A reminder-- I've made a change. New blogs on my new website, sandellmorse.com And I just posted. You can sign up there if you're so inclined.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I have redesigned my website and integrated my blog on that site. So, my blog will be continuing at http://Sandellmorse.com You'll find more posts and listings of upcoming events. You'll also find links to essays you can read online and information about my current work.
Come on over.
Come on over.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
I am deeply honored and humbled.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Three orange plastic chairs. One that will be pulled off to one side for the moderator. The spotlight will be on two women, sitting in the center of a boxy wooden platform. Two low mikes on long arms stand ready for their voices. I sit in an aisle seat in the second row, sipping wine from a small Ball canning jar. This room reminds me of a warehouse, high plaster walls, no windows—the Space Gallery, Portland, Maine. I’ve come to listen to Roxana Robinson and Ann Beattie read from the work of writers they admire, then discuss their selections. Later, each will read a selection from the other’s work. They rise from front row seats in the section on my right, Roxana leading. She wears red ankle length trousers, a white and black striped three quarter sleeve top, a black and white striped matching cardigan tied over her shoulders, red flat canvas shoes with closed toes. Ann wears black and white. What I notice about Ann are her long fingernails, polished fire engine red, then her toenails, polished the same red. Each has chosen red for her splash of color.
The selections they read are by Peter Talylor, Robert Stone, Grace Paley—Ann; Elena Ferrante, Hillary Mantel, Alice Munroe—Roxana. Now, Roxana reading from Ann Beattie’s “In the White Night,” then, Ann reading from Roxana’s Sparta. All of the writing is arresting. Stunning. Some writers rely on exposition, others on scene—which ever each chooses, he or she is a master. Each voice is unique.
How delightful to listen to two very smart accomplished writers talking about writing. But I as a writer can’t aspire to write like any of them—and I shouldn’t. Each’s wonder, each’s brilliance springs from an unknown quality that is his or hers alone. As I leave the gallery and step out into the cool of an August night, their words, their stories, their characters, the moods they create linger like a brush of silk on my skin.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
|Sam and I in better days.|
I’ve been meaning to blog all of July, hoping to get a post up before the month ran out; then, life rolled in like a tsunami, sweeping away intention. The only thing left was that night, Saturday, July twenty-sixth. Two dogs, maybe four, attacked Sam, my beloved standard poodle. Dick, my husband and I, had left Sam in the care of a dog sitter, a woman we knew. What we did not know was that she would leave Sam and her four dogs gated in her living room and leave on her bicycle to get ice cream. Her housemate found Sam lying in front of the gate, his breathing harsh and gurgled, his fur soaked with blood. Sam survived, still survives with severe bite wounds to his neck, impaired breathing which may require surgery to open his air ways, nerve injury to his right eye. He can’t blink. May never blink.
That Saturday night, the veterinarian gave Sam a fifty-fifty chance. It was two in the morning when Dick and I arrived at the hospital. Sam lay on his side, in an oxygen cubicle, his neck so swollen, he looked like he was wearing a ruffled Elizabethan collar. He smelled foul—like blood and rotten flesh. His fur has been shaved, revealing severe bite wounds to his neck, one about four inches long and two inches wide—and so deep. His white skin was the color of strawberries. An IV dripped into his left front paw, administering fluids, morphine and antibiotics. I held my hand to his nose. Sam licked my fingers.
For days my sadness was visceral, sapping my energy and my strength. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t think. I could empty the dishwasher, walk in the rain. This was grief. For Sam’s suffering. For his wounds. I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have left him with a woman who owned four dogs. Shouldn’t have made Sam the outsider. Wasn’t that what I wrote about, the outsider? But the woman knew Sam. Sam knew her. And he’d spent time with her dogs. But never without the woman present. She was distraught. So sorry. She would pay. She didn’t care how much. She wanted Sam to live. She didn’t know what she’d do if Sam died. Early, in his care, I set limits. No resuscitation. No breathing tubes. If Sam was going to survive, he’d need to pull through on his own. Sam has a big heart, a steady slow determination.
After five days, I brought him home, that large wound still open and draining, smaller wounds open and draining, too. I changed his dressing, fed him pills, antibiotics, painkillers, an appetite stimulant, each wrapped in brie. Brie is soft and smelly. Sam loves smelly. I sat on the floor applying warm compresses to his wounds. Sam leaned back into my hand, the hand that used to bandage a son’s skinned, then lift a lock of sweaty hair from a forehead. With touch, Sam’s breathing eased.
