Writer’s Notebook: Summer Writing

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.

-Edward deBono

Some of you may have felt my summer silence.  There have been a lot of moments that matter and little time to consider how they would fall into the blog:

  • sending my young teenage daughters overseas for the first time BY THEMSELVES.

  • visiting family and having my grandmother’s friend and pew-mate at church collapse with a heart attack next to me.

  •  taking my mother to the Ontario Archives to copy and bring home over 2000 pages of our ancestor’s diary to the farm he  wrote about in the 1800s.

  • taking sudden, temporary custody of a long lost cousin’s teenager

  • the serene ten days Mischa and I ambled through the Pacific Northwest

  • my return to teaching after 15 years—(some students and colleagues even call me “professor.”)

  • and so much more…

As I think about where to start, I need first to take my mental zoom tool and zoom out.  As a writer, I bring my formal writing instincts to the blog page.  I still pre-write and draft with a word processor.

I hesitate to type thoughts directly onto the blog composing space. I might hit “publish,” while trying to shoo the chickens out of the house, and then I’ve got you-know-what everywhere.

Looking at my summer, I wonder what to write about.  I promised my newfound professor-self to not assign students the “What I Did This Summer Essay.” I’m one lucky middle-aged woman. I’ve got everything I want and need and more.  In today’s climate many people may not.

Instead, I asked my college freshmen to list the things they would love to learn about.  And, for the hell-of-it: “The last thing they want to hear their instructor say.” (A bit I shamelessly stole from my daughter’s open house Theater Club skit.)

I asked them to introduce classmates by sharing something personal, something professional, and something peculiar, a team-builder my husband uses at work.

Isn’t the personal, the professional, and/or the peculiar what underlies writing anyway? Wouldn’t you agree that the stories you read, or blogs you write and visit are built on these ideas? I think of the peculiar in terms of what is original or stirring enough to stay with me, and that is what I am waiting for: what sticks.  What stories remain after time.

When I zoom in to the details from summer that grabbed my attention and began some a change within me, I go to these moments:

  • learning that my fifteen-year-old daughter got stranded alone in a foreign city after her travel mates were escorted away by police

  • hearing my own thoughts echoed in my 19th century ancestor’s writings

  • trying not to scream HEART ATTACK to the 911 dispatch in a hushed church filled with octogenarians—after my grandmother’s friend collapsed next to me—before I had a chance to say hello or goodbye.

  •  finding a tiny starfish stranded on the shelf wall of a remote  sea cave with my husband

I feel like—post summer—I’ve been awakened to revision of myself.  And, writing the summer stories will be better, richer for having waited until they’re a memory of a memory.

What memories are you waiting to explore?

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19 thoughts on “Writer’s Notebook: Summer Writing

  1. How is it that even with shorter summer breaks, we have so much more going on within that time? Many times it takes space between the events and our actual writing to make sense of all that has happened, to be able to take it apart and piece it back together, to make sense of what has happened and to be able to express it a poignant manner. I hope you will expand on your summer in later posts, as you have piqued our interest with hints of amazing (and emotional) experiences.

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    • Thanks friend! I think there is a cosmic rule about time speeding up as we get older. I feel it. I bet you do too! And, we didn’t even see each other this short summer… but the text and our conversations as Mischa and I rode with the top down along a salt marsh on Widbey Island were a good touchstone! And a fun summer memory. I was forever watching for deer and had images of hooves coming through the windshield after we talked!

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  2. Renee,
    I hope that you will write about your trip to the Pacific Northwest. I have been there twice now and absolutely love it. I look forward to making a 3rd trip out there sometime in the future.
    Best wishes to you Professor. You certainly do live an interesting life!

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  3. Memories are the souvenirs that our hearts collect throughout the years.

    I can’t remember where I read that but it’s one of those things that sticks in the head for use from time to time. You’re blog is wonderful to read and enjoy.

    Thanks Andy

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  4. I love this. Missed your words. You’ve had a very busy summer. By the way I also write in a word processor before even going to word press. Have a beautiful evening. Good to have you back.

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  5. Millie this means a lot. When I see your posts, I still hark back to the hike in the rain you did with the kids and the spontaneous joy palpable in that moment that transcends time and place. You really nailed that. So, your words here, made my week. You are appreciated! I can’t wait for our next monsoon rain to go immerse myself in the moment with my kids here… and in which to escape our 100 degree days! Thank you friend. -R

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    • If your summer (heat) held you captive like mine, you’d love to let it go! Thank you for your kind welcome for my return! I enjoy your insights on your adventures as a mentor. You are the keeper of a responsive heart put to wonderful use for a fellow human. So much for me to learn. Thank you. -Renee

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  6. Love the pieces of summer you describe. That’s how I feel about my summer:a collection of memories, each existing in its own realm, yet all connected to my summer experience. Love the pics.

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  7. I would take each one of those quirky memories and jot it down and go back and see what sticks. I find that with blogging I have many many drafts of untold posts but they’re still waiting…

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