Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Alone

I've been alone for 2 days in this new town of Steamboat. As it has happened, my books have become closer friends.

But, over dinner I have decided that Annie Dillard, for all her deftness with words, must be shelved while I'm eating. At least her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where insects get dis-emboweled or eaten alive while I’m trying to enjoy Trader Joe’s Teriyaki Bowl of Rice.

When I’m alone I forget meal time. I tend to get into super-Jonalyn mode. I become a whirlwind of industrious, impetuous activity. I get much done, but I forget to eat. Tonight I unpacked dozens of boxes and organized the sewing room. Now it looks more like piles of stuff and less like piles of boxes. Because it’s not a beautiful improvement, I kept working at it and didn’t break for dinner.

At first it’s a rare luxury to skip a meal. Then several hours after meal time I feel that empty, fainting sensation that is only romantic in Victorian novels. I reluctantly pull out a pile of distasteful looking leftovers and try to warm or sauce them into a meal. Last night’s attempt of combining Marinara sauce with rice pilaf led to an uncomfortably unsettling feeling in my tummy. Tonight I dug a styrofoam carton out of the back of the fridge. It held seven-day-old Buffalo wings. They looked like shriveled mummies.

When I’m alone I become more dutiful and courageous about leftovers. I warmed those wings and waited in hopes that the oven would return them to their once tender and moist form. I was relieved when the oven failed. Relieved enough to wonder why I tried to resuscitate the wings in the first place. From whence do these rules dominating my dinnertime arise?

I was too hungry to find out. So, I picked up Annie Dillard and dug happily into a Teriyaki bowl of rice. It’s 10 pm, I’m getting some strength back and I feel an inexplicable, unreasonable sense of pride that I gave the wings a chance.

But Annie hasn’t really cooperated with dinner time etiquette. She’s just described a tremendously vivid picture of a frog being eaten alive. At least I was half way through the bowl of rice before I got to this point.

How I wish I could write like that, not about dying frogs, but about what I want people to notice.

Where do people learn to write like that? My husband says its due to Annie spending most of her time alone. If that’s the key then I’m doomed, I love regular meals and my husband too much.


Di said...

Secret to Annie Dillard's writing - read her The Writing Life. I suspect solitude did play an important role!

Andrew said...

I'm a big fan of Annie Dillard! I wish I could write like her too, but every one has their own style I guess.... If you get a chance you should read her book, "Living with Fiction", its very good.

My name is Philip by the way and my good friends, Tyler and Leslianne Newberry, did a camp with Dale a few years back and told me about you guys; I think you have lunch with them every once in a while. Anyways I've enjoyed your ministry greatly; keep it up!


Andrew said...

I'll definitely check out that book by Winner. Thanks for the help and encouragement. And that Dillard book is actually "Living by Fiction", sorry for the typo. Thanks again for your input!

Anonymous said...

I love Annie Dillard (except for "The Living." Altho set in my neck of the woods - WA State - I hated it.) My favorite? "Holy the Firm" - hands down. And yes, Annie may indeed get her deftness with words from spending extended time alone. Not sure I'll quite make that... but her lilting, lyrical, crisp writing is delicious...

drafted.rough said...

It has never seemed to me that the best writers - perhaps not the most entertaining, but certainly the most meaningful - necessarily ever "did" anything specific that accounted for what we call "writing like THAT!"

To the contrary, one cannot think of Kierkegaard or Elie Wiesel or John Donne or Sylvia Plath or Solzhenitsyn,, without being slapped around a bit by, not what they "did", but by how they were "done." Done by life.

It is said that "life is in the blood." What is writing, if it is not a "bleeding out" of sorts? We recognize "writing like THAT!" because we recognize the blood.

And we recognize, too, the difference between a bit of splatter from a paper cut, and the gushing from a vivisected soul.

Don't we?

Jonalyn Fincher said...


Yes, I do think we recognize the difference. Though often the bleeding that looks innocent from afar is a gaping wound when we take time to look at it.

Often people never get close enough to notice, but then, I believe they don't really live, either.

Reminds me of the last few lines in Our Town. Few people realize they're really alive, very few. Bleeding reminds us, doesn't it?