Shortly after the November 2016 presidential election, I began a novel. Two factors intersected at virtually the same time. First, I had finished my final editing of My Music Man with the ultimate “send” of my manuscript to the publisher. But even bigger, was my obsessive brain becoming unhealthily addicted to the news. My spirit was consumed in anger and sadness. So many minutes each day my brain searched for something new, some hope or hint to tell me that everything would be okay. That this president would fail. That those things that were so important to me would not be threatened and destroyed.
And so, I wrote. I started with the barest story, the note in a bottle, and I huddled in the best places: my dining room with the door closed, windows looking out to bare trees, rain and occasional snow. The carpeted floor in front of a fire, a pillow behind me. The back of a Tri-Met bus most mornings and evenings. Late nights in hotels in Bend and New Orleans and weekend days when my still healing broken foot couldn’t yet imagine doing the things that it might have done previous winters.
During the summer of 1974, my grandfather, Daddy Dick, published a piece in the Sou’Wester, a quarterly publication of Washington State’s Pacific County Historical Society. In his article Old Times at Ocean Park, he included a paragraph detailing his having started Ocean Park’s first lending library in 1914, setting it up in Harry Haseltine’s store across from the (then) railroad station. With his father the general manager in his grandfather’s J.K. Gill Bookstore, Daddy Dick was able to buy books at a good price, and rent them to summer vacationers on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. As World War I had just broken out, perhaps it was a good time to feed readers with stories to fill their souls. Not quite two decades later, my grandfather wrote and published three books between 1932 and 1941; years filled with the Great Depression and the beginnings of World War II.
While this isn’t to say we should put our heads in the sand, or rather, keep them stuck in our computers: we too need to pull away from our stories at times to write letters, march on the streets and call our representatives, not to mention keep showing up for our day jobs. But these troubling times require us to do what we must to make our hearts fill and sing, so that we can be good parents and caregivers and workers and neighbors and people: as we play our music, write our stories, paint our paintings, and sing our songs.