Friday, January 24, 2020

Of Crows and Plows and New Beginnings

Where are the crows this morning? Usually you can set your clock by them. Loud and boisterous, caw, caw, caw, they arrive around 8 a.m., fly around among the trees - what are they looking for? What are they shouting at? And then they're gone. But this morning? An absence of crows. Very strange.

From where I write I can see a nest high up in the leafless branches of a laurel oak - for crows perhaps? Do crows make nests? Janina would know. But don't call her that. She doesn't like it. She and I have gotten close the last few days due to me spending a lot of time in her head while reading
 "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead." Weird title. But I'm loving it.

In spite of all the dead bodies.

Janina knows who's killing them, but her theories are dismissed as the ravings of a madwoman.
They say there's nothing original in the world. It's all been done before, thought before, written before, but, that said, I think this book is as original as it is possible to be. Spending so much time in Janina's head gets you thinking along with her about life, and how we do it, and how we find meaning in it, or not. All, well most, of the words are familiar but so ingeniously strung together that I find myself laughing out loud one minute, aching with recognition the next as she skillfully puts into words things I feel in my gut but could never articulate.

One of my favorite lines is "....I realized that sorrow is an important word for defining the world."
Amen to that. I can relate. But don't let that make you think it's a sad book. It is sad, and thoughtful, but also outlandishly funny, crazy and at once real and fairy tale-like.

I like Janina. Which may mean I'm a madwoman too, or maybe she's not mad at all but saner than those who think she is? I won't spoil the book for you but I'll be looking for more by this author whose name is both unspellable and unpronounceable. Kudos to the translator whose name is pronounceable. Being totally illiterate in Polish, my only measure of how well she did is that I am devouring the book. You could say it makes me happy. Which reminds me.....

"You really should be writing," a friend wrote to me recently. "It would make the world happier."

That was, hands down, the nicest thing anyone has said to me since the year began. Bit of an exaggeration of course but still, enough to get me going again. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that me, writing, could actually make the world happier but I do know it would make me happier.

Why have I not been writing, I ask myself. It's always been my favorite thing to do, but, like sewing, where one has to actually make that first stitch, to write, one has to sit down and write that first word. No quilt was ever made by merely thinking about it. Nor, as the Irish saying goes, did a farmer ever plough a field by turning it over in his mind.

And so she begins, first words, on the blank page, in the brand new year. It's made me happy to write them. I hope they'll make you happy too.