Sometimes I get discouraged.
Here it is, January in Minnesota, a state renowned for its
beautiful northern climate, and day after day I watch the
temperatures shoot up past 32 degrees and the little remaining
snow melt away.
I waited patiently through
those insufferable summer days, enduring those obnoxious evening
breezes redolent with the sickly sweet scent of flowers and
freshly mowed grass, then winter finally arrives, and what
happens? Three good snowfalls, and we have almost nothing to show
Last Saturday, feeling glum
despite the gray sky and its promise of snow, I had one of those
just-what-I-need experiences: I stopped by Open Book on Washington
Avenue, home of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Milkweed
Editions, and the Loft Literary Center, where there was an open
house for writers.
Over steaming lattes in the
Coffee Gallery one group was passionately debating the stylistic
possibilities of the semicolon. A line of writers snaked up the
winding staircase, and on the third floor Loft teachers were
talking about what they taught in their classes to young writers
and old, white writers and writers of color, gay writers and
straight writers – it was a marvelous, heart-warming mass of
humanity. I felt as exhilarated as I did last year when poet
laureate Ted Kooser’s reading caused a traffic jam around Plymouth
Congregational Church on Franklin Avenue.
Even without two feet of
snow, Minnesota is a nice place to be.
At Open Book I heard Amy
Lindgren describe her class “Exploring a Career in Writing” and
its four components: journalism, business writing, technical
writing, and publishing. Then Paula Granquist talked about writing
and the imagination. She had us draw two figures and connect them
with a line. Mine reminded me of a lily pad on the Kawishiwi River
in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and it made me think
of my father, and then she said, “Now write a story about
something that is discarded,” and I thought about how some day the
things we love will be taken away.
“In one of my classes,” Paula
said, “we talk about wildness and restraint,” and there, I
thought, is something for the business writer. We could use more
wildness in the workplace – more wildness of imagination,
creativity of ideas, new ways of thinking, combined with the
restraint of common sense, consideration for others, and respect
for the traditions that make us who we are.
“Now,” she said, “ask
yourself why you are the person who should tell that story,” and I
thought, if only we could lead our lives – both our personal and
our working lives – more aware of the story we are telling, and
why we are the ones to tell that story, and how that story is
played out in our writing.
Outside, my head awhirl with
inspiration and new ideas, a snowflake fell and landed on the
sidewalk before me. There’s always hope.