“I have so much to say to you, Annie, that I’ll never get to it except by saying it in installments. . . . The reason you didn’t get a reply five days after your letter came was that I felt I must be in perfect zestful, ongoing order to write to you.
To hell with that.”
~ Letter from Anne Sexton to Anne Clark, 14 Black Oak Road, November 17, 1970 from Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters, edited by Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames
25 August 2014
The Blue Room
It’s been a lovely day thus far and not even 4:00 PM yet! I slept until noon after a night of wakeful shadows—in my brain and shifting on the ceiling as dawn approached. I fell asleep before full light and had the most wonderful dream of whales migrating north on the Pacific Coast. One of them swam to me where I stood ankle-deep in the shallow lapping water and nosed my cheek in such an intimate, playful way before swimming back to the long line of whales dipping and emerging and dipping again. The line went on for miles. As I said, I rose at noon and stumbled into the shower, hoping that hot water and the scent of rosemary shampoo would wake me more fully, followed, of course, by hot Ceylon tea, my ultimate waker-upper.
Blaze arrived at 2:00 with her bag of whatever she carries—aren’t you curious to know what other women carry in their oversized bags? I get such a thrill of I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours. But I digress: she also brought her laptop computer, and we spent a happy hour browsing our favorite blogs as she worked toward a decision about a design for her own blog. I feel happy about this, as she is a writer whose work I enjoy and respect—and she has so much to say. I’ll let you know when the blog is up. You’ll want to read it.
When she arrived I was just bringing in the mail, most of which was forgettable (and has since been tossed in the recycle bin) but which also included a fat letter from Robin. It was a pleasure to set it aside while I visited with Blaze, knowing it was waiting for me when she left. I heated two slices of leftover pizza, carried them back up here to the blue room, and read her letter while I ate and sipped iced tea. Robin has, it seems to me, a remarkable life for a woman our age (we were in high school together, so, like me, she is 69), filled with more activity in one hour than I can manage in an entire day. Her exuberance puts her squarely in the middle of a community of friends everywhere she goes, people with whom she dances, digs gardens, builds fences, plays games with little children, celebrates with gusto—and that is just a sampling.
Her letter lies open on the day bed next to a biography of Virgina Woolf by Hermione Lee—which I’ve had for years and am only just now reading—a collection of Anne Sexton’s letters, and my own oversized bag of what-not (OK, I’ll reveal what is in the bag at this moment: a leather pencil case filled with ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils, my soft-bound black calendar with its lists of to-do, a new notebook for the days when I write with Cousin, the latest Poets & Writers magazine, a small bag containing power cords for my iPad and Bluetooth headset, my iPad—and I could go on, but listing the rest of the items would bore me and who cares to hear about Kleenex and protein bars).
As I write to you the sky is growing dark and the first rumble of thunder announces the coming storm. It’s August and we’re enjoying what was once an almost-daily June event—afternoon thunderstorms followed by sunshine and the fragrance of wet soil. Jazz is asleep on a pile of pillows on the day bed, and because of the cool air today, I wear long flannel pajama bottoms and socks to keep my feet warm.
My life continues to be mostly sedentary, the pain in my feet much increased over the last year or so. Mona and I used to imagine our lives as old ladies, and for some reason I never factored in what the aging process can do to the body. I am overall in good health—but arthritis and another mysterious degenerative problem (I call it a problem because I don’t think it’s a disease) have made walking painful. While I am sitting in my comfortable desk chair with my feet up on the day bed, I am without pain (with the occasional random jab, whose appearance has no pattern) and can pretend that, should I so desire, I could lace up a pair of roller skates and take off down the path through the open space. Instead, I reach for my journal, for a book, for a piece of stationery to write a letter to Robin.
Life is very good, my friend, and if I complain, it’s only because sometimes I like to rouse my inner bitch and see what she can get up to. The many characters who live in my imagination and emerge as facets of my self do whatever they damned well please—and they make me laugh.
Write soon. I’ll do the same.
[PS—I would never write a real letter in a voice like this and certainly not with so many whiches. I just wanted to assume a sort-of stuffy letter writing persona and see what would happen.]