A summer with Joan …

The White AlbumWhere I Was FromSlouching Towards Bethlehem – all stories of distant places in a distant time – scattered with searing observation that make place, time and distance irrelevant.  Joan Didion has the capacity to invade your thoughts, for days on end:

Notes from a Native Daughter (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Perhaps in retrospect this has been a story not about Sacramento at all, but about the things we lose and the promises we break as we grow older; perhaps I have been playing out unawares the Margaret in the poem (Spring and Fall – Gerard Manley Hopkins):

Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? …
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Where I was From – Part Four
Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had, like Lincoln Steffens, “come back”, flown west, followed the sun, each time experiencing a lightening of spirit as the land below opened up, the checkerboards of the midwestern plains giving way to the vast empty reach between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada; then home, there, where I was from, me, California.  It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.

…  We kissed, we had a drink together, we promised to keep in touch.  A few months later Nancy was dead, of cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  I sent the recital program to Nancy’s brother, to send on to her daughter.  I had my grandmother’s watercolor framed and sent it to the next oldest of her three daughters, my cousin Brenda in Sacramento.
I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

It has been an obsessive and busy summer.  When thoughts jostle for space, I escape – two wheels at speed empties the head, concentrates the mind and lifts the spirit.  I seek out empty and abandoned places – I want no distractions.

Border Park Services

Abandoned years ago

Where the fuel prices are frozen in time

Before departing I had worked out a circular route going north along the A68, into Scotland towards Selkirk and then south to Kielder. Not for the first time, I was thwarted by road closures, this time the B6357. When did this become the norm rather than the exception – much to my annoyance, I was briefly distracted 😉

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4 comments

  1. restlessjo · September 17

    I don’t really know her work, Robin. Presumably you’re working on a book of your own? 🙂 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · September 17

      I recommend some Joan Didion, Jo – plenty to choose from. Yes, working hard(ish) on the sequel – it demands plenty of golf and travel research – it’s a tough life 😀 Hope you are keeping ok, All the best, R

  2. J.D. Riso · September 18

    Haunting passages to accompany these haunting images. And then there is your need for unsettling solitude to clear the mind. Good to see you post again, Robin.

    • northumbrianlight · September 19

      Thanks Julie – I must make the effort to post more regularly. I am sure this will come once the days shorten and the temperature drops. It has been a good summer for bikes and golf 🙂 The passage ending “where will I be from” stuck with me for days, but not because I identified with it. Sadly or otherwise, my parents are not the people that defined me.

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