Monday, August 23, 2010

One sibling cries, the other doesn't. Sisters, brothers, and why I chose to write about Amelia and Muriel.

Everyone tells you that sibling relationships are complicated. I'm living proof. I have an older sister who I adored when I was growing up. And an older brother who basically acted as if I was non-existent. As time went on my sister's relationship with me got more and more complicated. And my brother's? Well it stayed just about the same. Now we're all adults and our parents are dead. What has changed between us exactly? I wonder about it, because I just spent the weekend being a ping pong ball. First one called, then the other. I listened. I tried to do my best to talk to both of them. And I realized that I'm in a familiar position. I'm the go-between, the mediator, and something that would surprise those who are close to me, the voice of reason. Let me add that I'm a mere ten years younger than my sister, and twelve years younger than my brother. But why does that matter now? It's not about the numbers, it's about the relationship. Theirs seems set in stone. Yet I wonder if that's true. Or if this is just the last time they're going to get to struggle. Once we finish probating the will and dispose of my mother's assets what will force them to interact with each other? Will they ever speak again?

I haven't had time for the novel in the last few days, I've been writing an essay about my own children growing up and my attempt to deal with it. It's humorous, and I hope almost finished. When it's done I hope to return to Amelia. I'm nearing the end of my time with her and with Muriel. But I understand why I've dedicated so much to this novel. I'm not just fascinated with her, I'm also fascinated by the sibling relationship. It one that impacts every other close relationship you have. It doesn't matter whether you end up talking to your siblings, or not. It's still what started you on whatever course you take. And the love, the hate, the indifference is there. It lives with you and in you and you have to deal with it.

I watch my own siblings at war. And I know that they love each other, but it's not a particularly good kind of love. And it doesn't make either of them happy. It's a trap, the love they feel. Who knows what will come of it. Frankly, I have a much better shot at understanding Muriel and Amelia's relationship. Now isn't that sad?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When Amelia Earhart stopped off at the Dakota . . .I miss you John

She stands in the crowd outside the Dakota. She begins to understand what must have happened after her plane was lost. Yes the circumstances are different. She died doing what she loved best. She understood the risks in it. John Lennon was trying his best to be private, to have a life apart from being a Beatle. Of course much was made of how he'd just recorded Double Fantasy, the murder committed by a crazed fan. Is there really such a thing?

I mourned John for weeks, frankly I miss him still. And I'll admit it, I loved John the most of the four. I loved him because he was clever, and had all the quips. He was the edgiest Beatle. When he was killed, I lost whatever naivete I had left. Funny that it was this that did it for me, though it had been chipped away in pieces. 1968 was a pretty bad year, but I was young then. I suppose that the young are less connected to their mortality, by the time John was murdered I was nearing thirty. It devastated me. So senseless.The man had done nothing but bring people joy. And of course aggravate the FBI to boot.

Amelia wonders about what happened in the days after her plane was lost. And in the intervening years. She was famous in much the same way John was, they both were claimed as icons. They both were made larger than life. Of course Lennon by turns enjoyed living his life in public, see bed-in, and abhorred it. Amelia was always careful to keep her private life, private. She wanted fame then, back when the parameters were easier to fix. But would she want it now? It's certainly a question, one that she tries to answer . . .

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nature is angry, and why Amelia is the best of what we're capable of.

I find myself pondering the future. It doesn't look good. This summer the weather in my part of the country has been unrelentingly miserable. Plants that usually do well are frying. I see my new foliage, for summer palm trees, for winter pine. What plants can manage this new, obviously bizarre weather? Are we going to bio-genetically engineer them? I hope so because otherwise Russians will be fighting over loaves of bread much as they did in the eighteen hundreds. As for Pakistan, a quarter is underwater. Do you think those people are going to love each other when all they care about is getting enough to eat to make it through to the next day?

We fiddle while the world burns. We talk and talk and talk and never listen. If we could listen to what the natural world is saying, we'd be pretty scared. But human beings are deaf to anything but self interest. Or so it would seem at this point. I worry for my children, I worry for everyone.

My father was oddly optimistic about human beings, he believed we were capable of wonderful things. He was also optimistic about this country. He thought it the greatest country on the face of the earth. I don't know if he would be able to sustain that optimism now. Amelia was similarly optimistic. You'd really have to be to try what she tried. You'd have to believe that you were the lucky one. And that luck would out.

We need more than luck now, we need action. We need to change our selfish ways and our selfish lifestyles and fast. It may well be too late. I hope not. Because both views are correct, humans are capable of remarkable things. They soar, but they also crash and burn. For the sake of us all, I still hope we can manage the former.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

After the Vacation, some thoughts

First, for those who might have been keeping up, I was away. I had no internet access and so no opportunity to post. Also, I have to admit, my mind was a little blank. It wasn't the most exciting or stress free vacation, but it was a vacation. I really can't and won't complain, especially since I now apparently live in the land of eternal summer.

Although I can't claim to have been as productive as I am when I'm glued to my computer screen I did some work. And thought about Amelia, thought about families and sisters and the odd bond that starts so young and never quite lets go. It took me so long to get to what was obvious, sisters are competitors from birth. When one sister is so out-sized, the other can never really hope to catch up. Yet Muriel has what Amelia loses, a life. It's what my Amelia hungers for and gets a chance to re-experience, life in all its delicious complexity. It won't last forever, just for the course of the book, still it's something to be able to grab hold again.

I think what's sad is how much we forget this. That life is truly remarkable and wonderful. All the truisms do apply, it's a gift. Yet we spend so much of our time worrying over the small things, enjoying so little of what goes on around us. We see, but we don't take things in. I'm guilty as charged. When I'm away from my life I realize that the things I hold precious are really quite ordinary. The quality of the light on any given day, watching those I love when they're unaware that they're being observed, walking down a street I've never been down before and seeing, really seeing the people who pass. Eating. Drinking. Thinking. Loving. Wanting. Needing. Doing. Waiting. Everything in its turn.

Muriel offers Amelia the opportunity to do all this and Amelia gives Muriel the opportunity to take hold herself. Because grief is potent, it can make someone lose whatever optimism they had. I want Muriel to learn how to live past her grief, and I want Amelia to understand what living out the rest of her life could have meant. I want both of them to engage with each other and to rediscover what they had as children, that incredible sense of wonder. Really, to be honest, I want that for all of us.