Yawn, stretch, hey y'all, what day is this? Is it spring yet?
If you hadn't noticed, I dropped my end of the Clothesline somewhere back in November. What happened? I'm not sure, and you probably don't care, but it goes something like this:
First, there was a letting go of eight years of Bush-induced roiling gut and torqued neck when Barack Obama won the election. You know the relaxation exercise in which you clench every bit of your body as tightly as you can, scrunch up your face, hold your breath, and then let it all go? And you feel your weight sink into the floor and white light fills your head and for a moment the gerbil-wheel of your mind stops squeaking?
It was something like that, a prolonged exhalation, tinged around the edges with nervous anticipation. Could he pull this off? Is the economy too far gone, the country too mean-spirited and divided, the earth too pillaged and scorched? Is Hillary the right choice for State? Yes. Geithner for Treasury? Umm. Daschle for Health? Damn. (And damn those vanity glasses, a dead give-away that he was no longer a lad of the prairie.)
Now all of this was fodder for writing, yet for some reason, my well ran dry.
One cause may have been the birth of our daughter's twins in October -- yes, let's blame it on those twins! (See photo above. Only photo of grandchildren I'll ever post on the CLB, I promise.) I was distracted by helping to care for them (and the two older children) which included residencies in Seattle where they live, and where I tend to fall out of the news loop. But dang they're worth it.
While I was mired in the happiest of circumstances, Barb was dealing with the loss of her beloved David, and the serious repeated illnesses of her brother Garry. Yet she still managed to write whenever she could.
This ratcheted up my admiration for her, but also ratcheted up my guilt. Deserved guilt can either be a burr under my saddle, forcing me to take action, or it can become a straight-jacket. It's pretty obvious which it was this time, and the longer I stayed bound up, the harder it became to imagine a graceful reentry.
Then there was the small matter of writers' block. Some of you know that for a time I was a regular in the Strib's op-ed pages -- for what that's worth. In the last year I felt I was losing my chops and it was a horrible sensation -- like being called on stage to sing an aria but opening your mouth and braying like a jackass instead. (I know, there are many out there who feel I was braying all along, so don't bother commenting on that one.)
In January I drove to the inauguration with two friends and wrote ecstatic emails back to those who didn't go. "Can't wait to read the full account of your trip," they wrote back, and I couldn't wait to write it. I told Barb that I'd soon be back on the CLB, but when I sat down to put it together, I simply couldn't get it. This time it wasn't braying, it was just -- silence. I was clobbered by the enormity of what I'd witnessed. I tried stringing the emails together, but it was like trying to put small pearls on a coarse jute cord, and they just didn't hang together. This felt like another defeat. (Although a few weeks later I heard the writer/poet Rohann Preston, who had been there with his two daughters and his wife Angela Shannon, also a writer/poet, say that they had not been able to write about it either. That was a relief.)
Finally, there's the feeling that everyone is twittering or on Facebook and I'm hopelessly unable to stay up to speed. "Hey kids, I've learned to use the VCR to record Colbert!! Huh? TiVo?" Barb and I talk about changes that we'd like to make to the CLB and we talk and talk and Barb has good ideas and one of these days maybe we'll get around to them. Meanwhile, I can't even figure out how to post that grandbaby photo full size the way Barb does.
But first things first, and that's the writing. Barb continues to amaze and delight, while, in truth, I never felt I really hit my stride in this format. Less structured than an op-ed, but less intimate than an email, a weird hybrid for me. But it was fun to read your comments and feel a little kernel of a community out there.
So, with this long apologia out of the way, and Barb's forbearance, I hope to reenter that community. Stay tuned.