number 9

11/05/2016

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This morning when I looked out my window at the huge old oak tree that I see every morning, again I marveled at the loveliness of it in the glittering morning sun, and a thought came to me:

I am grateful that I have eyes that see beauty. So many of us here on earth at this time don’t notice. Don’t see what I see. The beauty I have seen always, since I was a child, sustains me. Beauty has brought solace to me even in my darkest hours. The beauty of the Mississippi Riverbank in snow, the winter sky at night, ink-black and gleaming with tiny stars, each one securely set in that vast silent infinity.

Beauty brings a little bit of joy into anything. There is some kind of beauty almost everywhere if you look for it. And even when I’m surrounded by everything else that’s not beautiful, there is still an immense supply of remembered beauty inside of me, that never leaves me; I carry it with me. Autumn days, beautiful songs I have heard and felt, the thrill of the first warm day of spring, when the fine green needles of first-grass are pushing up through an ocean of mud. I have seen beauty in 10 million ways, and all of it is still mine, soaked into my soul.

That my eyes can see what only they see, has made me an artist and a poet. I didn’t choose these things, they chose me, because this soul could see. And this morning, more than ever, I am grateful.

The book: Unintentionally I am writing the last chapter. Even though the Hunger Years and the Fire Years chapters are not finished yet, the last chapter is pushing to get out. More parts of it are coming forward, and I’m willing to let them, happy to receive them. There is more to the ending now, and it is more complete. It closes the far-reaching wandering circle of the story, and quietly speaks the keywords to it all. This is a wonderful book.

I continue to be astonished that I am the one to whom this book is given, amazed that I am the one somehow chosen to make the marks on paper. I am humbled, and grateful, and scared. It’s an assignment that’s bigger than I am. But I’ve been scared before, and so, hoping that somehow that I can be enough, I’m committed to giving it the best I have.


number 8

11/01/2016

rain

I’m still trying to break my stubborn habit of sleeping late and missing too much of the morning, my best time to write. I worry that this might be a symptom of my too-frequent moods of melancholy and depression. But today I got up early, 7:30, and saw the sunrise gradually lighten the dark sky. Everything is silent now. Nothing is moving except the tops of the trees, heaving in the wind, then settling again. Rain is coming.

I love to write, love to have a pen in my hand, just to make marks on paper. When I write in my journal, sometimes I have nothing to say. I write anyway. Sometimes surprising things come. If there’s nothing to say, I write fiddle-faddle, just because I need to be writing something. I’ve had this urge to write ever since I was six years old and learned how. I never got over the wonder of it, making marks on paper, clean and sharp, that said things, that could draw the pictures that were in my mind, and tell stories.

My book is going slowly. I’m impatient. This is hard; it’s not flowing. It’s like cross-country skiing through wet cement. And yet, I marvel at how lucky I am, to be warm indoors, waiting for the rain. Hot coffee, cozy room, silvery sky and the sweet promise of the rain.

It begins now, very faint and misty, hardly more than a whisp of fog, and settling almost invisibly onto everything, refreshing the green living things and making them tremble with wetness and expectation.

I’m grateful for the life I have, even though it’s not all I want. Outside my window the trees sway gently in the winds– first harbingers of good hard rains to come, that trouble the branches of the little lemon tree and ruffle the trumpet-vine on the fence. The trumpet-vine would have bright red-orange flowers, but it does not bloom. Underneath the big oak tree, there is never enough sunlight on it, even on the brightest days. But it is beautiful still. It is being as beautiful as it can, where it is. It cannot move out of the shadows. But I can.


number 7

10/28/2016

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Today I got up late, made coffee, and worked on the book all day till about 3 o’clock, and then ate lunch for breakfast.

I talk about it in the preface, but have never talked about it here, the reasons that made me scrape up the due diligence to write this book.

I had two reasons. The first one was a sense of duty and decency, to tell my birthmother’s story which had never been told, and never would have been, because of the pain and shame and regret that I think we all felt, but helplessly could not change.

Mary Karr said, somewhere in her Best-Seller memoir, The Liars Club:

“kids in distressed families are great repositories of silence, and carry in their bodies whole Arctic wastelands of words not to be spoken, stories not to be told.” (as well as)“ … a grave sense of personal fault, for failing to rescue those beloveds lost or doomed.

My deepest impulse for writing the book is my own need to understand and forgive and finally let myself be forgiven. My hope is that when the book is done and all of our stories are told, the past will finally be completed, and then can be released.


number 5

07/27/2016

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We write because we must; it’s what we writers do. It’s a calling. What we write about is sometimes humorous, light, and uplifting, or sometimes serious and fraught with meaning, or some of both. We can only write from who we are– even in fiction, because that’s what we’ve been given, and so that’s what we have to give. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea.

Reading a book is a journey we take in consciousness. There have been a few books I’ve started to read and then stopped, because I realized I didn’t want to take that particular journey. Intuition, that little voice from the inside, told me there might be glimpses of truth I wasn’t ready for yet, or things that would hurt me or reopen old wounds, and so I chose not to go there. The little voice inside is always my best guide. Sometimes it says No, not now” and later it may say yes, or it may not. Everybody has that little voice. The book I’m writing now, a memoir, has some dark passages. A few old friends who started to read it, stopped when they got to the hard parts.

