Whenever I wanted to toss in the pen (actually the keyboard) I reread Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. If you are a writer and you haven’t read it, give yourself a gift for the holidays and darkest nights of the year and read it. This is the line I always race to find:
“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.”
Now I have a new appreciation of Annie—dare I call the winner of the National Humanities Medalist in 2015 by her first name?
She no longer responds to fans or emails, yet she has become my companion on the almost daily morning walk and when I am learning about my new home town – Bellingham, WA.
In 1992, while living on the San Juan Islands, Annie wrote The Living. It is the fictional history of where I live and describes the four linked, newly settled communities on Bellingham Bay and the beliefs and interconnections with the Nooksack and Lummi tribes.
I’ve never had the joy of reading a fine work of fiction and walk the very streets and paths where the novel takes place. Even though the story is set in the late 1800’s, the feel of the landscape, the boom and bust times, and the wisdom and the spirit of the Lummi and Nooksack are palpable today.
Once again the Bay, greater Bellingham, the tribes, and the natural wonders that abound here are threatened by the push from BNSF railroad and the oil/coal industry to use this as their dangerous and dirty refinery and export terminus for Asia’s energy needs.
The Living is rich in all of the elements that make a novel memorable—hardship, achievement, violence, and love—no matter the setting. In my case, the setting is not fictional, it is where I live, and and accompanies me on my walks into town and out on the abundant trails. It is still the living—part of a rich past, part of a threatened future, and a joy to live here each and every day.
May you find fine writing and enjoyable books about where you live.