Friday, April 12, 2013

Shall we Gather at the River?


I pull up to my friend’s river cottage for three days away by myself. The drive starts out rotten, but the further I get off the highway and away from the congestion, the easier my breathing gets and the more relaxed I become. I’ve been feeling burdened lately just having to live through Jack’s 14th birthday and also facing some major decisions for our family that involve time, money, and perseverance, all of which seem in short supply these days. The idea behind my time away is to help me get a handle on my writing and to give Tim and Margaret a break from me. I’m hoping this solo writer’s retreat won’t end with our having to buy a new car like the last one. Considering I rake in $100 a week right now at my day job, I don’t think our finances can handle any more writing retreats like that one.

I’m nervous about being on a river. I don’t know what to expect, as I’ve had some trauma being near water since Jack’s accident. Our family used to love to be outdoors and did a lot of hiking near creeks and rivers, but if this river looks anything like a creek, I don’t know if I can handle it.

Stepping into the cottage, I see the view out the big back windows. Beautiful, calm water for as far as I can see. A sloping green lawn reaches down to a tiny sandy beach, maybe 8 feet wide, and the Potomac River laps soundlessly onto the sand. There are no woods, rushing water, or sheer drop offs here. It looks more like the ocean than a river, and I am not afraid.

I take off my shoes and head out into the grass, greeted by a small yellow lab. When I look up, I see a man, maybe a decade older than I am, sitting on a metal glider, enjoying a cigar. I pet the dog and then walk over to meet the man, who lives in town but comes to his cottage on “The Rivah” each evening to relax.

If this were a horror movie, I’d tell him I’m staying here alone to write a book, then he’d come back a few hours later, maniacal Jack Nicholson smile on his face, to do me in.

If this were a novel, the dog, smelling Shadow on me, would keep coming over from his lawn to mine, until the man invited me over for a beer and then, well, you know. We’d find out his wife has left him and I was recently widowed (sorry, Tim) and the healing power of the river and the bald eagle family overhead would bring us together.

But this is neither a horror movie nor a novel, so I go inside and watch a Duck Dynasty Marathon, wondering if I’m good enough and strong enough to write a book. I wonder if breaking into my friend’s unopened box of Thin Mints is poor form. I wonder if the words “Sharing Size” on my bag of M&M’s represent a command or merely a suggestion. I fall asleep on the couch.

I write on and off the next day few days and fantasize about our family having a small place like this to spend quiet Christmases or go crabbing in the summer. I realize I am only picturing three of us, not Jack. Would it work, or would it be too quiet for Margaret? Would we always have to invite a friend along? I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this will work, our future in a fictional riverside cottage or elsewhere, but in this brief moment, it doesn’t feel horrible to think about.

And that is something.

 ******

Love and Peace to you this Friday. I’m off to celebrate the life of my grandma, who lived into her 90’s and passed away peacefully while I was at the river house. I’m picturing her having a joyful reunion with her son Charles and her great-grandson Jack today.

 

71 comments:

Arnebya said...

Peace and love and warmth both internal and external to you as well, Anna. And yes, you are good enough and strong enough and your words deserve a place, deserve ears, deserve attention and nods in agreement, comprehension, love. I hope the idea of your grandmother embracing Jack brings you happiness.

Amber said...

You're a gifted writer. I can laugh out loud and have my eyes fill with tears often in the same post. Keep going. Your book will be great.

LauraBeth said...

Sending love and (((hugs))) from the other side of town...

Anonymous said...

Amber summed up just about everything I was going to say:). I love reading your posts--even the tearful ones. I would buy any book you're selling.

Hugs, NoVa Mom Jen

One crazed mommy said...

So glad you had a peaceful time at the river - and don't worry about the Thin Mints...your friend is probably thankful not to have a full sleeve to worry about eating in one sitting. I would be thankful anyway...Haha! I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, but glad she went peacefully and is now in a better place. You now have another angel looking over you and the family. And I hope whatever was weighing you down before gets resolved easily. Hugs!

Eliza said...