Of course I want everybody to love my book, but I know that not everybody will. Books that tell the truth will always be uncomfortable in places. Like life, books take some commitment, courage, and pushing on through.

This book has claimed me, it is my calling. I can see clearly now, that all the events of my life, even the worst of them, have had a purpose, and what I’ve learned from them, I have a duty to share. The time has come to do the work, and I have said yes to the calling.


number 4

06/10/2016

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I’ve been told that some of my stories are incomplete in form. They don’t have the standard type of plot-arc and resolution.  “Where are you going with these?” They say. “These are just sketches.” (Interesting– That’s what the art critics and academicians of the 1890’s said about Claude Monet, who now in countless art history books is called “the Father of Impressionism.”)

If my stories don’t fit the formula for maximum sales, and if they only offer a glimpse of a life, a sudden vivid picture, is that a bad thing? Does that make them valueless? Is there only one formula?

I was trained as a painter as my first career. I’m not painting now, but I’m still who I was; I am an artist. And if I am an artist, why would I not make pictures? To the artist, a wonderful picture is enough

The sketches and preliminary drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and the seemingly “sketchy” spontaneous paintings of Monet, all have the freshness and magic of the captured moment. They have an uncontrived honesty and essence that the formal “finished” paintings of their era do not have. There is a feeling of movement and life-energy in these artists’ “sketches.” No one today would criticize them as being “not art.“

I think that this essence was what the Impressionists were seeking, and later the abstract action painters were also. That ineffable something, the spirit of the thing, the ghost within the image that makes the life of it visible. Not the technical aspect of it, but the spirit of it, just for an instant becoming knowable without intellect, and recognizable without name. The Thing Itself, in a glimmer of light, for an instant.

Nobody knows exactly what it means; nobody needs to. There is something innate in it that touches something in us. We don’t need to dissect it, just experience it.

You can read my chapbook: Inchworms: Essays, Sketches and Stories.
1. At my blog, Writer to Writer,  http://w2w.victoriachames.com/ Click on WORKS in the header menu.
2. You can buy the E-book at Smashwords.com/ Enter the searchword:  Inchworms.
3. And Inchworms is so available at Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble.


number 3

05/21/2016

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I am “growing into” the idea and image of a writer’s life. This is slow and not entirely comfortable, but the discomfort and distance are gradually diminishing. When I was doing my art, young and in college, and even more so when I took it up again forty years later, everywhere I looked I saw art – compositions of line and shape and color, patterns taking form like poems of vision. Everywhere I looked, I saw art offering itself.

Now that I’ve begun to seriously write, everywhere I look I see words and stories; they form into pictures and colors and thoughts and rich feelings, manifesting in this form. But now I am making more than pictures or pieces of visual art; I am building something, or at least that’s what I’m seeking to do, or it is seeking me.

Writing this book, I’m building a dimensional structure that has volume and depth and spaces that can be inhabited or traveled through– places that someone else can journey through, not with me of course; it is too late for that, but after me.

When I read about Vincent van Gogh’s life, I could feel the deep existential loneliness of it. He was given so little, except genius. Very little skill or aptitude for navigating the physical world, but instead an astonishing soul and inner life that tortured him and demanded to be expressed.

And so he did that – expressed his gifts into his life and his world that so tragically rejected it, and rejected him. He had a few artist friends who respected him, even though they were as puzzled by his nature as everyone else was, and a brother who was probably the only one in his life who ever loved him. All of the others living in his world, in his time, could not understand or accept either his mind or his art. Now the whole world does, and his paintings that were all unsold in his lifetime, now are sold and resold and resold for hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It’s just as well,” my grandmother would say (who was very wise). He couldn’t have handled the strain, the challenges, and the emotions of success or fame; he could barely handle (and some would say not) the small solitary life he had, in the physical world, because his soul’s life was so immense.

He was never comfortable in his body or in his identity as an artist. I am not yet comfortable with the identity of “writer” as a life purpose, but I recognize that it has claimed me. I know my soul is in on this, and resistance will ultimately be futile and only waste time. And so, for better or for worse, I surrender.


number 2

05/20/2016

more I see

This morning the sky is blue, but winds are heaving massive branches of the big oak tree, swaying them up and down, side to side in waves. A storm is coming.

I love to sit at the window with my morning coffee and my thoughts. It has been almost 5 years since I retired from the hospital Emergency Room where I worked for two decades, and yet it’s still an incredible luxury not to have to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, throw myself together, and rush to work before 7 a.m. then work at high intensity and high-speed all day and come home both wired and dog-tired. My first action was always to kick off my shoes at the door and collapse into this same chair by the window to wait for my racing pulse to slow down, as I watched the twilight falling. On the days I worked at the hospital, I never saw the morning. On the days I didn’t work, I slept late, till 9 o’clock, and still missed the early light, so lovely, so gentle, and so quiet.

I’m writing the chapters about ER now. There are so many stories, and each one has its own message. The more I write, the more clearly I can see myself and the people who have walked part of the path of my life with me, or simply passed through the periphery of it. And the more I see, the more compassion I feel, for all of us.


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