I owe huge debts to columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, enough so that I want to track down an address for her and thank her properly, like a slobbery groupie hanging around backstage, hoping for just a glimpse of Mick's sweaty spandex.
Just finished reading "Buying the Night Flight," a rather dated (last updated mid-90s) memoir of her years as a foreign correspondent and columnist. She started in the early '60s, at a time when women just didn't do that kind of thing. After proving herself by traveling with the post-Che guerrillas in Guatemala, she still had to beg to be sent to cover an in-the-end minor revolution in the Dominican Republic. Too dangerous for a lady, her editor told her. Tell you what: If you're hell-bent on covering foreign conflict, I'll send you to Vietnam.
She's covered Cuba under Castro. The near-resolution of the Palestinian conflict. The height and death of the Cold War. She coaxed previously untold information out of Fidel, Arafat, Sadat, Saddam -- all precisely because she was a woman. They trusted her as they did not her male counterparts -- and repeatedly told her so. She listened. She made them feel safe. I doubt the same is true today; it likely was more a reflection of the cultural identity of the times than some intrinsic gender difference. But what an original tool to have held in her grasp! She recognized it, and she worked it. That may sound base, but I find it practical.
In addition to her work as a groundbreaking journalist, she was of that generation that paved the way for the kind of life I am fortunate to live so casually today. She, and others like her, managed to break the mold of marriage/motherhood/loss of self as the only accepted model for women to live by. To love freely, to follow one's professional passion, to live beyond accepted boundaries ... while she wasn't exactly a social pariah, with a scarlet A on her blouse, she was a social question mark. People simply didn't know what to make of her. Thanks to the trail she blazed, I can live however I wish -- and alter that life, as I wish.
Yet after reading this collection (it gets a bit self-congratulatory at the end, though the chapters on how she covered various world conflicts are fascinating), I also realize that I could never permanently live the life of a foreign correspondent. It sounds romantic -- the travel! the escapades! -- but in reality, it has to be a drive, a passion above all others. One doesn't cultivate a garden, or a home, or little hobbies, or lifelong friendships (much less a relationship) in a life on the road. I don't have that drive to put one passion above all the others. I prefer to taste a little bit of everything.
She's still writing, at 70-something, by the way:
All I remember of this morning's dream is that family was floating through it -- my father, my Grampy (my mom's dad). I was asked to make the salad, but when I got the bag out of the fridge all of the "good" -- young, crisp, sweet little green and purple leaves -- fixings were gone, and all that was left were wedges of dreaded iceburg and thick, water raddichio (not a fan of the raddichio). Then Grampy gave me a fresh new head of leaf lettuce, and I saw that it was good, and plentiful, but I didn't want to go to the trouble of tearing it up into salad bites (lazy, much?), and also it didn't "go" with the existing leaves.
I did go to sleep last night making a mental note to check the lettuce before I run errands today, see if it needs replacing ...
Closing out my current journal today. Usually I fill a 250-page, 7x11, unlined, recycled-products book in a month, two tops. This one has been in my hands for an embarrassing three months, a long stretch that went unannoted (and thus invalidated?). Not a good sign -- failure to journal generally means distancing myself from my own emotions, and that can't be a good thing. Best to stay connected at least with oneself.
I still journal in longhand, partly because I'm romantically attached to the Dickinsonian (?) nature of it, the wild-haired madwoman in the attic scrawling away with abandon, and partly because I have found that it forces epiphanies to the surface, out of my arm, my wrist, into the ink and onto the page. I cannot write quickly enough to keep up with my thoughts, which can be frustrating, and yet I am more often than not surprised by what comes out of me when I just keep going, keep hand connected to paper.
This particular journal was launched with two rather disparate quotes I'd found at the time:
"Man has not one and the same life. He has many lives, placed end to end, and that is the cause of his misery." -- Chateaubriand
"I don't want my tombstone to read: 'She kept a clean house.'" -- Ann Richards
What shall be the theme of my next volume? Maybe this:
"Follow your love. There is no other happiness." -- Georgie Anne Geyer
Snow days. At their best (when not overwhelming, as on New Year's Eve), they are a welcome, forced slowdown. I can still get out today -- to run a few errands, go to the gym -- but I expect less of myself than I otherwise might. It's not lazy but practical to stay inside, curled up with a book, watching white fall from the sky. If it stays this light and fluffy, maybe a walk later, maybe by twilight. And I plan to make soup, a first for me.