Well, summer is officially over and, as usual, it went by in a blur. But in that blur, there were some, as Virginia Woolf described them, “moments of being,” things felt intensely and shot through with awareness.
In June, my daughter Natalie and I spent her birthday in Tijuana and Rosarito, sampling street tacos, drinking strawberry margaritas, and eating mangoes. At the beach in Tijuana, we looked through the metal bars that mark the border. We thought of my grandmother, Natalie’s great-grandmother, crossing over in 1924. My grandmother became a citizen in 1943. She missed by a decade the mass deportation of undocumented Mexican immigrants during the racist-named Operation Wetback in 1955, though many American citizens were also indiscriminately snatched up in the round-ups. We thought of how our own lives might have been affected had she been caught up in that dragnet. We thought of the migrant families being separated at the border. On the beach in Rosarito, I bought a bracelet that said Fuck Trump.
In July, I attended the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference as I do most summers. Morning bike rides, afternoon walks on the beach, the tiny monastic room in which to write were all conducive to reflection and revelation. I took a workshop on flash non-fiction. I wrote a little essay about the mango, its fragrant delicious beauty, how it arrived in Mexico from the Philippines, how its history reflects mine.
In August, I spent two weeks at Mineral School, the artist residency located in the tiny town of Mineral in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. I finished a fourth revision of one novel and polished up the draft of another. Writing and thinking about writing were enhanced by extracurriculars such as ghosts in the building, local lore about the Tube Sock Killer, and an evening at the town tavern with Mineral School staff where we raised a glass or two with one of the locals.
In September, I went to San Diego for my aunt’s 90th birthday celebration. She wore a sash, a tiara and hand-strung leis. She sat at a table with her friends from high school. When the band played “We Are Family,” the five of them got up and danced. I thought of them as teenage girls in high school, then as young women, and then as all the people they would become over their lifetimes – wives, mothers, wage-earners, grandmothers. Once in a while, I would glance at their table and catch one of them in a “moment of being,” a faraway look in her eye, a wistfulness to her posture, and I would think, these are the things I want to write about.
Border crossings, mangoes, ghosts, and family. It was a good summer.
And now comes the fall and October, my month of reading with famous people.
• On October 5, I’ll be reading with Charles Johnson and Jess Walter at the Humanities Washington Bedtime Stories fundraiser at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.
• On October 11, I’ll be reading with Kathleen Alcalá and Jamie Ford at Lit Crawl.
• On October 25, I’ll be at the Moore Theater as part of the Ampersand Live line-up that includes Nikkita Oliver and Davida Ingram.
I’m a lucky, lucky writer.