July 31, 2003

Somewhere in my files is a Tiger comic strip I used to use on the assignment sheet for the first composition of the year. In it the neighborhood kids are listing all the things they didn’t do during the summer. For example, they didn’t brave the high dive or learn their state capitals or practice their times tables. “I guess we flunked vacation,” one of them says.

What I didn’t do this summer: I didn’t lose weight, redecorate Lynn’s bathroom, go to the Anne Frank exhibit in Washington, or have lunch with the two people I promised to call (or did they say they’d call me?) when I saw them at a funeral in June. And obviously I didn’t post anything here.

But I was not idle, and I won’t say that I flunked vacation. Now that I’m no longer gainfully employed it’s hard to tell when “vacation” is, but since I’m still influenced by the academic schedule because of Lynn I have the illusion that summer is a space between for doing something different. And also because of Lynn, this summer was much like last summer. It seems that we were less a family and more a set of housemates, since we each had our own schedule (Lynn working evenings at an ice cream stand, Ron flying his model planes in the early morning and evening, and me just keepin’ on), our own transportation, and our own food supply. I can’t tell you when we last sat down as a family to eat a meal. I miss that a lot.

I guess you could say I spent the last six weeks getting ready for the next four. On Sunday I leave for a week at an artists’ colony in Virginia. For presentation there I worked on a short story about a man who has a sudden desire to see a woman he knew in college, a desire triggered by the scent of cardamom in bread his wife is baking. I’ve been working on this story for two years, and it’s the most serious crafting I’ve ever done on a piece. I’ve analyzed it for scene structure, pacing, ratio of present action to flashback. I’ve cut it up and spread it out on the floor, printed present action and flashback in different color inks so I can see how the two integrate, taken five different color highlighters to it to analyze the use of sensory references. (Scent, the triggering sense, comprises only 6% of the sense impressions given, a fact which surprised me.)

I’ll leave Virginia on Saturday the ninth, but I’ll be stopping at home only long enough to do my laundry and move on to the next adventure, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. A portion of my historical novel will be presented there. I haven’t worked on that at all, since the manuscript was already submitted. But I did spend part of most Tuesdays this summer at the home of my Pennsylvania German teacher, asking questions, practicing the language, and getting to know the culture of the Plain Dutch (the Old Order Amish and the Mennonites).

The Vermont experience lasts ten days. I’ll get back in time to usher Lynn off to the start of her senior year in high school.

Contrary to appearances, I haven’t given up on this project. I won’t be able to post while I’m on the road, since I won’t have access to the program that allows transfer of the pages from my computer to my host. But I do plan to write (yeah yeah yeah, you’ve heard that before), and post in batches. Look for dispatches from the road around the 11th and the 28th. And as always, thanks for reading.