On Turning Corners

Mar 28, 2021 by Alice C. Early

By the Calendar, Spring arrived a week ago. We’d had some warmer days, then snow. On the first full day of spring, cold stalled the upward stretching of daffodil foliage. Clusters of two-inch leaves poking through the dusting of snow looked huddled, stymied. March is like that here—teasers and disappointments, a few steps forward into the promise of warmth, a few steps back into winter’s grasp. One evening after a warm day we watched fog billow toward the house, swallowing the dunes, pond, field, walls. The next morning, our landscape was rimed, as drained of color as Monet’s Argenteuil. But sparkling. Tall clumps of grass stood above the matted fields like sheaves dipped in glitter. The next day it was nearly 70 degrees in a sunny and protected corner. With the door open, the house was full of birdsong.

Even though it’s raw and rainy again today (how March!), I do believe we’ve turned a corner.

I’m lucky enough to have received my second vaccination this week. Friends told me to expect a watershed experience, a weight easing, and a sense of freedom creeping back. I’ve joked that getting fully vaccinated feels like landing on a game board's home square (remember SORRY!?). For weeks, I’ve had in the back of my mind the cruel irony that some of us might contract, or die from, COVID only days before getting our shots. That we might have survived this far only to be struck down a few steps from safety. I’m aware that this is silly thinking. Anything (or these days, anyone) can change or end a life in a snap. But, if the specter of COVID stops hovering so insistently over everything we do, I’m hoping the fear of our fellow humans will recede as well.

And without fear, it’s harder to foment hatred.

Recent events don’t encourage me. Like March weather, hopeful news seems to pinball back and forth among reports of colossal wrongheadedness (looking at you, Georgia), horrific violence and senseless tragedy. Crazy acts against all categories of “them” by those who feel empowered and/or wronged or just entitled can’t be blamed on COVID, though it is surely exacerbated by its effects. Getting beyond the virus pandemic will be an anemic victory if we’re still suffering from the wasting disease of distrust and hate.

Have we turned a corner toward seriously alleviating systematic racism, classism, genderism and other us/them isms? Sometimes, on hopeful days, I think the answer is yes. On other days, not so much. I hear people wiser than I am opining that “this time it’s different” because there seems to be so much attention to and momentum toward desperately needed acknowledgement and change. I sure hope they're right.

With the arrival of spring and the gradual opening up of our shuttered lives, I felt it was time to greet the new season with an evaluation of what I’ve accomplished during this winter of creative isolation. This week, I gathered the “finished” scenes for my new novel Posthumous into a rough draft. What, you say? You didn’t have this already? Uh, no. My excuse: Posthumous is not a straightforward narrative but a story revealed through a collection of disparate elements (a book within a book, poetry, clippings, excerpts, obituaries). For several years, I’ve been writing disconnected bits and scenes because I didn’t have a clue about their final order. I might be very wrong about the order I’ve selected for this draft, but the fragments had become so unwieldy something had to be done.

Big discovery: unlike MOON at this stage, Posthumous isn’t bloated (yet). With luck and future restraint, I won’t have to take a cleaver to it. My draft collection of elements covers roughly half the story as sketched in my (ahem) outline and add up—astonishingly—to just about half the number of pages I’m shooting for. Many of the future scenes are drafted. Big gaps remain. Writer and writing teacher Mary Carroll Moore has a very helpful weekly blog. During the drafting stage, she talks about creating “islands” where clusters if ideas can be assembled, like sections of a jigsaw puzzle, waiting for the connecting pieces to fall into place. I am encouraged to see how much shape the narrative already has and feel momentum gathering for the rest. People often ask me how far along I am in Posthumous. I no longer have to respond, “beats me!”

This feels like a huge corner turned, as much as discovering blooming daffodils in gardens warmer than mine and getting my second jab!

I hope the first few days of spring have brought you a sense of turning a hopeful corner or two.