Continuing from last week’s post, here’s more on my nontraditional undergrad experience with the author of Waiting to Begin, who now holds the BFA chair at UMF. Unbeknownst to either of us at that time, she was helping me begin the MAINE METAPHOR series.
I was not meeting with other creative writers. I was designing my own major around Maine studies, topics of which abounded among course offerings, but formalizing such a degree was not an option at that time. So I asked my mentor to work with me, saying I wanted to study and write mythic literature in an independent study. Neither O’Donnell nor the chair of the English department would sign onto the project. If I had waited perhaps a semester they might have been more receptive because by that time Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking studies in the power of myth were popularized. Public television had begun doing this series with Bill Moyers and Campbell. (Recently Pat told me she would not have felt qualified to work on this type of writing.)
How embarrassing. A sentence below contains a disagreement, an error, of tense.
Evidently it was published that way owing to (my) poor proofing. I’m posting it today in honor of pi. International Day of Pi. …Also coinciding with an almost infinity of snow flakes coming our way. If we survive (for not having stocked up on pie), there will be mountains of infinitely patterned six-sided flakes to shovel and haul.
Friends, please feel free to direct requests for review, or examination copies to me via comments here!
The embarrassing admission:
The editor in charge of cover text asked for a back-of-the-book description to surmount its blurb by Jake Meador. I chose part of something from the book I particularly liked—heavily influenced by Annie Dillard. By JRR Tolkien. In the way of metaphoric memoir, the description was written in first person. The editor’s reply? It must be third-person description. Being low energy, I gave them what you see in this cover image. And …I just wanted that passage! Here is the original unedited from inside the book:
On our bike ride this a.m. R. took the image of post and beam timber-framing going on at the house we lived in, briefly, on moving to maine … after an even briefer season of needing a roof over head. It was a gift to live for a few months on this pond. Later we got to know the area enough to write a cycle of books, and a series, one fiction, one non. Here’s a fragment from the first, about a rural town in transition:
we lived on this road and knew about Nettie, the girl who lived on a berry farm on the mountainside above. she was born and raised to be her parents’ keeper in their aging, as some parents did in the late 1800s. your last child was to be yours, not living for his or herself. she did the unexpected and got married. she became a photographer.
It’s late and silent, up here above the little village in our town. The parade, with its historical legacy of our town’s founding, passed by many hours ago in bright morning. Our neighbors have all gone, the few houses of my little neighborhood are empty and dark down below. Everyone’s gone to a fireworks display in the next town, and Boots—the old dog—and I are winding up Deer Hill Road. On the flat up there in the dark I, too, might see the fireworks.
Now the road is sinking down toward a glacially carved valley, mute and somber collection of browns, overarched with blue. The long descent is daunting. I hesitate inwardly while keeping my legs in a forward motion downward. Descent, in this tired stiff body, on sore tendons, is little to complain of. It’s the return up steep hills I resist.
Then I remember the esker. Thinking now that I might write about this Easter trek, I decide that I want that esker in my experience.
According to Thomas Hubka, a popular rhyme of the 19th century went, “Big house, little house, back house, barn.” Children played games to the rhythm of it. And so he named his book on the subject for this rhyme.