This morning, Sam lies on his bed in my study. This is our routine; Sam rests in my study as I write. And I’m beginning to write, first this blog, then perhaps, tomorrow, I’ll return to the work I left before the night of Sam’s attack, my book of essays about Jews, war and Vichy France. Sam has patches of dead skin that may transform into open wounds. Weeks will tell the extent of injury to his trachea. It will be months before we know if those nerves in his face will regenerate. I stoop down to scratch, lightly, on his head. He doesn’t move. He is content, hardly laboring as he breathes. Perhaps, no surgery. I turn back to my desk. Together and slowly, Sam and I re-enter our lives.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
My residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts ended a month ago. While I was there, a friend and fellow writer sent me an email. She was working on a lecture/essay about the challenges of maintaining balance in our lives as artists. At that moment, I put the email aside. Nothing was farther from my mind. I was the person I was meant to be, rising early without an alarm, doing yoga in my pajamas, dressing, then walking slowly out to the barn and my studio, carrying a half a grapefruit, a boiled egg, both of which I’d picked up in the dining room, entering and leaving, wordlessly. I’d walk past a paddock where horses ambled, their breath coming in ruffled snorts. At my studio, I’d insert my key into the lock, then enter the stillness I’d left the evening before. In a nearby kitchen, I’d plug in the electric kettle, and as water heated, I’d look out a window and watch bluebirds. After brewing my first strong cup of my day, I’d sit alone at an outside table or in my studio where I’d already pulled a big old broken down overstuffed chair to a window. There, I’d eat my egg, perhaps some fruit, maybe crackers with peanut butter or cheese. Surrounded by silence, I’d watch the sky, and all this time I would not have spoken a single word, so that when finally I’d take up my pen or go to my computer, the subconscious writing, my brain had done the night before was waiting and ready to pour forth.
Nights, after dinner when I’d walk down the long front drive, I’d seen a sign: “Entering the Real World.” The VCCA is an alternate world. A different world. Now, I wonder, is what feels like balance to me it’s opposite? Since I first learned about them in high school, I’ve been drawn to utopian communities, Brook Farm, the Transcendental community outside of Boston, the Shakers. I was the kid who loved camp. Now, I love the VCCA or retreats of my own making when I travel abroad, rent a room, research and write. When I write, I enter what my friend and fellow writer, Alexander Chee calls a fugue state. Alex says, “… when you enter the fugue state required for making art, you can’t really be a normal person. The good news is that at a colony, you’re not expected to—you’re expected to be civil to other colonists and respectful, but not normal. It’s a huge relief.” And I might add that travelling solo, knowing no one affords that same freedom and relief.
So here I am one month later, back in the real world, and I’m juggling, tossing balls up into the air: doctor and dentist appointments, commitments to family, to friends, to Sam, my standard poodle. I’m doing yoga, hiking into the mountains, walking, daily, swimming, gardening, travelling—and I’m reading and writing. My life is rich and full. Yet, I yearn for the VCCA where I live in a fugue state twenty-four seven. At home I enter that state for short periods. That, I suppose is real life. As for balance—which I perceive as equilibrium—that’s not me. I juggle; I totter. And I dream.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Taking stock of my week on Monday after the new week has already begun, but that's the way this past week has been for me. I'm running behind the bus, arms outstretched, yelling, “Wait for me.” Not the best feeling. So far today, I have managed 45 minutes at my computer working on an essay, an hour yoga class, breakfast, my second cup of coffee with Sam, my standard poodle, behind me on his bed chewing a treat I've given him. His sounds calm me, and so I'm trying to breathe, to say, this is my life. At this moment I write for as long each morning as I can before life intrudes in the way of my yearly physical which I put off until it catches up with me, the dermatologist, the dentist, the birthday gifts and cards, the graduation gifts and cards, events that I scheduled long before my calendar got full. You know how it goes. So this last week my major writing accomplishment was finding a title for the essay I'm working on about Germaine Poliakov, a ninety-five year old French woman who was a caretaker in a house hiding Jewish refugee children during the Second World War. I’m calling the essay "Connecting Threads." I like the way the title moves backward and forward. I've been tearing the essay apart and putting it together in a new way. I got about four new pages this week. I've also been searching for material for a workshop I'm teaching at the Ocean Park Writers’ Conference in Ocean Park, Maine in August, but I need my course description in about a week. West Moss, friend and writer, helped me move my thinking away a narrow technical focus to something more open and much more fun. Thank you, West, for your help. I think I've found a perfect essay for the group to read and talk about, "Traveling," by Grace Paley. It's in her book Just As I Thought. If you haven’t read the essay, do. She did, then, that we’re talking about with essays now, a lyric, braided essay—of course. What else?