Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Leaping into the future

Here it is, February 2011, and I'm wondering how in the heck that happened. For one thing, 2011. That's like science fiction time. How did I get here?
I've got a big list of goals for 2011. In addition to the perennial vow to lose weight, I also want to get my purple belt in Kajukenbo. This mixed martial art pretty much goes against the grain of everything I think about myself: as uncoordinated, klutzy, and slow. Yet at the end of every session, I come out with a big grin. I've even learned to spar.

Writing wise, I'll have a new book out in the series I co-write with Lis Wiehl. They are even going to put foil on the cover for Heart of Ice (a big deal because it costs more). In terms of creating books, I'm going to start a new adult series as well as a new YA mystery or thriller of some kind. Both of those are totally up in the air, and I'm trying to brainstorm about both of them the same time. Even though I have ten books out (11 if you count Heart of Ice), I still get nervous each time I start something.

But, looking ahead, I think everything in 2011 will circle back to one thing that no one likes to talk about: death. December 29, 2010, my dear friend was diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer.
She is four years younger than me. The next day, as I drove her home from the hospital, she asked me in a small voice, "This is terminal, right?" I answered honestly. I told her I will be there for her and her family all the way to the end. (The hard thing is that there isn't a lot she needs, and the things she needs, like more time and better health, no one can give her.)
The news rocked me. My first somewhat irrational reaction was to go through my closets and cupboards, purging things to give to Goodwill. I remembered how after my grandmother died her belongings looked cheap and useless and worn. I imagined my own teenage daughter faced by heaps of my things, my ravioli press and the books I will probably never read and the blouse I haven't worn for three years. (She later told me gently: "Don't worry. I'll deal with your stuff if you die.")
More recently, I find myself grappling with concepts I normally avoid: my own death, the eventual death of everything, our purpose on this earth, the meaning of suffering, etc.
A few weeks ago, I had one of those college dreams - you know, where you realize you are enrolled in college, but you haven't been to any classes, and you can't find your way to the right building, and then when you finally do find it and then the right classroom (which is always tucked away in a confusing place), people are taking a final on material you know nothing about?
And one of my classes was an art class. I'm not an artist, not a visual one, anyway. My stick figures don't even look like stick figures. And the other students were already rendering beautiful oil portraits.
In my dream, I despaired. But then an administrator said, "We have a special class for you. We'll transfer you into it."
The class? Making art from garbage. We were opening up plastic bags filled with garbage and spreading out the contents on the floor to see what we could use. And it actually worked. I was making beautiful art from garbage.
I think that might be what 2011 is all about: figuring out a way to make art. Not in spite of garbage, but from it.

Sigmund Freud said that love and work are the most important things. I keep coming back to that. This year I want to love even more than I have before - and write something amazing. (Maybe even two somethings.)


  1. So sorry about your friend. Loved this essay. So poignant. Best of luck with your goals.

  2. Oh, April, this is so lovely. And heartbreaking. We walked this journey with my uncle in 1995. It's a rotten, raw deal and I'm sorry for all of you. But, you're right, some art came out of the garbage. I wish the same for you.

  3. Your friend is blessed to have you and I wish you both strength for what's ahead. Beautiful post.

  4. April, I'm so sorry for you and your friend. I wish I could do something but of course I can't. All I can do is say that regarding your own nervousness about writing something new, that never really goes away. No matter how many times I write a book, and I think I've written 30+ at this point if we include the unsold ones, The Voice remains: "Sure, you did it last time...but can you do it again?"

    Strength and love to you, your friend and her family on your journey together.

  5. April, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. She is lucky to have a friend like you on this last journey.
    I often have the same urges and obsessions to clean out and not have thing laying about. When my MIL died we spend a long year cleaning out every nook and cranny of her home and it made me want to keep nothing, but of course that feeling went away.
    Love all that you do.........your work will shine through that love.

  6. April,
    You never know when your words will mean the world. My father died last May, my mother is dying now. And I'm going through my closet. I stopped to read your words, and you may have just saved me. Making art from garbage.
    Thank you,

  7. I saw my friend yesterday for what may well be the last time. She really can't be touched. All I did was smile and say, "See ya." Today she was hospitalized again. So hard.

    @kath - I'm glad this helped you. My dad died in 2003, and my mom is living on borrowed time. Losing a mother (even though they are older) would be even more primal than losing a friend.

  8. April,
    Again. So many thank yous. I took the garbage and finally composed the essay/blog for my mother today that i'd been wrestling with for weeks and weeks.
    I like that. "See Ya."
    My mother has been talking to Dad since he died. I think there is nothing that will lift her more than to once again See him.