A Hard Rain


The wind is fierce tonight, but it’s cozy inside. Chris came downstairs after putting Isabella to bed and I told him, “I keep thinking about all the animals.” He said they’d been reading Owl Moon and he’d had the same thought.

Last night I received an email from an editor, a call for pitches. I skimmed it just before bed, and this morning I woke with an idea. The sentences started stacking in my brain and I hurried to get Isabella settled downstairs and then hid myself away for an hour to get a draft down in my notebook. I got almost three-quarters of the way through before the day took over, and then it was the toggle between toddler-wrangling and attempting to cohere the essay into something whole. By day’s end I’d done it. I finished the essay, wrote the email, and sent the pitch. I’m sure it could’ve used more polishing, but I stuck to “better done than perfect.”

In my post-election malaise, I lost track of my bullet journal. So I reclaimed it today and sorted out the rest of the month. There’s much to be done and I need a way to keep track of it all. It felt good get it all written out. I also went through the new wall calendar and wrote down January’s events. Here we are, on the cusp of a new year. In my bullet journal, I added “think about goals for 2017” to my task list. I realized I don’t have any writing events scheduled yet in 2017, no class or writers conference or even a lecture. I would like to have at least one thing scheduled that will keep me tethered. I also intend to make a list of publication goals and writers I’d like to work with. There is something very powerful about writing it down. The year I became pregnant with my daughter, I wrote “baby” on my New Year list for 2013. And many of the dreams and goals I’ve written here on the blog have manifested. It surprises me every time, as if maybe I’m some sort of sorceress [insert photo of Stevie Nicks]. So, I’m curious, do you make lists for the new year? Goals, dreams, wishes? Do you have any traditions or superstitions? My mother’s family tradition dictates we eat pickled herring on New Year’s day for good luck. Briny, coated in mayonnaise, and eaten straight from the jar.

Here I should come up with a better segue, but it’s 11:00 p.m. and my brain is tired. My friends, did you see Patti Smith’s performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the Nobel Prize ceremony? I watched it on Monday morning and tears poured down my cheeks. And did you read her equally beautiful piece “How Does It Feel,” describing her experience of the performance? It’s one of the most moving essays I’ve read all year. I love Patti Smith. Her poetic prose. Her honesty, the way she is so wholly herself. She is the embodiment of grace. I turned to her work before I began this project, and the name “One Blue Sail” is taken from this passage in M Train.

We seek to stay present, even as the ghosts attempt to draw us away. Our father manning the loom of eternal return. Our mother wandering toward paradise, releasing the thread. In my way of thinking, anything is possible. Life is at the bottom of things and belief at the top, while the creative impulse, dwelling in the center, informs all. We imagine a house, a rectangle of hope. A room with a single bed with a pale coverlet, a few precious books, a stamp album. Walls papered in faded floral fall away and burst as a newborn meadow speckled with sun and a stream emptying into a greater stream where a small boat awaits with two glowing oars and one blue sail.

Go and click the link to her essay. The video of her performance is there, too. Watch the performance and then read the essay. It’s a healing experience. A balm born of a stumble, an overwhelm of emotion that transformed the concert hall into a sacred space.

(Post 331 of 365)


2 thoughts on “A Hard Rain”

  1. Oh God her forgetting the words is unbearable!!! I was with you at first…even when she stumbled the first time – I teared up with her honest apology – kind of amazing. But then fumbling again…I’m just watching stricken in fear now!!! I guess that is my own problem but performing for 10 years maybe I can’t help but over-think it. Was this for Bob Dylan I’m guessing, since he didn’t show? It is a beautiful performance and I Do think you’re right – it’s awesome how she is so very herself. So fully. Okay, she seems back on track now. I’m still somewhat frustrated that this song was chosen when to me it’s like maybe not even top 50 of Dylan’s best. Not even sure it’d be top 100. But the message is perfect, of course.

    So awesome how you got that essay banged out and good enough in one day! I’m so very impressed.

    I make lists everywhere – maybe wishes not as much. I do like your sorcery, your belief in the universe answering. I think part of me is superstitious and that impedes to a degree on my ability to make those kinds of invocations. I’m trying to work on that. Is the herring a Swedish custom? Dutch?

    Toggle!!! That is the perfect way to describe toddler/essay wrangling.

    Please keep up your writing practice here next year! I’ll be lost without that blue sail to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s true, watching her forget the words was almost unbearable. I sang/performed in high school (mostly in a group, not solo), and just the thought of forgetting lyrics mid-song makes me cringe. And then stopping the song and making an apology–somehow it felt so right, so true to the overall performance. Her gentle voice and the sheer guts it takes to halt an orchestra. I felt so much strength in the faltering and regaining of composure. In the New Yorker piece she talks about her reasons for choosing the song, the flawless rehearsals, and her experience of the performance.

    As for my sorcery, my belief in it comes and goes like weather, though I do believe that writing has its own special power, one that feels mysterious to me.

    The pickled herring custom does sound Scandinavian, doesn’t it? Funny, my mother just had her DNA done. She was curious if the American Indian heritage we claim is true. (It’s not.) She’d thought she was mostly Irish, but in fact she is only a third Irish and two-thirds British. I have a feeling the herring custom is passed down from our British ancestors who settled in Nova Scotia.

    Your encouragement to continue this writing practice means everything to me. Thank you so much, Rachel!


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