I've got more drafts in this folder than I know what to do with. Starts and stops, burgeoning ideas with nowhere to go. I'd thought of sharing a few simple Lent ideas, but then more pressing matters came along. I was going to tell you about our wait for a new visa, but then good news came ringing at our door. So the drafts aren't harbingers of doom; rather, they're a trail of crumbs, showing where I've been at the moment of a worthy distraction.
In the last year, I've found myself in a book. It's safe to say that when the dream of first living in Ireland planted in my 5th grade head, co-authoring a book of Irish short stories would've seemed preposterous, even to my most treasured allies, most notably my mother and a teacher in a bolo-tie. I stood at his desk, staring square in the face of that turquoise, leather and silver drawstring when he nicknamed me Irish, presumably because I was a small girl of a thing with auburn hair and a wily spirit. Well, that was weird, I thought, smiling to myself all the same.
It's a humble achievement for our group of twelve, my lovely little writers' group meeting these past three years in a stuffy library (I cringe now to think how disheartened I was upon first entry, by its teeny, clumsy shelves, lack of natural light, and loud children chasing between overflowing stacks; I know it now, and it knows me). We published it on our own with the equal investment of a hundred quid each and the good favour of a few donors.
But still: it is a book. A photo of our town's weir on the Liffey, splashed with autumn colour, on the front page; a stern, grainy black-and-white photo of our group at the end. The library sells them for a tenner, a box of two-dozen sits under my desk.
I wrote a story about the widow of a man I did not know. It was written after my own friend had died, not knowing two more would suddenly pass within that same year. A feeling of loss seems to fill all my stories (a crumbling Pink House, a pillaged Franciscan altar, a dying mother), and even in the beautiful joys of the past 12 months - so many lovely days, glorious visits from all of our parents, heart-friends sitting at our breakfast table - we ended the year feeling bereft.
But the manner of writing these things down, of working to see them in print alongside stories of an Easter rising, a mother crying for her son, the quietly mysterious plains of Canada, a poet with a penchant for parody... it feels a bit like mining, of pressing in to see what beauty we find.
That was a dark one, we might say upon turning the page. Or instead, that was a gift, meant only for me.
I promised good things, so here they are (otherwise known as: this is why I haven't responded to anyone's emails lately):
I am doing a bit of work, writing and editing. So thankful, so hard. Time management is not my strong suit and I've never met a deadline I did not like and subsequently put off until the very last moment. This is the first time I've ever truly "worked" in the field I majored in. Having been an unpaid coworker of my husband's for so long, I forgot what it was like to earn something. It feels so good to contribute just a little bit to meet the needs of our family.
And then we spent a good month, heads down, praying against odds for a new visa. Everything else was put on hold, and in some ways it felt like a natural ending; we prepared our hearts for an inevitable break. Shockingly, that new visa came, without a fight or an appeal or any other delay. It feels lavish, we feel unworthy. It is a privilege to dig down deep in one place for the long haul (or for longer than we are accustomed to), and we do not intend to squander it.
Home is just another gift to offer up.
So that's where I've been these days, waiting for the coming Spring. Winter seemed to last forever, and even now, it is frigidly gray outside my window.
But I am still here, amid good distractions and grace.