Erica, over at yeahwrite, asked me to write a guest post for Day 10 of this month o’blogging. My post about wrushing into writing (see what I did there?) is up at yeahwrite today, so click over there — and while you’re there, click around on the grid and read some of the other writers who have committed to posting every day (and may well end up being committed by month’s end).
Next week I am teaching Virginia Woolf’s brilliant and amazing essay A Room of One’s Own.
So on my list of “to do” for the weekend is this note, jotted down while I was in a meeting: “find a way in to Room.”
Of course, what I meant (I think) was that I need to figure out how to help my students tackle this long essay.
But the metaphor?
Woolf says that if each woman could have her own income (which Woolf pegs at being about 500 pounds a year) and a room with a lock on its door (one assumes locking from the inside, not outside, which is to say locking out and not being locked in), then it would be possible to develop “the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think.”
Wouldn’t that be nice?
It is a room of independence, I guess you could say; and Woolf was smart enough to understand that without freedom from economic worry, it’s very difficult to feel the freedom to create.
In this house that we’re renting, there’s a little room tucked in between the entrance to the garage and the laundry room. On the floor plan of the house, this room is designated “maid’s room.” Lots and lots of people have live-in help in Abu Dhabi, in part because if you hire someone full time, you have to sponsor the person’s visa–and in order to get a visa, you have to have a place to live. We don’t have any live-in help (I don’t want any witnesses), so I have adopted that room as my office.
My god. It’s another room-based metaphor: my “room of my own” is…the maid’s room.
And that’s the challenge, isn’t it? In between driving and errands and laundry and housekeeping, in between earning money and making lists and going to meetings, somewhere in all that, a person should find the courage to write exactly what she thinks.
Okay, sure, things have been a little slow over here these days. There’s been nothing here but ostriches and while ostriches are always appropriate, sort of like champagne, I can understand that looking at the lady ostriches settling into the dust might be a little bit dull after a while.
I did have a column in The National last week, about forks, so you could click over and read that if you’ve got nothing else to do. And I am guest editing on the yeahwrite site, (last week and this) where there is a give-away featuring the book that I’m in–and what do you mean, you didn’t know I had an essay in the number-one-with-a-bullet-new-release-on-amazon? You could click right over there and order yourself a copy of You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth–hell, order two, maybe three–because it’s wicked funny and you might want to share. Or have a copy in every room. Whichever.
There are posts coming – about Liam and his sudden, not entirely pleasant, decision to have become a surly teen-ager pretty much overnight; and about this new house we live in, in the equivalent of the Abu Dhabi suburbs, where almost every day a new thing goes wrong, causing us to engage fully and substantially with what you might call the “fix-it” culture of the Emirates. Or make that the lack of a fix-it culture of the Emirates.
In any case. More posts coming soon (I know, I know, your life has been incomplete, a dull void of nothingness, because mannahattamamma hasn’t written anything new). In the meantime, another animal picture from Kenya. This one has a little more, shall we say, bite to it. You’re welcome.
We’ve spent the last six weeks or so in the U.S. visiting friends and family, including a trip to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. My kids go to a British school, so this trip was my attempt to offer them a dollop of U.S. history, which for some reason their school doesn’t offer. Sore losers, if you ask me.
We stayed at a great cheap hotel right on the water and at low tide, the beach curved along the bay for what seemed like miles. You could see why the Pilgrims must have breathed a sigh of relief after their hell-trip across the Atlantic: the waters of the bay are calm, the beach is broad, the trees are green. Pretty much the antithesis of the open ocean.
I walked on the pilgrim’s beach the morning we were there and saw that the sand was crisscrossed with small trails, separate from the wavy rivulets created by the tide.
Snails. Tiny snails, not much bigger than my thumb, going from the rocks at the beach’s edge to…well, I’m not sure where they were going. The open ocean? Some imagined rock in the distance? Or were they just out for their morning constitutional, like I was?
Maybe these snails were the pilgrims of the tide-pools, millimetering their way forward against immense hardship? Probably not in pursuit of creating a religious colony with a large profit margin, but then again, who knows what governs the soul of snails?
I looked at the snails for a bit and kept walking, and then a few hundred meters on I found a snail shell, empty, unbroken, and whisper-smooth.
The next morning, walking on a different beach, I found another snail shell. And the next day another.
We were at a variety of beaches during our time in the States, and I found an unbroken snail shell almost every other day.
It’s as if Someone is trying to tell me Something.
I’ve been frustrated this summer—one writing project abandoned, another stalled in its earliest stages, another percolating in my brain but refusing to coalesce; I’ve spent way to many hours flipping through half-finished manuscripts without finding much worthy of development. And while our trip to the States, was wonderful in almost every way (except for my spectacular wipe-out on an NYC sidewalk), it was not particularly conducive to getting any work done.
Snails are all about patience and perseverance, right? Not to mention that they carry their houses on their backs and thus are comfortable wherever they find themselves—not a bad lesson for someone embarking on her third year as an expat.
Plus, you know, I’m ticking down the months to the big five-oh, so I could do worse than to adopt a snail as my totemic animal: their shells get better, smoother and shinier, as they get older. True, I’d always fancied myself more of a cheetah gal, but let’s face it: I am never gonna be built for speed.
Okay, true, snails often become seagull escargot, and I suppose snails never know the pleasures of good champagne, but I’m going for the Big Metaphor here, so please don’t disabuse me if you know other, less than positive snail facts.
That’s the gift of the snail: I’m going take metaphors where I can find them; I’m going to see the beauty in the slow-and-steady; I’m going keep moving, avoiding crabs and gulls, until I find open water and a niche of my own.
*We’re going to be traveling next week – a last hurrah of the summer before we all put our school shoes back on – so in the week that I’m away, I’m going to be dazzling you all with some posts-from-the-past. Enjoy – and enjoy your last weeks of August, too. Probably, you know, to keep you company in these last days of summer, you should have a good book to read. What’s that you say? You don’t have a good book? Why LET ME SUGGEST THE BOOK I’M IN! Click on over right here and buy yourself a copy or ten.
If you’re a woman-type person, then I would imagine at some point in your life, you’ve been to the ladies room, aka the female toilet, aka the powder room. (Does anyone still use powder anymore?) And I would imagine that in that powder room, you’ve probably had at least one or two really great conversations, maybe a bitchfest or two, and probably at least a few honest conversations: your hair looks like crap, love those shoes, hate your date, you have lipstick on your teeth.
Don’t we all need a friend (or two or ten) who will tell us we have lipstick on our teeth or that the person we’re currently dating is a big loser? Yes, yes, we do.
Leslie from The Bearded Iris, Kim from Let Me Start By Saying, Anna of Random Handprints, Ellen and Erin from Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms, Suni from The Suniverse, and many more. I guarandamntee that you will laugh out loud as you read through this book because the women in the powder room write about babies, boobs, boys; parenting, peeing, and perimenopause…and pretty much everything else, all with wit, intelligence, and more than a dollop of profanity.
You should probably order twenty or thirty copies of this book RIGHT NOW, using this here link to our amazon page. And then you should probably take a few minutes and write a rave review about the book for that there amazon page. Probably you should do all these things right this very second. Like, now. Immediately. Go. Buy. Read. Rite Rave Review. What are you waiting for?