The Call of the Onion

I am super conscious of the fact that I have been too busy with too many other projects of late to post here on the blog. The biggest thing is that I have been working hard to inventory all the art work that Dad left behind and to try and place a value on it. A real value, a sum that could be received from real buyers in a real market place. That is nowhere near the first value, the value of my heart.

But this lower, real number is the value I must go with in order not to pay a high price now. Estate taxes, I think they are called. Apparently, later, if something does sell for more than I claimed it would at this moment in time, my sister and I will pay capital gains tax. So be it. As an associate of my dad’s said to me on the phone the other day, “you should have such a problem.”

So, along with being a responsible and diligent representative of the estate, I am still doing my grant writing job every day, still being the poetry and arts editor of an up-and-coming literary journal called Stoneboat, (hey! Come to Paradigm today at 2:00 for a reading from the new issue!) and still scratching away each day at this so-called novel. I think this morning I had a strange breakthrough with my main character. Again, I can only hint at these things, because honestly, I don’t know what this is about and I don’t want to jinx myself by saying too much.

As with so many things in my life, it appears that by doing, I will come to know. That is all I can say. I was making a mental list this morning of all the things I think I “do not know how to do.” There are many. I started to get very sad. And so, to counter-balance this downward spiral I was quickly slipping into, I began a second mental list of things I do know how to do:

  1. Be a good friend
  2. Write a poem
  3. Enjoy a walk by the lake
  4. Dance
  5. Be my son’s mother (this is one of those many things I did not know how to do until I did it)
  6. Fry onions

Remember that? The onions. The place where all this started? I keep thinking about the fact that no one tells us how to be born. Nor do they tell us how to die. You can go to school for many years and still not really know much of anything. I am convinced that the only true learning is in the doing.

I will come to know how to write a novel by writing it. I am diligently claiming some time each day, even if I write only for twenty minutes. Even if I write only a paragraph or two. I am determined to make a story out of these two characters that I have in my head and the many, many things I want to say about what it means to live and love in this world.

The biggest thing I need to fight against is my tendency toward the sentimental. This is a challenge for me. I am a drunkard for sentimentality. But that is too easy, and that is not what people want to read. I know that the things that have touched me most in the work of other writers is when I read something that I recognize as familiar, but it comes to me in completely surprising way. That is all I will say about that right now.

Look, the book may or may not ever be published by Random House, Penguin, or Charles Scribner’s Sons. I just know it wants to be written (has been wanting to be written since I was about nine, but of course, I did not have the words yet then). Certainly, it will never be published if I don’t at least write it.

Let me be clear. I don’t know what “it” is. I don’t have a story I am dying to tell. I just have an “it.” I will find out what “it” is and hopefully let you know at some future time. But, first, there are onions in the kitchen and they are calling to me for butter, eggs, and a frying pan.

frying pan

6 thoughts on “The Call of the Onion

  1. I’m happy to read this, Lisa. I’ve noticed the lack of posts and I think that’s good. You are, in going through his artwork, consciously and unconsciously processing your loss and grief. The blog is just one approach. Your work, including growing your novel, is another. You are learning to live with Georg’s voice inside you. Eventually that deepened, fortified love and new wisdom, complete with an occasional drenching of mawkish and always awkward sentimentality perhaps, will find its strength in your work and in the love you share with all of us around you. xx Susan

  2. It’s already there. I love your process, Lisa, of just letting your novel unfold. You fry onions in butter, add beaten eggs, voila you have an omelet. Sometimes it’s a beautiful omelet, sometimes not so much but still delicious. Point is (as David Bohm pointed out), the omelet is in a very real sense already there in the ingredients, you just need to put them together and let them unfold. Your life experiences are already there…let them unfold.

    I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Steve Schuh, thank you! I like this omelet analogy. Perhaps it is also like Michelangelo’s thought that the sculpture is there, in the block of stone. One just has to chip away at it long enough (with some measure of plan and intelligence) to release the form. Omelets, statues, novels…all part of some continuum of creation. I’ll go with this. Thanks for reading.

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