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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Like Rivers

Whether I am  working on a book or real life -- especially when (like right now) I am faced with making choices that test who I am and what my values are (as myself or as my character) -- it helps to keep this quote from Tolstoy in mind:

One of the most widespread superstitions is that every man has his own special, definite qualities: That a man is kind, cruel, wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. Men are not like that… men are like rivers… every river narrows here, is more rapid there, here slower, there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the same with men. Every man carries in himself the germs of every human quality, and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes another, and the man often becomes unlike himself, while still remaining the same man.
We change, we flow. Sometimes we're shallow and mucky. All of us -- me, her, him, you. Putting yourself or somebody else in a box, with a label on it, is both stifling and untrue.

My yoga teacher talked about it yesterday in a different way -- about striving for union, or balance: trying but accepting; fortitude in working on what needs to change but serenity about what can't be changed; strength and flexibility.

Walt Whitman said, "I contradict myself? Very well, then; I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."

Everybody wise seems to agree with this basic idea. So why is it so difficult to accept how complex we all are? I guess the fact that we need to learn it from so many teachers in so many ways shows how hard it is for us to learn it.

We are all so miraculous, and so flawed.

My character is shocked by her own passion, her jealousy, her weakness AND her strength, none of which she recognizes as authentically her, though they all are. Me? I am trying to flow -- to evolve and yet remain true.

How about you?

Rachel Vail

Friday, September 9, 2011

ten years later

I just spent some time staring at the blue blue NYC sky, thinking how long ago and also how not long ago another bright September day was -- and wondered what to think about the passage of these ten years.

My kids have grown up -- no longer a wordless but intense baby and a soulful, wise little kid; they are now a poetic, charming, eloquent and still intense preteen and a soulful, wise young man. Me? I'm the same as I was, is my first thought. But no, of course that's not true. I'm older too; less certain, more hopeful. A bright blue sky isn't just glorious for me anymore but tinged with memory, now.

Also I stubbed my toe last night. And other stuff, both more and less wonderful than that, has happened, too. I baked some muffins, bought a house, planted some flowers, made some friends, wrote some books, danced a bit, sang a lot, drank too much tea and not enough Champagne. Ten years. It kind of feels like a blink. When I was in 7th grade there were lifetimes between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I'll write more about memories and frustrations and the confusions and heroism of then (and now) soon. Right now there's a book to write and a kid to meet after school, roller blades to buy for the other one and a possibly broken toe to ice (? or splint? Urgh, I have no time or patience for a swelling toe!) -- all the usual and, looked at in the bright but qualified September light of remembrance, wonderfully normal stuff of the day.

For now I'll leave you to Meg Cabot's blog note, which I just read for the third time -- and which brings me back again to the trauma and the resilience of that long/not-long ago day...


Okay, my purple toe is throbbing and my patient, waiting book is tapping its own toes, now.

Be safe, have fun, enjoy the day.

Rachel Vail