The Pleasure of Birds
I’m afraid these newsletters are just starting to sound like postcards but somehow, yes, I am still traveling, and so this is the story I must tell.
I went to Bologna for twenty-four hours to eat. I ate pasta three times while I was there. After the second time I realized I had to buy a new pair of pants because all I have done for weeks is walk and eat and drink. The pants had an elastic waist. Worth it, I said to myself, as I handed the man my credit card.
As I walked out of the store, a bird shat on my jacket, and my purse, and also in the bag that contained the pants. Everyone I texted reminded me that this was supposedly good luck but all I could do was laugh anyway. It felt like a romantic comedy, minus the romantic part.
Later I was to take a night train to Puglia, and so I stretched out my schedule, trying to time everything just so. I went to a wine bar filled with Italians, most of whom had brought their own food, and it felt like every table was celebrating something, even if it was just seeing each other again. Around me people tore robustly into their packages filled with bread and cheese and meat, improvising meals, sharing their plates. All those lively conversations I couldn’t understand but I think I got the message anyway.
I drank good wine and wrote in my notebook and was quiet and happy but still paying attention. Then suddenly my pen started to leak and I ignored it and I kept writing, and then fully there was ink all over my hands and still I kept writing a little longer and then finally it was just a mess, too much of a mess, on my hands, and my brain said, “Stop already, someone is trying to tell you to stop.”
After that I went to dinner, me with my ink-stained hands. At the restaurant the owner was very sweet to me and kept pouring me more wine without me asking. I went to the bathroom and tried to scrub the stain off my hands, but it didn’t work. I was a little embarrassed by my hands, and also had that feeling you get when you have to travel late, that you’re sort of nowhere at all for a while. So then I just took a breath and took a bite of my food, and the food was so good—tagliatelle with ragu—and then there was more red wine, so really all I could do was sit and be. When I tried to pay the check the waiter told me the owner had paid for my entire meal.
Anyway, a little luck, just then.
Then I spent the weekend in Polignano a Mare and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The sea, the cliffs, the white buildings, the caves, the grottoes, the fresh air, the dampness, the breezes, the slow and pleasurable shuffle through the town’s circuitous streets at sunset. Everything felt easy. I felt easy. And open.
In the early mornings I would meditate on the roof of the building where I stayed, when the town was still quiet and all I could hear was the sea and the birds chirping and racing and playing above me. I would try and pick one bird to follow with my eyes but eventually I would lose track of it. I enjoyed them so much, their energy and playfulness in the fresh air.
You may find this silly or strange but during one morning’s meditation I began to think of all of you as like the birds. When we all start to write together in a few weeks you will be all that I will be thinking of and listening to, but there will be too many of you to follow. But I will know and trust that you will be out there fluttering, swooping, swirling around in your creative space. Chirping away. I took a lot of pleasure in those birds in Puglia, just as I take pleasure in all of us writing alongside each other.
Next week we will get back to business in preparation for #1000wordsofsummer. I will open the slack to everyone, so you can start cheering each other on. We will start to talk more deeply about what writing 1000 words means. And, in a few weeks, I am going to launch the 1000 WORDS book cover. There is so much about to happen.
But for now, I am going to try and continue to listen to everything around me, signs, noises, whatever, for just a little bit longer. Sit still, right now, while I can. Enjoying the quiet. Before it is time to work again.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to NOLA Abortion Fund.