Here I am in a field off Further Lane at seven o'clock last night.
And three more of me, blurrier, in the distance. Like figures out of Charles and Rae Eames.
The perfected field in which I live. Ah.
Actually, I'm pleasantly fried from reading and thinking about manuscripts all day. In a few days Mark and I will be teaching at the Juniper Institute in Amherst, and I've been doing my best to prepare ahead of time if only to ward off those lowgrade fears that I'm not yet ready to teach. (Do I tell them that my mother just died? What an odd thing for a student to hear, distracting, and off the point. Or what if I get that look on my face, or lose my ability to, well, think or speak--or both? Then what do I tell them?) The better news is that their stories so far have been vivid and risky; they move in and out of time; they try to stretch our notion of what a character could be. And I've liked picking out other work for them to read. D.J. Waldie, Bernard Cooper, Elizabeth McCracken, Joy Williams, Kim Chinquee, Grace Paley, and some pieces I've never taught before. A Gary Lutz excerpt. A Junot Diaz excerpt. An Amy Hempel excerpt. A Sigrid Nunez excerpt. Plus Cheryl Strayed's "The Love of My Life" in its beautiful entirety.
from "The Love of My Life"
Deep in the night, I pulled into a small camping area in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and slept in the back of my truck. In the morning I climbed out to the sight of a field of blue flowers that went right up to the Tongue River. I had the place to myself. It was spring and still cold, but I felt compelled anyway to go into the river. I decided I would perform something like a baptism to initiate this new part of my life. I took off my clothes and plunged in. The water was like ice, so cold it hurt. I dove under one time, two times, three times, then dashed out and dried off and dressed. As I walked back to my truck, I noticed my hand: my mother's wedding ring was gone.
At first I couldn't believe it. I had believed that if I lost one thing, that I would then be protected from losing another, that my mother's death would inoculate me against further loss.
It is an indefensible belief, but it was there, the same way I believed that if I endured long enough, my mother would be returned to me.
A ring is such a small thing, such a very small thing.
I went down on my hands and knees and searched for it. I patted every inch of ground where I had walked. I searched the back of my truck and my pockets, but I knew. I knew that the ring had come off in the river.