March 9, 2009
Today was [her] birthday. . . . A day to remember the hunger one felt as a child for each new thing, each singular word, each honest daybreak.
— Amity Gaige, b. 1972
American fiction writer
from O My Darling
Yesterday I heard the Old Testament reading for the second Sunday in Lent, the passage in Genesis in which Abram becomes Abraham and is given important new work. He undertakes this work in faith even though, as the writer of Romans put it, “his body was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old.”
Today I spent the honest daybreak of my 62nd birthday loading my car for a month-long sojourn at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia. Then I drove 500 miles to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My body is not as good as dead, but nine hours in the car takes a lot of energy, even though it appears that you just sit and steer along a straight, uncrowded interstate and then fifty miles across a picturesque two-lane country road in southern Virginia before slipping into North Carolina. Tonight, I rest, before undertaking the last 200 miles to my destination.
The work I have been given is not new. I’ve been writing seriously for a long time, carrying the idea for this novel for seven years. A little more than a year ago I carried it to my first extended writer’s residency in Wyoming. I went out in darkness to a place of wild young energy, when the days were short and full of jagged excitement, and at night the words came in pieces of dreams. I will go in sunlight this trip, carrying characters I have come to love to a new place in their development. The energy in the hills of Georgia is older and more settled than that in the west. My time there will have an even, comfortable energy that I already understand.
It was 77 degrees when I stopped near Winston-Salem for the night. Along the way I passed a highway embankment already lush with yellow daffodils against dark green leaves, and then some magnolia trees just beginning to show a purple cast. I am ready for each new thing, each singular word that will flow through me to the page each honest daybreak of the next four weeks.
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