A common writing exercise: give me your day

Today began as usual–I got out of bed and sleepily took my dog for a walk. In general, we walk an hour each morning. Unless I need to sit or to drink tea. Today we went straight to the park where I threw Josh’s ball for him for a long while while I spoke with my girlfriend Heidi on the phone. She’d left me a text about an hour earlier that she was at home and I should call. Josh is recently enamored with drinking from puddles. He drops his ball into the puddle, stands over it, and laps up water. I finished my conversation with Heidi, which was about writing a paper for her class, and we headed home.

I drank Numi Breakfast Blend tea, and checked my Facebook page. I finished uploading pictures out of my cheap point and shoot that eats batteries like I eat chocolate. I wished I had more of Thanksgiving, and more of Christmas. While I was on FB, Stephen sent me an IM asking for editing advice, so I we got on the phone and work through his phrasing and comma placement. Then we chit-chatted for awhile, and I asked about the print he was going to make for me. We then stayed on the phone while he looked up Ikea picture frames so I could chose a dimension for the print. Then we hung up. After that, I think I ate some green beans with parmesan and listened to Jack Johnson. The yellow one, not the Curious George yellow one. I posted to my blog.

I finished watching the Law and Order CI I left off on last night, and started to watch a movie, but it was already 1 o’clock, and I hadn’t gotten much done, so I decided to clean house. I rag-mopped the kitchen floor, on hands and knees. I believe this is really the only way to get a floor clean. The I vacuumed up volumes of dog hair, and vowed to sweep every day and to brush Josh every day. We’ll see how that goes. I picked up all the clothes off the bedroom floor and put the clean duvet on the bed. Throughout this all, I kept reminding myself to pay my rent. Throughout all of this my mind was wandering, thinking about humanity and what is lacking about it in our world. I can’t articulate those thoughts, but please know I had them. Somewhere in there I took Josh for a walk because I thought he had to poop. False alarm, but a nice break anyway.

I called Bryan to check on the menu for tonight’s dinner, and to ask what I should bring. In the end, I didn’t bring anything, which is something I never do–go empty-handed, but there wasn’t anything else necessary to complement the meal. So I decided next time I’ll make the main course.

While I was vacuuming, Heidi sent me a text that she’d emailed me her paper. Somewhere in this span of time also I talked to Jo about going to the reading tonight with me, and I’d talked to Christine about going to the reading tonight with me. And Stephen and I had talked again, but I rushed him off the phone. Apparently, he and I had a lot of business to transact today. Out of it I got an awesome print of an old portrait of me, and the vacation pictures from Christmas 2002 on the Big Island of him, me, and Marty. He got some instruction on comma rules, again.

I finished cleaning, and opened the email of Heidi’s paper. While I was working on it, Shiri IM’d me to set up a breakfast date. It will be our last; she moves to the East Coast on Saturday. I read it once through, then set out to use the track changes function to give her some tips. I had to call Stephen again, to ask how to use track changes. I called Christine again because I had a new idea for our writing workshops. I read Heidi’s paper, and made some notes. Then I called her, and we talked through the edits. She thanked me again and again, saying I had shown her how to approach a paper and own it.

I showered and dressed and went to dinner. We had chicken, broccoli and rice casserole, salad, fruit salad and cookies. I ate too much. It hurt. I played with Cora and Aidan. After dinner, Theresa and I went for our usual walk. The rains had stopped, but the sky was gray. I left to go to Matt’s reading at Blackbird Wine and Atomic Cheese.

I walked in, and he had already begun. He was reading of his decision 10-plus years ago to stop teaching and to begin to write; he was reading about his start as the refuge manager at Nestucca Bay. While I listened, my own experiences of struggle as a teacher, of trying to remain creative while teaching, opened before me.

Matt was followed by a woman whose name I can’t remember, but her story was strong. I will buy her book when it comes out next year. The title is Wild.

During the break, Matt and I talked, briefly. He signed a copy of his book, Gimme Refuge, for me, enscribing it, “Neva, thanks for everything. Matt.” I’m not sure what I’ve ever done for him, but again here it is–shared humanity. While waiting for things to start up again, I read the current issue of Orlo’s Bear Essentials. Still a great magazine. I used to collaborate with those folks when I was at Plazm.

One of Matt’s former students played and sang next. He prefaced his presentation by saying that he was like each of the two readers of the evening, in that he liked to be alone, and he had grown as a person by being alone. I thought, me too–that was Redmond. His first song was about going through the personal effects of a friend who died, and of the realizations he, the song writer, had had about the personal and private nature of one’s life, and the realizations he had about his friend as that life became public while he was going through the stuff. I had the same experience after Adam died. I read his journals. I threw his underwear in the trash. I parced out his photographs, books, and records to whomever I felt they best belonged. Shared humanity, a little too little, a little too late.

As I sat listening, I made a note in my little green purse notebook: The creative life, the outdoors life is the Oregon life.

On the way home, I called Christine. We talked again about our workshop ideas, and I said how much, throughout the day today I’ve realized the gift she and I have given numerous–many, many students–through writing instruction. I told her my new realization about Facebook–that it is so popular because each person does have something to say, yet we’ve made saying substantive things not the norm in our society.

She and I talked about, while I was wandering aisles in Whole Foods, looking for chocolate, the belief I have (and that I think she shares) that story is an integral part of human nature. I said to her, this takes us back to Odysseus saying, “Where do I begin, and what shall I leave out?” Christine brought up The Stranger, and then I tossed in (just at the moment I found the chocolate aisle) Heart of Darkness. Each of these stories is one man’s narrative.

As I write this blog post, I remember how I introduced myself the first day of my teaching graduate program–by saying I wanted to empower students through writing because everybody has a story to tell that is important.

I left Whole Foods and drove to the post office to mail my rent.

I came home, walked Josh, poured a glass of wine and sat outside on my front porch, throwing the ball for Josh and my neighbor’s dog.

Shared humanity. The written word. Stories that change lives.

It was a good day.

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