Happy Friday to you as well, Anna, and warmth and love as you remember your grandmother. I love this post... the VA/MD area, especially the Eastern Shore, is very special to me and my family and I hope you and Tim and Margaret do begin a family tradition as well. Quiet, peaceful trips like that can do so much for the soul :) I, for one, will snap your book up immediately when available and devour it many times over, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna:
You are most definitely good enough to write your book, probably strong enough too, but this is the important part: don't put that kind of pressure on yourself!!! It will make the task 1000 times more difficult! Just tell yourself if you finish, great, if you don't, whatever. (I know what I'm talking about.) Reward yourself for even a few paragraphs. Be gentle to yourself! It's not just that this strategy feels better, it will, in a practical sense, get your further along to your goals.
Erica in VT

Suburban Correspondent said...

"Sharing Size" is a totally passive-aggressive suggestion and, like all passive aggressive comments, should be totally ignored.

You're welcome.

Heidi said...

"I wonder if the words “Sharing Size” on my bag of M&M’s represent a command or merely a suggestion."...I often wonder the same thing.

This writing thing is hard, a real pain-in-the-ass sometimes, but I believe in you and your writing.

I'm glad there was some peace for you, something good in all the terrible. Love you.

ashley said...

So sorry about the loss of your grandmother. You made me laugh with the fictional scenarios. Those sound a lot like the books I read when I am at my parents' lake house. Perfect "fluff" so that I can keep one eye on the book and one eye on the birds and water. I know your book will be great. You make us laugh and cry here each week. My husband and I are struggling with some similar-sounding tough issues at our house this week, so I'll pray we'll all resolve them gracefully and quickly.

~Ashley in Louisiana

Anonymous said...

It was incredibly brave of you to go to that cottage near water. I know you were joking about the car breaking down, like the last time, but supposing that the water frightened you, it would be awful to feel stuck there, so that was yet another fear that you overcame. I'd say you were very strong.

I don't know if a weekend cottage is a daydream or something you'd seriously consider, but since a cottage would become a new family tradition, just mulling that over could maybe show how far you've come...

I hope that the heavy burden can be lightened soon, and I'm sorry.

I'm very sorry about the loss of your grandmother. It is lovely to think of her with Jack. Hopefully you will have a chance to celebrate her life in a way that really gives you and your family peace.


Anonymous said...

I love your writing, even independent of the content. (If it were even possible for writing to exist without content -- work with me here!)

Debby@Just Breathe said...

So glad the place worked out for you. I know you can write and your words always draw me in. Thinking of you.
xoxo

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

So glad that the experience was positive, even though it wasn't easy. It seems like you may be starting to find some peace in your "difference". Not sure how I would feel about being that alone for three days. I would probably watch a lot of Duck Dynasty too!

Princess Kate said...

I have warm thoughts of Jack and your grandma together now. It's nice for me to picture and feel it.

Peace my friend to you.

zcan said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother, Anna. Sending my love to you. And I have total faith in you -- I know the book will be amazing because it will be from your heart.

Peg said...

Peace, love and good writing! I'm sorry for the loss of your grandmother. We're going to lose my grandpa within the next week or two and even though he's 96 it still sucks. Hugs!

Kim P. said...

Anna, you are strong enough. You are a beautifully gifted writer. You words ALWAYS stir my heart. Eat those Thin Mints...any woman knows it near to impossible to not open a box of Thin Mints. She will not begrudge you. :) I felt the peace in this post, even if it's only for a moment. Huge hug from Purcellville, as always.

Marissa said...

Sharing size? I share with me, myself and I. No guilt.

You are good enough, you are smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!!! Your words have value--it's okay to be compensated for them (men would never doubt this; as women we owe the same to ourselves)

Anonymous said...

Anna - Amazing writing - as always.

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Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

So sorry for the loss of your Grandma Anna. I think you are very brave for venturing off on your own, especially to a cabin on the lake. Just the title of your post scared me! You have much more strength than you realize. Hugs to you Anna!

Adrienne Kerman said...

Anna, I'm sorry for the loss of your grandmother. I'm looking forward to reading your book, which I know will be beautiful. Kudos to you for facing your fear of the river and diving in anyway, well, not into the river itself, but at least into the box of thin mints in the kitchen of the cottage on the edge of the river :-)

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This was such a quiet post...but it feels like an important one. If feels like reading a (your) book. So that is just another indication that you are more than good enough and strong enough to do it. Love you Anna!

Adrienne Kerman said...

And yes, the "share" on the bag of m&ms is only a suggestion, not a necessity. I hope you enjoyed them!

IrishRN07 said...

