I have so much to say, but I need to keep this short. I’m on a writing deadline to revise one story and write another for the month August. I’m falling behind in my thesis writing, and it’s definitely stressing me out. But what can I say? I need to learn how to be kind to myself. My husband left for a nine-month deployment this past July. Our POM Leave wasn’t as relaxed as I had hoped it would have been, and unfortunately things didn’t change much with his family. I think it’s time for me to learn how to move on, how to create boundaries between those who will judge me inappropriately for my beliefs and passions (thus, will treat my marriage and me [and in the future, possibly my children] differently without the willingness to see their favoritism), but I’m lucky enough to have a husband who loves, adores, and will do everything in his power to heal and help our family become happy. I cannot be more thankful for this. I can’t thank God enough, I can’t thank my past and Wheatstone Academy enough, I can’t thank the heavens enough that I am married to a man who cares about goodness and searching for truth as much as I do.
But enough of that.
I recently came back from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and dear goodness, the way my writing grew in the span of two weeks without even writing, and rather through critiquing others’ work; being gracious and learning from workshop, my professors (thank you Jill and Randall!), and the amazing fellows (love your work, Shannon and Kim!); talking about writing; thinking about writing; attending a million readings and craft lectures; and convening with a group of writers who were amazingly kind and loving and supportive—this is something I don’t know how to put into words. Well, just not yet (apparently, I am busy writing other things). I plan to write another blog post ASAP (when I get my act together) about the Sewanee experience. It really was wonderful—but this doesn’t encapsulate the experience appropriately at all.
To my Sewanee Cat Table ladies and fellow male writers: I’ll see you at the French House with my usual (ginger ale and gin on the rocks).
Again, I digress. I’m still in the grueling process of editing my short story, “The Salt in the Snails.” After a ton of thinking, drawing out maps, researching, and, again, thinking (and listing out possible story structures), I think I’ve come up with an appropriate beginning. I’m in love with it, actually, despite it maybe changing tomorrow. But this is what I love about the revision process. To me, revision is much more fun than the ‘writing’ part, than the ‘figuring out the story’ part. The interior decorating and rearranging and teasing (as Jill McCorkle said) is compelling to me—because once you figure out what the hell you’re writing about, you can put everything and anything everywhere, as long as it’s in the appropriate place. I’ve been saying that word a ton in this blog post, but, again, I digress.
THE SALT IN THE SNAILS
Every so often I remember the wicked stories Lola Pacing—my father’s mother, the woman who raised us all—used to scare me. They were like the snails my sister Louise began to salt after our mother left; these tall tales and snails, they were plump and compelling, slow-paced and filled with mystery.
Patricia, look at the snails. They’re just pockets filled with wishes, Louise said.
Yes, anak, my child, they’re crawling duwende, little spirits who can bring you good or bad luck. It depends if they like you, Lola said.
It depends, Até Louise countered, if you kill them, if you force them to make your wishes come true.
Tabi-tabi po, Lola laughed, that is what you say. You respect them, anak. You walk around their little homes, like maybe that fountain over there, and ask them: pardon me, tabi-tabi po, may you move, sir?
I believed their every word. Clung to them, to their stories, their make-believes. I hadn’t yet learned to doubt. I hadn’t yet learned hiya, shame, what it meant to be a woman. Nor had I learned to hate us, our bodies, which could carry seed and bloom and give birth, which could invoke duwendes, manananggals, and mambabarangs to our little home. We placed bowls of salt on our window sills to keep these spirits away. My sister sprinkled the salt from these bowls on the wooden sills, and every time snails climbed the side of our house and onto our windows, I saw how the whiteness spread across their hides, how they withered away with no sound.
I knew even back then that salting snails meant death. Loss. I knew how it felt—to lose something, it felt empty, like becoming an exoskeleton without a host—and if Até Louise kept salting those snails, I somehow knew, one day, I was going to lose her, too.
And with that, I’ll be back soon. ❤