When I think about how writers might have met 100 years ago, I see train platforms and dinner parties. Now, these meetings happen through the binary code that enwraps so much of our lives . . . while I love the idea of wearing long tweed skirts (for some reason, I always imagine myself English a la Dorothy Sayers), I’m ever so grateful for the Internet because it has brought people like Lore Ferguson into my life. Lore has the ability to sketch out bare honesty in language so beautiful it leaves me a bit breathless. Today, enjoy her words on stories that never leave us behind.
Two summers ago I quit everything.
I quit my job.
I quit my lease.
I quit complaining.
I quit almost all my belongings.
I packed what was left of my salvation and my soul, and I moved from the top of our country to the bottom of it.
I left behind what was left of my heart, and I left behind a box of books. My heart has thrived in my absence from the north, and all the people I love grew and blossomed and unfolded every season with more brilliance than before. My box of books gathered dust in a barn attic belonging to some friends who are like family.
I am back there right now, back in the north where it is green and bright and bursting with life. This morning, I pouted over a blank screen. My heart is about written, out and I have nothing more to say, it feels, at the end of this writing sabbatical. I stare at the porch ceiling and the rushing river water beside me and my bare toes. I complain to the man-child who is as much a brother to me as any of my blood brothers. I say I have nothing to say.
Then I remember the box of books in the dusty barn attic.
When you own thousands of books and rid yourself of almost all of them entirely, you only save what is most precious. I saved memoirs—books that have shaped and reshaped me, and these are the ones I took to Texas. I left a box of mostly fiction—Graham Greene, Saul Bellow, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeleine L’Engle, and Annie Dillard, books that have woven me into their stories of lives more grand or lowly than my own. These are loved, loved books. And as much as I have no regrets about selling the rest of what I own, I am grateful that I kept this blue Tupperware bin filled with the life’s work of many.
I slip on some shoes and follow my friend-brother to the attic; he knows right where the box is; he put it there almost two years ago. I open the lid, and I breathe deep the scent of so many’s life’s works. I pull out The Maytrees and The Bean Trees and The Small Rain and Him With His Foot in His Mouth, and I am not so much delighted by these almost new finds, as I am comforted by the patchwork of words inside this box. I am comforted by people who did not quit.
These are heroes of mine, these authors who wrote through writer’s block and rejection slips and at times without inspiration.
I pile twelve or fourteen to take with me home to Texas. Two years ago, I was finished with the stories of other people—I wanted my own and now I have it, but these stories aren’t finished with me yet. They won’t quit me.
Lore Ferguson is her name. It’s pronounced Lor-ee. Her good friends call her Lo. Her oldest friends call her Lor. Her brothers call her Sister. But her best friends call her Lowly, and she hopes she can live down to that. Her life is small and simple. She is a graphic artist by trade and a writer by choice. Read her at Sayable.net and follow her around on Twitter @loreferguson.