I've said it a thousand times before but I don't know what people who do not write do --- especially when they are dealing with difficult times in their lives. I won't bore you with more about what a difficult summer this has been but one good thing is that I have been doing a lot of writing. Shortly after Mark died I went through a series of strange experiences that both overwhelmed and mystified me. With the help of a couple of friends who are more tuned into the metaphysical world than I am, I sorted all this out and, while I am not really ready to talk openly about it, it served as the basis for a story, “Sailor's Valentine”, that I am not entirely finished with but which I truly love.
Recently I was contacted by an editor friend who is looking for stories for an anthology she is working on and she asked if I would write something for her. The piece had to have an ecological component to it and, since I live in Gloucester, she thought I might have a unique perspective. I thought about it for quite awhile and then decided to write about something Mark talked about all the time, the fact that fishermen have a vested interest in preserving the environment and working to safeguard their workplace --- the North Atlantic Ocean.
At first it felt strange to be writing about something that I personally have limited experience with but, because I had the benefit of several years working with a highly gifted writer who knew all about it, I know more than the average person probably does. So I set to work.
As the story began to take shape and as I spent a good deal of time reading through old blogs about Mark and also through a lot of his old emails and notes I realized that he gave me an extraordinary gift that I had, so far, failed to appreciate. He brought me into his world and let me see not only the challenges and joys of it but also, through his endless capacity to observe minute details, he gave me words --- lots and lots of words --- describing both the world he lived and the man he was in living it. Writing this story has been pure joy.
A few years ago a brother lobsterman-friend of Mark's died --- also very unexpectedly --- and his widow and I became friends during that time. We talked a lot about the kinds of men both of them were and how unimaginable the world would seem without them. Now we both know. During that time I suggested to her that she start writing about her husband. I said that it might help her feel close to him. Shortly after Mark died she contacted me and we exchanged a lot of emails. Her husband has been gone for three years now and she still misses him terribly. In one letter she told me that she took my advice and that she had filled three notebooks so far --- and was still writing. She said it helped her enormously. I was so glad.
That's the thing. When someone dies that tremendous sense of loss can become overwhelming. Nobody wants to pass from the earth unremarked and, yet, so many do. But writing is such a gift because through our words and our stories --- the notebooks we fill for our own use or the stories we send off to editors --- we keep a part of them alive. Sometimes we even can share their lives with those who might otherwise not have known them.
So I am writing about lobster-fishing. Not from the perspective of someone who has done it but rather from the perspective of someone who was lucky enough to share the life of someone who has done it. There is both joy and solace in doing this.
I have to end this and get back to my story. And I am grateful to have it to write.
(The photos above are both by Jay Albert.)
Thanks for reading.