So, I'm up in Maine with my mother celebrating her birthday, which has been lovely. Today it was grey so I spent the time going through more boxes of my grandmother Jani's writings...which are legion, and include drafts of fiction books (none of which were published), zillions of articles and opinion pieces about feminisim, racism and education written in the 70s (many of which were published), poems (legion but not published) and many many many half-written notes, letters, etc. Also an on-going correspondence with a guy she really liked a lot but uncharacteristically did not end up becoming his lover, which is probably why they remained such good friends for so long, come to think of it...the one married man who decided to remain faithful to his wife and good on him.
But the amazing thing I unearthed in a file that was mis-labeled as a chapter from one of her fiction books is her 'obituary' that she wrote for her grandchildren. This is a 30+ page document starting with early childhood memories. She had lung cancer and knew she was dying for about 9 months so had time to reflect on her life and did. I knew her then, was at times her caretaker in the early months when she was still mobile and staying with my mother and me during the summer of 1979. We spent an incredible summer on Peaks Island, Maine that I will never forget, because this scary, formidable woman became someone to whom I could speak. I was 16 so we could communicate better because of that as well - I had stood up to her earlier in the year, which kind of surprised her, but I think probably earned her respect as well. During that summer, we spent many silent hours together, which I realized, having also found today her writing about that time, she enjoyed as much as I did. We spent time together talking, too - going through old photos, told stories, shared poetry and found a still but vibrant place we shared.
I feel blessed that happened and hope I can do her justice in the book. She was a deeply flawed person, which makes her, well, a person. Perhaps this is the 'wisdom' of my years...which is: duh - we are all deeply flawed. It helps to remember that when writing about someone else or for that matter one's self.
It's late, I'm bleary eyed from decoding handwriting as lame as my own...so gonna make this short, but wanted to mark this day because it's important. Persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness is paying off. This book is gonna take a long time to complete. There will be no sprint. It's gonna be a marathon. But it's all I fucking care about doing.
Oh, which reminds me of another realization I had about this process: this part of the writing and research is simply about mining the raw material so of course it's excruciating and feels gunky and awkward and at times like I'm in a big dark cave with no fucking exit and a stupid light on my head that barely illuminates the impenetrable rock in front of me. Because that's what it actually is. Moments like finding the obituary are the rare moments of finding the vein, the little gold streak...that tells you, maybe...maybe there is something here after all, not just a smelly, dark, depressing fucking Cave...
We'll see...but until I go through this shit and sort it and somehow put it down/record/imagine it, I can't get to the crafting stage. It's just about picking away with a tiny little Shawshank Redemption sized rock pick at a big-ass wall of Darkness...in hopes of finding the proverbial light at the end of it...or something. Too tired to keep my hackneyed metaphors straight so over and out...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.