I've been checking faithfully, so happy to see a post today. I'm glad you're writing. As G quoted someone in her book: "Do you like writing?" The answer: "No. But I love having written." You will too and we, your readers, will love it even more. xoxo

Laura said...

What Kate Coveny Hood said.
Seriously. I reached the last line and wanted to figure out how to turn the page and keep reading.
You have a gift, Anna.
You ARE a gift.

AmyMak said...

I can't wait to read your book. You certainly do have a gift. Beautiful words. I love coming here, even though it's often painful. xo.

Mandy Britt said...

I just found your blog through Glennon Melton's and I am addicted. You are such a talented writer. I can't wait to read more.

A Speckled Trout said...

When I saw Anne Lamott last week she said she writes because, "The written word is my salvation." I've thought that over a hundred times since she said it and found it has been true of me most of my life.

Don't let your gift burden you. Let it be your salvation.

Kara said...

Oh, Anna, listen, as often as I re-read your posts, I KNOW you can write a book. You truly have a gift. I love that you can make me laugh and cry with your words, and that I feel like we're friends. I know we're friends. That is a gift, girl.

Deb Werrlein said...

this post leaves me a little speechless. so glad you found this glimmer of peace, and wishing you more.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

Something matters.

Erika said...

you are a fantastic writer. I love reading your posts - they are just great, every last one. ((((hugs))))) I feel like I've gotten to know Jack through your blog. I would love to read your words, in a blog...in a book...anywhere - and I hope you keep writing because it is so helpful to so many of us.

xoxo,
Erika

NanaDiana said...

God bless you...it's a moment by moment journey, isn't it? xo Diana

Lady Jennie said...

I agree with Amber. You are a gifted writer - a brilliant one.

And I think about you all the time; Just yesterday I was telling Matthieu about Jack's haircut and how you stood up for him (because there is also only one at the place he goes that gets it "right")

So the sharing of the M&Ms is virtual - we're still here.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

One of the angels in my life passed away this past week. I was out of town and so I couldn't be at her funeral. She died of the same disease that took my husband, but she got to fight, and boy did she fight it for 7+ years before her body and mind were tired and could take no more. She lived a long life, filled with love and faith, she will be missed tremendously. One of the blessings I am so grateful for was that I spent the last hours of my husbands life praying to God and thanking him for who he was and thanking him for all that he was to our family. It is a gift I will never forget. Before I went out of town I went to see my friend and was able to do the same thing, what a blessing! Thursday morning as my friend's service was beginning I stepped out on the balcony of the cottage I was staying at and prayed for her and her family and those who were a part of her funeral. I also was praising God for all that she was in my life and within a split second it came to me that maybe that is the way thru this grief thing. You know what I mean when I say Mike is in my every thought, a new building is built and I think Mike didn't get to see it, I drive past a house that he always commented on and he isn't there to say anything, a sale on men's clothing catches my eye but I realize I don't have a man to buy for and so on and so on. In that moment, (back to the balcony) I think what would it look like if every time I have one of those thoughts I praise God for who Mike was and for him being in my life, can that turn this grief into something much larger, something I can live with because there has to be more than this constant sadness of how can he be gone, and how can I live the rest of my life without him? You words once again encourage and light a very dark path, thank you Anna

Kiri (The Angel Zoe Kindness Project) said...

Such a calm beautiful post Anna. Your Grandma and your Jack in Heaven. What a comforting beautiful thought.

Rach said...

I'm sorry for your loss, but you know Jack was there to greet her with a HUGE smile on his face. :o)

I'm glad you had a chance to get away for a bit and to work on your apprehension around water--I was the same way. I still don't like murky water but find I'm okay with a pool. This is a problem given where we live...

Hugs to you!

Lori said...

When you wrote about going away to write and to give your husband and daughter a break from you I had to smile because I've done this exact same thing. I can only imagine what living through Jack's birthday was like. My bones ached when I read this. And yes, absolutely yes you should write as you have a gift and stories in your heart to tell. Reaching out to hug you ((((Anna)))). My condolence's on your grandma's passing. When I read of her passing, I pictured Jack running up and hugging her with a big smile on his face.

Kris said...

Beautiful. You are a wonderful writer.

The Empress said...

We are stronger than we can ever imagine. I can do all things through He that strengthens me.

I love you, Anna. I'm so sorry about your grandmother passing.

