Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 18, 2008

Writing as Looking Back

I enjoyed a celebratory day with three old friends – driving up a winding drive to a Berkshire cottage/mansion called Blantyre for lunch in the garden by an ivy-covered wall. I enjoyed the salad I didn’t have to chop myself, and dessert, involving blueberries and whipped cream, was a work of art. Afterwards we walked the elegant grounds, finding two swings on a huge maple tree. Here I am with Sue, who helped me survive high school and life since.

It was all lovely, but for a writer, the day after may be as precious as the day. I’ve been recording some of what we said in my journal and writing down more ancient memories, too. Details I first missed emerge as I try to make a new sense of our lives.

I love busy afternoons with friends and family, but it’s often the common moments that spin around, and like a fairy tale beg us to circle back and take another longer look. Sometimes staring at a blank screen is staring at a blank screen, and it’s time to move on. But sometimes a small voice whispers: wait. Slowly, a blank wall starts to look like a window and I remember that we can’t race to meaning. You have to sneak up on it, small step by small light step. Working with time and silence as much as words, themes sneak up, rising in smoky, desultory, unpredictable ways.

That swing that made me lift my heels is probably empty now, maybe blowing slightly in a breeze. But it’s there for someone who walks by. Anyone can play.



  1. Your day with old friend sounds lovely, Jeanine. And you’ve described the writing process sooo beautifully. Makes me believe that this staring-at-the-blank-screen day might develop into something more, after all. 😉

  2. Thanks for your beautiful words and reflections, Jeannine! Love the swing :).

  3. We HAVE to believe that staring turns into something else, right?

  4. Thanks, Jama. Now I’m going to hunt up my Joni Mitchell Blue album, inspired by your beautiful blog.

  5. This is a lovely and inspiring post. I love imagining who will be on the swing next! I hope you don’t mind if I add you to my friend’s list.

  6. Thank you, Lorraine. Glad you friended me and I friended you back. I love that pink water lily!

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