Do you know William Stafford’s poem, You Reading This, Be Ready? He wrote it a few days before his death, in the early morning hours, on the couch where he often wrote. In the poem, he asks the reader “what do you want to remember?” It’s a good question for me, a memoir writer, and for you as well.
That day, I looked up from the poem and saw sunlight illuminate the townhouses across the street, their white trim and gray siding, their gray flagstone garages, and I loved the uniformity of living here, in this neighborhood, in one of a neat and tidy row of houses, part of something bigger than myself, in a place where I belong. Brown oak leaves clung to a tree outside my window, fluttering in little gusts of wind, not breezes because it was already November and we’d had some little bit of snow.
Just as I looked out, the elderly man who lives across the street limped out his door and to the curb, then crossed to the bank of metal mailboxes. He disappeared behind the oak tree and a moment later emerged with his mail, envelopes and flyers tucked beneath his arm as he hurried across the street again, turned to look down the sidewalk and went back inside.
I cherish my solitude. I need great chunks of time, and a space with a view of the world outside, my little world, to process my thoughts, to understand what I want and what I need to do. Watching my neighbor go out for his mail lets me be a part of the little world of my neighborhood and tells me that alone here in my writing study/quilting studio, I am not alone in the world.