The next session for Writing to be Fully Alive is Wednesday, September 20th.
In our May session, the assignment was to write an essay that included a place you lived, a season, 2 colors, something you learned to do, and a regret. A teaching I got from Stuart Kestenbaum, poet.
Here’s the essay I wrote about regret:
Erroll Garner and Willie Nelson
It was toward the end of the war that I was born in the winter.
My mother spent 2 weeks in the hospital.
Now we are in and out sometimes in a day, no more than 2 days unless there are complications.
It was Scottsville, Virginia, where my cousin Claire was born 6 months later and lived at the cottage down the hill at Belle Haven.
When we say, “the war”, it means World War II.
Now the war could mean anything. The current war in Europe, in Ukraine.
The war in Syria between leaders and the land disputes in the Congo.
In Scottsville, there is not much traffic unless a bunch of hay bales fall off a big red pick-up truck blocking the road in which case people would get out of their cars, men would, and help the unfortunate young driver who had not secured his load well, get on his way.
I have learned how to pick up things to protect my back, not quite so elegantly as Stuart, my writing teacher, who looked like he was genuflecting to me as he bent one knee down to pick up his computer, saying he was protecting his back.
I still feel oddly some kind of being genuflecting to or at least some kind of bow of deep respect.
For a while when I was a gardener picking up heavy pots, I wore a black elastic belt around my waist to protect my back. Now I just get Gram, 17, to do it for me.
He is off to Utah for a gap year interning at a national park there.
I regret not taking a gap year. In fact they didn’t exist. You went to high school, then college, then got married, then had children, didn’t have a job unless your husband’s job didn’t pay enough. You wore a girdle so your ass, my mother called it your fanny, didn’t wiggle, stockings that hooked to girdle, Hanes brand usually we got at Sullivan’s Department Store at the Old Hickory Shopping Center, and a hat and gloves to church.
I could if I was visiting the queen wear gloves over my ink stained fingernails. I don’t have any gloves. Are there still glove counters at department stores? Maybe Paris or London, probably not Arusha where the tailors set up their sewing machines outside on the walks near the fabric stores and make shirts and dresses on the spot.
I regret not living in another country ever, or at least New York or Utah. When the sewing teacher said she was from Portland, that sounded exotic.
I regret never going to the Burning Man Festival.
I got to rafting and hiking up the Grand Canyon though after Claire called me and said we need to do this. Her friend had died sitting and reading in his rocking chair. My sweet William, 7, grandson was dying from the mitochondrial.
Death was here and we would age out without doing this. We signed up the next day. Met at the Phoenix airport and drove to the place where the guides picked us up and explained safety, peeing in the river, pooping in the portable johns that travel on the rafts, then tell you about the cliffs once being under the sea.
There was a sudden and huge rainstorm as we rafted, so quick and intense that red water spouted out high above us into the Colorado river. The experienced guides who had seen everything had never seen that. It was spectacular and wet and cold and wonderful.
They told us about the cliffs, the stars, the hikes. One day, I stayed back with Bean, one of the guides, as the rest of the adventurers did a hard hike that would have been impossible for my knees so I did yoga on the beach looking up at the sky and the rocks and amazingly a bush growing out of the stone.
I regret never being a river guide on that gap year.
I regret not walking the Way, with the Sewanee Spanish teacher.
I regret not speaking Spanish or French or any other language.
My housecleaner has an app on her phone that I can speak into and it comes out in Spanish.
I regret not playing the ukulele. Eric, my nephew, made me one from a fallen tree on his land in Virginia near Blacksburg. I like looking at it. I played piano growing up in Old Hickory, Tennessee and ultimately gave it to Diana who didn’t have one but played mine when she came to dinner so we found piano movers and now it is at her house. She probably plays it naked as that is how she likes to walk around her house.
I regret not being a seamstress making amazing shirts at the Shakerag workshop or at least quilts. I would make a bathing suit out of cotton that dried quickly like a man’s bathing suit.
Why do women submit to the tight itchy spandex suits that ride up our crotches?
I would have to have a huge imagination to think of all the things I regret.
Like not playing the piano at Carnegie Hall or walking a tight rope between the World Trade Centers like Phillip Petit in 1974.
But I don’t regret that life not lived.
I could be a great cook like Claire and Stephanie.
I could be an artist, or at least draw 3 dimensional curling maples oaks in the fall like I did at Queens College with Mr. Shealy; he had us draw them over and over and over all semester, seeing the leaf, getting it. It wasn’t about being a good artist or drawing student. It was about seeing and being present and having patience.
I regret not sticking with that miracle of getting the maple curling up at my loafers, Bass Weejuns, onto the page. Drew the loafers over and over too.
If I kept listing and thinking of the things I regret, would I run out and simply be? Be with God at long last.
Oh, I never heard Erroll Garner play live and I missed Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday concert.
I am not a surfer or motorcycle rider.
I could do research when I write.
And be more patient, I don’t suffer fools gladly or not be so hard on myself for it.
Okay, now, that’s it. Oh, and yes, also…..