I wrote recently about finding a note from my mother tucked into this novel by Kathleen Hughes.
I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Frequently I dog ear pages that resonate with me as I read, whether it’s factual stuff I want to dig into deeper, or passages I find particularly lovely or funny or that show me something about the art of writing.
Often, though, I’ll revisit these passages after a week or two and they won’t light me up like they did before.
But these from DEAR MRS. LINDBERGH still work for me.
Water traveled well over this land. From time to time, her father had to reinforce the drainage ditches so that the water didn’t take over and start running any course it liked. She felt her life was like this sometimes, and the sadness, the urgency, was endurable so long as she didn’t let it get too far out of bounds. Give it a course, keep it there.
I love how that passage gives a perfect snapshot of this woman’s emotions. It also struck me, I think, because I’m cogitating over a rewrite of my own where I could do something like this. It would be easy for the author to have the character say, “Golly, I must keep control of my emotions,” but how boring. Mine has to do with light rather than water, however, and I’m not quite there yet. My passage is still at the boring stage.
What used to be a sanctuary from loneliness, these letters, eventually became a sanctuary of privacy, too, and maybe that’s what children and a husband at home do to you, they climb into every nook and cranny of your life until you have to search, to boot them away with a swift kick in the bottom, to have something, anything, to yourself. Writing the letters was the place she got to be alone.
I know this pings every writer’s heart. Surely it must speak to everyone in any kind of relationship who fears leaving that piece of self behind — that essence of you-ness which, when stripped away, renders you flat and stale, like week-old root beer. As much as we might love our kids and spouse, we need a sanctuary to remain fizzy.
He thought of the ghost story about the woman who wore a perfect scarlet ribbon around her beautiful neck at all times and the husband who finally could not resist removing it to see all of his wife’s neck. As it came away, her head fell off. If Ruth wanted to keep her scarlet ribbon in place, so be it.
Passages like this make me happy. Whether this is a real ghost story that Kathleen Hughes heard once or one she just made up, I love how she did that.
How ‘bout you? Do you find these passages as lyrical and evocative as I do? And Kathleen Hughes … if you’re out there … I’d love to interview you!