Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Dance to Remember

by Nicki Salcedo
(Me on the beach in Carmel trying to forget)

Why we write.

I buried my father-in-law yesterday. He died too young, too suddenly, and his passing elicited too many feelings. None of the emotions were subtle like sadness. I’ve been angry at him for leaving my kids without their grandpa. They loved him. Because they loved him, and he left them, I am angry. And when writers feel strongly about something they write.

When we landed in San Francisco this week, the first song we heard was Hotel California by the Eagles. It brought a smile to my face on a day when I didn’t think I could smile.

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair...”

I can’t say that I’m a fan of the Eagles. I’m the wrong generation and wrong demographic, but one particular lyric stood out as I heard the song on the dark desert highway between Gilroy and Salinas.

“Some dance to remember. Some dance to forget.”

As I pondered topics for my blog today, this one seemed the most relevant. Why do we write (or read for that matter)? And the answer is in the Eagles. Some write to remember. Some write to forget.

We are still early enough in 2009, and I’d like to hope that your optimism of January 1, a mere two weeks ago, hasn’t faded. I hope you are still trying to exercise, eat healthy, keep your house clutter free, and write more pages today than you did yesterday. But I also hope that in your quest to write more, you will also think about ways to write better. My first idea to better writing is to identify why you write.

I write to remember. Good writing is a recollection of things that startle your senses. You might remember that air in California is different, but you will write about the scent of eucalyptus interrupted with the stench of skunk. Or that the sand peppered wind is as chilling as the frigid waves. You write because you can’t find anyone who makes tortillas the way your grandmother used to make and you want to remember. You write because touching your husband’s hand on a cold winter’s morning is not the same as touching his father’s lifeless hand, but the similarity is painfully present. Some write to forget.

If you are also writing to forget, I hope your journey lessens the pain. It takes us back to places that are lost by time or distance.

“We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine.”

If you are writing to remember, I hope the air smells like lovely eucalyptus or wintry pine. I hope you can taste your grandmother's homemade tortillas. I hope to remember the grudging look of approval my father-in-law gave me ten years ago when I spent three days making tamales with my mother-in-law. I hope to always remember that. Some dance to forget. Some dance to remember.

Happy writing.

28 comments:

Michelle said...

Nicki - what a beautiful piece. You're an amazing writer.

Carol Burnside said...

Great post, Nicki. Hugs on your f-i-l's passing.

Be well.

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Nicki,

You brought tears to my eyes... I love this post and the thought that went into it... My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Tami

Gannon Carr said...

Nicki,

What a poignant post! My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family right now. (((Hugs)))

We lost my MIL three years ago--much too young as well and unexpected to boot--and my FIL almost 8 years ago. There's a lot of sadness still, but I hate that my children just have one set of grandparents. They are much too young, and my daughter will hardly remember them.

Your writing is so beautiful--keep it up!

terrio said...

What a beautiful blog. My sympathy on your loss. I remember when my ex's grandmother died. It was unexpected and way too soon and I wish that my daughter could have known her. She was an amazing woman.

I'm not sure whether I write to remember or forget. But now you have me thinking about.

Scott G said...

Very well said, Nicki. On the occasions I knew him, your father-in-law was a terrific guy. I really had hoped to be there with all of you yesterday, but had to be at work. Please give my very best wishes to everyone, and know that you all are in my prayers.

Abigail said...

A beautiful post Nicki. I am so sorry for your loss.

Sandy Elzie said...

Nicki,

Sometimes I read to forget, I think I write to remember and I dance to celebrate...celebrate the loving memories of someone who is no longer with us but will always remind is of the good times.

I lost my Father & Mother one summer, only a month apart, and they also were much too young, so know that you have friends who are walking down the path of life with you, sharing your grief and loss.

We love you and will keep you and your family in our prayers.

Sandy

Linsey Lanier said...

Nicki,

Like the others, I too am teary-eyed after reading your beautiful post. Very impressive writing. Very touching thoughts.

My sympathies on your loss.

Linsey

Marilyn Baron said...

Nicki,

What a profound post expressing some beautiful sentiments. I'm so sorry about your father-in-law. You are a wonderful writer and a great friend.

Anonymous said...

Nikki, thanks for this blog. I too write when the emotions are running high, but most of what I write sits in a mostly blank book or some lost legal pad. I write to release, which for me, is so much more powerful than writing to make a buck.

I'm thinking of you, Steve and the kids. Please remember though, that passing does not mean your father-in-law is gone. Memories go on for ever. I hope youa re able to preserve a few tangible ones for the kids.

Robin

dianna shuford said...

Nikki,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and grief with us. We've lost about 4 members of my husband's family in the last few months. I understand where your at and I'll be praying for your family.

The bad things often spurn the most profound thoughts. I enjoyed yours. They made me scratch my head, think about it, and say "yeah, that's right." Isn't that what every writer wants to hear? So, kudos to you on the awesome post.

Carissa said...

Nicki,

You know how much loss I have suffered in the last couple of years; this post really spoke to me. Thank you for sharing it.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Hey, I love all of you guys. I'm a little behind of everything so now I'm wondering. Do you write more when you are happy or sad? Any comments? Do you write to remember or forget?