Heather L. Kopp said...

Anna,this is so beautiful and real. You are too. Reading your words this morning turned out to be a great way to begin my day and feel God near.

anymommy said...

I don't know how you convey such peace and acceptance while still making it clear how very painful each step forward is, but I am forever grateful to you for teaching me. I'm sorry for the loss of your grandmother.

Elizabeth said...

Anyone who can bring out several emotions in a reader, in writing just a few paragraphs, is most certainly capable (and strong enough)to write a book.

Kate {motleymama.com} said...

That is something.

You are brave.

Anonymous said...

@Laura, if I may say so, I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend who was an angel in your life, and what a beautiful way to remember both her and your husband. A real blessing.

@Speckled Trout, Anne Lamott? WOW.

Keeping Anna & her family in my prayers.

Denise said...

I have a river house on the potomac, too, almost exactly like the one you visited. And...from the look of the pictures, it is almost as if you were on my very street. It's a great spot - hope you enjoyed yourself a little peace and quiet.

Mrs4444 said...

Everything you write is beautiful, Anna; your writers voice is never silent :)

Prayers to you and your family during this transition time.

Peach Prenni said...

I loved this post and I love you. Can't wait to read that book. You're doing great! Keep on keeping on...
xoxo
Annie

Anonymous said...

Anna, my heart hurts for you, but I so appreciate your writing. I almost lost my daughter to the ocean on Fire Island, & I know what it's like to view the water you once loved in a completely different way, with hackles raised. I wish I could do something to bring your son back or to ease your pain. I will pray for you & for the Holy Spirit to comfort you. Thank you for sharing your journey & the burden of your son's death. I wish I could take some of this burden from you.
Love,
Gretchen Weigel

Catherine B. said...

Make no mistake about it....YOU ARE A WRITER! Thank you for your insightful gift of sharing from your heart. Grandma and Jack...you will join them in His time.

Anonymous said...

I love how you write..please believe in yourself and go for it!

Jenn Marshall said...

I love you, Anna. And I think you and I both know that the book was meant to be and I am positive it's going to be incredible. Keep on writing because your words are so powerful. xoxo

Tiffany said...

This line: but in this brief moment, it doesn’t feel horrible to think about....made me cry for you...happy tears. I've followed your journey...and i'm so glad you're finding some peace...even if it's just a little hope.

Esther said...

My heart breaks for you and cheers for you at the same time. Your writing is so deeply sad and hopeful at the same time. May The Lord bless your every step.

bonzo said...

This is so beautiful and hopeful. I think of you and Jack so often. Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

I was totally picturing Clint Eastwood over there with the cigar, and am I'm glad your writer's weekend held neither a cheesy romance nor a bloody horror story. And good for you to have the time away.

love,
jbhat

Anonymous said...

I keep showing up because you are the dose of medicine my heart needs. Thank you for showing up to write!

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OSMA said...

Duck Dynasty marathon by the "Rivah" sounds like a dream to me. I'm guessing your friend left those Thin Mints for you. Things feeling not horrible IS something. I am picturing your grandma, her son, Charles and her grandson, Jack having one sweet reunion. Maybe there's a beautiful man named Jimmy around serenading them with some Beatles. Or BB King. He takes requests.

Love you. Love Jack.

xoxoxxo

Anonymous said...

With the very sad events at the Boston marathon, those who have experienced a loss have been on my mind and in my prayers...I could well imagine how that would bring up painful feelings, although on the other hand, I wouldn't automatically assume that, as grief is so individual. Either way, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mama Mary said...

Oh how I glad I am to hear that you are writing. You have such a beautiful way with words. Sending you love as usual and strength to continue on your writing path. You can do it. Bird by bird. (I'm assuming you've read Anne Lamott but if not, I recommend her-both her fiction and her non-fiction about writing, loss, grief, and life.)

Loukia said...

Love and peace to you... xoxo

Terri said...

Hi Anna,

I started reading your blog when I was pointed here by Glennon and then the coolest thing happened at work. I was in a meeting around a table learning about how you are going to write a book for us!! Imagine how excited and delighted I was. Your words are powerful and peaceful and painful and lovely. Thank you for writing and sharing. Love and peace to you.

(another) karen said...

I am sorry to hear about your Grandmother. Wishing Love and Peace for you and your family as well.

karen

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