[People’s Climate March, September 21, 2014]
On a cold and rainy evening a couple of weeks I walked to Porter Square Books to hear James Wood, book reviewer for The New Yorker, give a reading. During the Q & A, one woman raved about a novel he’d written years ago. Renowned critic of other people’s novels (his piece on Penelope Fitzgerald means he’s aka as “Household God” to me), Wood pooh-poohed his early-on book. In so many words he said, “I could write a much better novel now. I’m older and wiser.”
What? Huh? Household God’s use of wiser irked me. But because James Wood is someone I revere, walking home after the reading I spent some time thinking about why his word-choice bothered me so. And realized, rain drumming my umbrella, my discomfort wasn’t about him. But about me.
I am unable to stand in a public place, fifty or sixty people seated in front of me, and declare that I am wise. I have always inserted the mollifying “dare I say it?” before using the word wise when speaking of myself. Always. Unequivocally.
This ain’t false modesty. I really DO not feel worthy. Hoary-headed though I be, I am not yet able to own my wisdom. (Yet I am proud enough of my insightful and wise novel, Welling Up, to endure the rejection and yawny indifference and heartbreak of trying to get it published?!)
My own backstory : a few years ago I bought a fire-engine red, cotton, broad-brimmed hat from Davis Squared. Too broad-brimmed, maybe? I certainly felt conspicuous wearing it; that’s for sure. But when I told the (young and hip and model-worthy gorgeous) store’s owner how I felt she just shook her head: “Own it,” she advised.
Here are two (ahem) wise things I wish to say about owning it, about really embracing my wisdom:
1. This is about gender. Were James Wood a woman I think I would have reacted differently. (A clue: This past Sunday, a man at meeting for worship used the word wise to explain where “we” aging, spiritual people are developmentally. And again I bristled.)
2. This is about time and reflection and prayer. It took me years to write Welling Up. Off the cuff, off-balance, overwhelmed, I am usually ridiculous.
How fortuitous that in Quaker circles I can sit and vacantly stare into space as I ponder whatever’s before the group—collective wisdom is Good Stuff—and only if clear, wipe the bit o’ saliva that may have dribbled as I pondered, and say something!
Hi, there, my so, so very dearly special and precious white sisterfriend who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia!!!!!!! I so love this interesting and fascinating blog post article, and your exciting take on things, sister!!!!!!! Sisterfriend, I just know somehow that you have wisdom, Patricia! The beautiful and lovely hat sounds like it would have looked just gorgeous and would have well suited you as the store owner thought so-I love these kind of hats, Patricia!!!!!!! At the age of 53 I am excited about getting older and gaining more wisdom! I love that my hair is getting greyer-I want my hair color to turn from black to silver or white hair color so that I can look more distinguished, sister. Sisterfriend, I can so relate to you as well! I’d be more receptive to a woman saying that she’s wise than if a man said so!
Sister, this blog post article of yours is very amazing and magnificently remarkable!!!!!! I love so and so admire how you are very undaunted as you persevere in trying to get your cool and great book, Welling Up, published!!!!! I pray so hard and so often for you anyway in general, Patricia, but I am also keeping you covered in prayers and thoughts that you find a publisher for this very fine and excellent masterful work of composition in the written word as soon as possible, my friend!!!!!!! I thank-you you so my dearest and precious white sisterfriend for this great gift and a blessing of this blog post article, Patricia, as I know that your other very grateful and appreciative readers think also, my special white sister!!!!!!! Please have a wondrously wonderful Wednesday, and may all of your days be so, so very especially blessed, my astounding and brilliant white anti-racist ally and advocate in solidarity in your empowering allyship and activism who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia!!!!!! Thank-you!!!!!!
Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, Patricia, with Peace and Love To You For Always, my dearly special and precious white sisterfriend, with Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always, my dearest white sister and sister Christian,
Your Christian lesbian black sisterfriend For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon
just a terse reply: Patricia, your self effacing humor or is it just healthy humility, anyway it’s charming. Looking forward to reading more or your work.
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