“She had written what she felt herself called upon to write; and, though she was beginning to feel that she might perhaps do this thing better, she had no doubt that the thing itself was the right thing for her. It had overmastered her without her knowledge or notice, and that was the proof of its mastery.”
Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
As early as Sunday, September 2nd, last year, I knew someone had to write about Levi’s death and its aftereffects, and that I was probably the only one both close enough and removed enough to be able to tell the closest thing possible to the complete story. (You can ask people for their side, of course, and so far some have been eager to tell, but not everyone has the leisure to write their own and all the other available things down.) By a few weeks into the term, which had just started at the time, I was neglecting smallish school assignments in favour of writing in it instead. By the middle of the term it was the only thing I wanted to do and I had recognized that it would suck up as much of my life as I would give to it.
I am by no means on the other side of the writing, as Harriet was in the lines quoted above (by the way, a shameless plug for Gaudy Night: read it — but only after reading Strong Poison and Have His Carcase — if you’re at all interested in deep conversations about the active and (sometimes versus) the contemplative lives, or mature reflections on entering marriage with open eyes, or the kind of work which demands loyalty outside hours from nine to five, the kinds of things you build a life around and should consider thoroughly before doing so, not that I can claim any kind of experience in any of these areas), but much else holds true. As it’s in such rough draft form, with some parts not even in proper sentences or paragraphs, and I’ve only got the faintest glimmers of ideas for organization, I know that I could quite likely do better. If I knew the end from the beginning and could head steadily toward it, collecting and recording all the important details which point to the end, and only those details, I’d be able to cut out much of that groping in the dark which has characterized certain parts and probably will. But I have no doubt about the value of the work in its ideal form, which is what I’m trying to bring the reality up to.
As of this writing the document has some 32,129 words in it, comprising actual reports of things I’ve seen or heard from the last nineteen weeks, literary allusions which help illustrate or illuminate things and which I’m collecting to add to a future draft, several thousand words of the process of making sense of the various subjects which meet at this point and trail off into loose ends elsewhere; and bracketed notes might contain things to check up on later, or things which represent unfinished thoughts, to be rewritten when they’ve matured, or things which I wrote down in a certain place but which might need to move elsewhere when I get around to organizing.
Last Friday as I walked down Main Street from the car to Carl’s, a route very familiar to me now, the thought came to me without my searching for it, “This feels right, like a puzzle when you’ve put in the last piece but one and they all fit. For now, at least, this is where I’m supposed to be.” Perhaps it had something to do with the one road we sometimes take as a shortcut to church, behind the auto repair place, and not taking it today but knowing what it was like and thinking about how many people go past on the highway and see no more of the town than this, but that for us, so many square inches have each their own experiences and memories attached. Or perhaps it had to do with Pastor pulling out just in front of me from the grocery store parking lot, and the fact that bumping into people you know is common around here. Perhaps it was because in order to write this story I have to be around to see it happen.
And people need it. Levi’s dad still tells us, almost every week, about someone new to whom he’s passed on the story, that sting of the way it goes sharply down and sharply up again “my son killed himself, how can a Christian kill himself, what do we do about this — see, there is grace even for this sin, there is grace and hope for you and anyone who needs it”, and someone else tells him about so-and-so they knew.
So I’m not looking to leave the area just now, though the way people ask “so what’s next?” seems to assume that. For now at least — and I’ve never been able to see too far ahead — this is what I’m doing and I know it’s worthwhile. It fits. In a few years maybe I’ll go on to something else and I will have to go away, and if that’s the case, that’s fine. I don’t have to worry about it yet, because this part isn’t over.
The Two-Legged League continues to take great strides. I got the hare-brained idea from somewhere that it would be neat, King’s College Cambridge’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols having started in 1918, if the main characters could go to the 1919 one. So I did a bit of research. All the best sources, including articles on the College’s website, said the order got changed up a bit in ’19, but none of them said what the changes were. And I thought, someone’s got to know. If they don’t I can make something up, but I can ask. So I e-mailed King’s College Cambridge and the Archivist replied: she can send me a photocopy of the order of service from that year if I send in a certain form. So I did that Wednesday and now I may expect mail from the UK.
Also I’ve written a few thousand words and it’s still exciting. Taking more influence from Dorothy Sayers than I expected, which is weird. Perhaps I shouldn’t have read Murder Must Advertise while thinking about how strange it is that some normal people aren’t more messed up than they are. And I’ve been researching PTSD, because that’s the modern name for shellshock, so that’s been fun.
I might post snippets of the Two-Legged League, if any of you want snippets. I’ve also got a short story coming at some point.