking, thinking, in a dreamy way, about the book I am trying to write. I opened A Writer’s Diary to see what Virginia Woolf was thinking in November, 1924 (for that was where the book opened):
I must make some notes of work; for now I must buckle to. The question is how to get the two books done. I am going to skate rapidly over Mrs. D., but it will take time. No: I cannot say anything much to the point, for what I must do is to experiment next week; how much revision is needed, and how much time it takes. I am very set on getting my essays out before my novel. Yesterday I had tea in Mary’s room and saw the red lighted tugs go past and heard the swish of the river: Mary in black with lotus leaves round her neck. If one could be friendly with women, what a pleasure—the relationship so secret and private compared with relations with men. Why not write about it? Truthfully? As I think, the diary writing has greatly helped my style; loosened the ligatures.
I am in something of the same position. I have a collection of essays out in the world, seeking a publisher. I have a novella loosely based on Mrs. Dalloway. And I’ve made tentative marks on a page to begin something new, about two women, their relationship a surprise to them both, and involving two countries, Canada and Ukraine, a shared grandfather (or great-grandfather for one of them), and the stories told by rushnyk, the ritual cloths that preserve various kinds of history and act as a mediary between the living and the dead.
The building in the photograph is the old church in my grandfather’s village in Bukovyna. When I entered it last September, I felt the presence of the ones who’d worshipped there, who’d been baptized, married, mourned, my own family members among them. The priest who opened the door was the same priest who announced in the new church that I’d come to the village looking for Kishkans and some of them were present and they found me later that day. Our stories entwine, as the red lines of thread extend from a knot to become a hearth, a field, a tree of life hung with apples, and flowers blooming as beautifully as they bloomed in the tall grass in the cemetery near the church.