Welcome to the corner of my living room, where I’m sitting at a mismatched desk and chair. Stella the greyhound snores at my feet. I can reach out and touch:
1. a rejection notice from a literary magazine. A big theme in any writer’s life is rejection. Keeping one of those impersonal “thanks but no thanks” notes in plain sight might seem masochistic, but I actually find it inspiring, in an “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that” way.
2. a photograph of my nieces and nephews with their arms around each other, sitting in the bullpen at Fenway Park. Nora is making a sort of crazy tiger face; Tucker is winking; Conor’s blue eyes pop against the green wall; and Celia looks just plain happy, in a long-summer-day kind of way. This photograph reminds me to stay young at heart and sunny in disposition. Especially when I write.
3. a bookmark-sized portrait of Brother Andre, the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” who purportedly healed the multitudes by the laying-on of hands. Because of the major surgery I underwent as a child, and also thanks to Brother Andre, my grandfather’s great-uncle, I’m fascinated with the idea of healing. All Come Home deals with emotional healing among individuals and communities. According to biographers, Brother Andre treated not only Catholics but Protestants, Jews and atheists. In a similar ecumenical spirit, the volunteers in All Come Home visit New Orleans as part of an interfaith rebuilding mission, and swing hammers alongside priests, rabbis, and imams.
4. an official Massachusetts Mid-State Trail patch. The Midstate stretches ninety-five miles across Central Mass from Rhode Island to New Hampshire. Matt and I and two very good friends, Lars and Andrea, hiked it in five-mile stretches over a two-year period. Rock on!
5. a one-page magazine article by the wonderful yoga writer Stephen Cope, featuring the following pull-quote: “Each of us is born with a unique gift—and a sacred duty to fulfill its promise.”
Now let’s look out the window, just beyond my computer screen, onto a South Jersey version of Main Street USA. In two blocks, there is a stamp-and-coin shop; a café; a wedding cake baker; a grocer; an old-fashioned sew-and-vac; a fire extinguisher seller; a gourmet cheese peddler; a yoga studio; a computer store; three hair salons; two travel agencies; and five restaurants. I can’t tell you how much the daily comings-and-goings of these locally-owned establishments fuel my imagination.
Also: What goes on in the mind of the fluffy white cat in the apartment directly across from mine, who sits on the sill for hours, watching traffic and passersby, swishing its tail?