In my first writing group years ago, eight of us sat circled on couches and chairs, pens in hand, filling our notebooks with free writes. Now keypad clicking replaces ballpoint scratching and there are three in the group—Ann, Gillian and I. We check in with life’s anticipations, new chapters of our big stories and small. We write, read aloud, and check out, confirming our next date. We’ve written through joys and sorrows, births, deaths, teething, teen angst, breakups, heartbreaks, breakdowns and breakthroughs. It goes without saying that we appreciate one another, but I want them to know how much those few hours every other week matter to me.
From across the country and through cyberspace, other pen pals check in. Yesterday, my friend Jordan Rosenfeld emails about her new blog, book tours, interviewing, editing. She’s a wonderful writer, inspiration to others, and a new mother. I also want baby news. Her check in won’t be complete without the details. In her blog she says, “I’m grateful to all those people who’ve contributed to my journey as a writer.” As I am grateful to her.
I heard from a woman who bought a copy of A Painter’s Garden a decade ago. On November 4, she took it from her shelf and read it to comfort her through the anxious hours before she knew for sure that Obama had won the election. Sylvia tracked me down to order a book for a friend in Canada. The two have been best pals since age five; they are now seventy. She told me that, coincidentally, her sister had just received a copy of my book from a woman who said that it had changed her life. A “your book changed my life” email had landed in my inbox a few weeks previously from Diane, whom I’ve never met in person, though we’ve shared many phone calls and emails on projects related to my design business. Yes. As it turns out, she is the one who gave the book to Sylvia’s sister.
Today is brisk and sunny in Northern California. Over a lunch of warmed-up leftover tomatillo chili, I click on the television, looking for breaking news. I’m not normally a daytime TV watcher, and am trying to disengage from the habit formed during the Presidential campaign. I couldn’t get enough of Barack Obama then or now. I crave the optimism and intelligence after the past eight years of the current administration, which set a dangerously low bar for a dumbed-down, fearful political agenda. I want to write to my President-elect and tell him that that he and Michelle are changing our lives for the better. In spite of all the bad economic news, there is hope when they check in. I’m eager for details, but still basking in the joys of anticipation. They have a handle on what needs doing, but they can’t accomplish it alone. I’m going to tell them that I’m grateful for the journey we’re about to begin as a nation. I’m going to thank them for re-inspiring those of us old enough to remember Kennedys and young enough, as is my 20-year-old son, to become inspired for the first time by a man and woman who honor the office of President and role of First Lady, a man and woman whose gratitude is heartfelt and contagious.
The BarackObama.com website lists a snail mail address: Obama for America, P.O. Box 8102, Chicago, Il 60680.
Pick up your pens.
Dialog, oil on canvas