Danielle said...

Great piece, Nick - as always. In answer to your latest question - I write when I'm sad. It just gets the emotions out and gives me some distance from whatever it is I'm experiencing. The writing relieves the immediate emotions while letting me remember them with a bit of a buffer.

Thanks for sharing yourself -

Kym said...

Lately, I write very little at all, but I think normally I write when I'm feeling a little sad, and it always makes me feel better afterward.

Beautiful post.

Nicki Salcedo said...

I don't like to write when I'm sad. I like to write when I missing someone or some thing or some place. I like to recreate the thing that is absent.

Writing to forget for me is futile. Even if I write something completely different from what I am feeling, it reminds me of the thing I want to forget.

It is almost like cooking. (Okay, so I don't really cook anymore. Sue me.) When you cook there are lots of flavors and scents trapped in the layers of the food. That's how I feel when I write. In between each word and sentence are many more unspoken words. Everything for me is memory. Writing is just my way of remembering and cataloging those memories through a fictional filter.

Ana Aragón said...

Nicki,

What a poignant post. I could feel the unspoken words speaking to me as I read your piece. Does that make sense?

Perhaps it's because we are going through much the same thing with my own MIL, who lived with us for over a year. We rushed to her bedside at Christmas, having been assured she was on her last breath. Well, she's still breathing, and we have some wonderful memories of that last Christmas with her. It was almost as if she couldn't leave us with a bad Christmas memory.

I'll keep you and your family in my prayers. Know that your words were a comfort to me as well.

Ana

Jennifer said...

Wonderful post, Nicki. We're thinking of you, Steve, and the monsters over here, and sending hugs your way.

I think I write to both remember and forget. I write to process experience, to tihnk through the relationships between what has happened and how I look at the world. Perhaps I write to re-member -- to structure my memories in a way that makes the experiences meaningful. And for some things, I just need that sense of catharsis that writing provides. That is a kind of forgetting because it unloads my mind, unburdens me.

I'm really enjoying reading your posts. Wish we lived closer together and could actually get together and chat. Until then, keep writing and take care...

Jennifer

Nicki Salcedo said...

Ana, don't they say that all literature is about death and sex (ie love)? I guess these are the things that bind us.

Jennifer, I dream of taking a one year China or Korea sabbatical. We could start an ex-pat writing colony. Doesn't that sound like fun? :)

Walt Mussell said...

Nicki,

Sorry about your loss.

Walt

Darron said...

To paraphrase Dr. Henry Jones Sr from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "I wrote it down, so I don't have to remember."

Hmmm - maybe that's why I'm so lousy at keeping a journal. I write to forget. Or more specifically, once something gets written down, I forget about it.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Thanks, Walt. Kind words keep us smiling.

Darron, I suspect you are a wonderful writer. I love the quote from Indiana Jones and that the idea that writing is like puking. Gone and forgotten. You must share some of your writing.

Cyrano said...

Niki,
I think I'm a "write to remember" girl. Memories of my late grandfather conjure happy images, his warm smiles, gentle nature, quiet voice and wise eyes. He was a wonderful, loving man, who I'll miss dearly for the rest of my life. If I needed to find one word to describe him it would be sunlight. He glowed with life and inspired his grandchildren to beam as brightly as he did. I love him for that and for the happy memories I've accumulated while he was here with us.
When I'm published, my first novel will be dedicated to him.
Writing allows us the opportunity to draw images and feelings from past experience, making our voice richer, our characters more lifelike and our stories more heartfelt.
Your father-in-law honored you with a gift. During his life he made an impression on you and those he came in contact with. He gave you the gift of himself.
Honor his memory by unwrapping his gift, tearing away the sadness and despair and embracing that which he meant for you to have, his spirit.
I never met him of course, but I think, by the way you've described him, that he wouldn't mind the use of his memory as your muse.
After all, creative thought can come in many forms. Why not conjure inspiration from a loved one's memory? What better way to thank him for a life well lived and loved?
I hope that your 2009 is a productive, happy one.
God bless,
Tamara DeStefano

Nicki Salcedo said...

Tamara, you are too sweet. I'm thinking of trying two writing exercises this month. One, something I wish I could remember forever. Two, something, I'd like to forget. I don't have too many in the second category, but I'll see if my voice is different or stronger in one piece or another. Any other takers out there for this little writing challenge? If so, I'll share my results in February.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Nicki, J Perry called me on my way up from Florida to tell me about your FIL. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope that in time the sadness you're feeling gives way to warm, happy memories.

See you at the meeting, I hope.

Love,

Cynthia

Dusty D said...

Tamara,

Words can not express the joy your talents bring to me. You have a rare gift and I can't wait to the rest of the world gets to experience it.

DD

Pamela Varnado said...

Nicki,
Sorry for your loss. My brother passed away a few years ago from cancer. He was only thirty. Writing helped me to get through that horrible period in my life. Until your blog, I hadn't realized that I wrote to forget. Hang in there. It's gets better as time passes.