“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. And when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” ~ Wendell Berry
This is Geoffrey. He’s the sweet boy that looks after Catherine and Susan. He’s got a curious look about him with huge eyes and a wonky ear that looks like a piece of wadded foil on the tip. He’s a small build with a mighty heart. Unlike many cats who shy away from visitors, Geoffrey joined the gathering in the kitchen for a time, and he was interested in my camera. I couldn’t get it to fire when he had his nose stuck to the lens, so I stalked him down the hallway until he did a pirouette in the bedroom doorway as if to say, “What do you want, human?” I was smitten with this kitten.
“Never forget yesterday, but always live for today, because you never know what tomorrow can bring, or what it can take away.” ~ Tiny Buddha
Stacy, Annie, and I were invited to Susan and Catherine’s for brunch in their new house. PJs were optional, but as you can see, we all showed up in casual wear. What a treat it was to spend a few hours with these smart, witty, funny women. The C&S team cooked some truly remarkable vittles, too. Susan had warned us about Catherine’s homemade cinnamon rolls, but her description didn’t do them justice. They were ridiculously good. We laughed, we talked, we shared our love of grammar and gravy. It was as gorgeous around that breakfast table as the bright blue sky outside. I’m so grateful for their friendships.
“Happiness isn’t getting all you want. It’s enjoying all you have.” ~ Unknown
I had a pleasant surprise yesterday when Catherine Brereton dropped by my office for a special delivery of Solidago’s inaugural issue. The journal was all her idea. I’m constantly surprised that she asked me to be involved. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. She (and Susan-the-awesome-poetry-editor) is so easy to work with, smart, creative, and other adjectives. I’m such a lucky gal.
“Your face will change. Your body will change.
The only kind of beauty that endures is the kind that lives in your heart.”
~ Lori Deschene
BFF Catherine graduated from the first MFA Creative Writing class at UK back in May. During her last year she’d been Editor-in-Chief of Limestone, UK’s long-time creative writing journal. BFF Susan quit a tenure faculty position at Cornell (yes, that Cornell) teaching English some years ago because she hated academia (can’t blame her there). So, when I say that both women are exceptional writers, I’m really doing them a disservice because the word just doesn’t quite convey how gifted they are. Susan’s poetry is nothing short of exquisite, and Catherine’s fiction, and non-fiction, is second to none. Together, they’re a scary good writing team. A short time after Catherine graduated she asked if I’d be interested in being part of a literary journal with she and Susan. Of course I said yes. Who wouldn’t want to create something awesome with these two? We named it Solidago; Latin for ‘Goldenrod’, Kentucky’s state flower. We opened our bi-annual submission window for prose, poetry, and art at the end of July. It closes Monday. This morning we met formally for the first time since summer to discuss design and such. We also met our new social media intern, Sabrina Smith, a former student of Catherine’s. Her boyfriend was sweet enough to snap a photo for us to commemorate the moment (I’m sorry I didn’t get his name, but thank you for the snap, Sabrina’s Boyfriend!). We’ll have the first issue of Solidago available for purchase around Thanksgiving, and we’ve already chosen the cover for our spring issue. There are great things happening all around me, and I’m so lucky to be part of this slice of goodness.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Today has been all about publishing I guess. I got home from work to find a copy of The Bible Belt Almanac in my mailbox. BFF Catherine Brereton has a piece about Mamaw in it, which includes some of my photos. Catherine was inspired by my exhibit at First Presbyterian Gallery back in October. (I absolutely love it when art inspires art.) It’s a story that’s happy, sad, tragic, loving, faithful, funny, and much more. It’s pretty amazing that she was able to wrap all those emotions into a short story. Of course, I was thrilled to pieces when they wanted to publish the photos along with it, but more than that, I was honored that Catherine found Mamaw’s story worth writing. It means more than words can say really. Then, I checked my email and learned an article Judy Sackett and I wrote is being published next month. Like I said, I guess today is all about publishing. Blessed beyond measure is what I am.
“I am not who I was nine years ago. I will never be that person again. I am stronger, yes, but the most significant aspect of the me I am now is that, through the loss, I have learned–know–truly, completely, without doubt or question, the limitless, eternal, and unstoppable power of Love.”
~ Mary Carroll-Hackett
Greg Davis was dressed as a Southern Gentleman for the Derby. His wife Vanessa Oliver wore her traditional Derby Day pants. The pants are very 70’s, and so much more entertaining than the traditional Derby hat. Though I didn’t take a lot of photos during the Derby garage party, the ones I got are either good, funny, or both. I’m only sorry I didn’t pop off a close-up of Annie Bassoni. I love all the expressions. I am just so blessed to have each of these people in my life.
“In the end only three things matter, how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” ~ Unknown
I’ve been so busy that I almost didn’t have the annual Derby gathering. At the last minute, I dragged the TV to the garage and fired up the grill. Most everyone had plans, but fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my last minute throw-together-cookout-idea. I couldn’t ask for better company. The food was delicious. The horses ran without incident, and Nyquist remains undefeated. The rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and a lot of laughs were had. I’m glad we were able to be together. We sure did miss Sandy Davis, though: love and miss our Miss Kentucky Derby. Otherwise, a good time was had by all.
“Never let those that don’t like you become more important than those who love you.” ~ Unknown
If you recall yesterday’s post I said the day was full of awesome. The second part of awesome Friday involved Catherine Brereton’s reading from her MFA thesis at Wild Fig Books. Two years ago I was in Gurney Norman’s inaugural MFA class with many of Catherine’s MFA contemporaries. They’re all wonderful writers and beautiful people. Catherine, however, is extraordinary. That’s not coming from a place of friendship. That’s coming from someone who loves writing, and someone who is increasingly hard to keep focused if the story and its delivery isn’t just so. Some years ago she asked me to read one of her stories. It was beautiful, of course, but I was so focused on the intricacies of her sentences that I lost sight of the beauty in their weave. I told her I loved the work but I preferred short sentences. A fool thing to say. Reading her work over the years made a liar of me. I don’t prefer short sentences. I prefer good sentences. In truth, I’d become accustomed to reading mediocrity such that I was blinded by her brilliance. Catherine, through her generous spirit of letting me continue to peek at her works in progress, taught me that. She raised me up. That’s what good writing and good people are supposed to do. Her wordsmithing is at once grammatically superior and inextricably captivating. It doesn’t matter the subject, her stories will jump off the page, grab you by the throat, and hold you until the last printed period. After yesterday’s reading I was reminded that exceptional writers also tend to be exceptional readers. It’s not just her delivery on the page that’s exquisite. Her delivery to an audience elevates a story into an experience. That is a gift unto itself. A bad reading can ruin a good story. No one will ever be able to accuse Catherine of being a bad writer or a bad reader. Mark my words, Catherine Brereton, America’s adopted daughter, will be one of our most treasured writers before you can say “God save the Queen.” I am honored to call her friend.
“A ship in port is safe but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”
~ Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
I had an inspiring lunch with Catherine Brereton today. She’s one of the finest writers I’ve ever read, and one of the finest people I’ve ever met. We talked for the longest time, mostly about my grandmother in a triptych of images featured in the Sacred Spaces exhibit. At one point we both had tears in our eyes as I recounted stories about her. It did my soul good to talk with Catherine. She’s an extraordinary listener which is why she’s an extraordinary writer. I’m so proud of all she has accomplished, and I look forward to buying her first book. “It’s only a matter of time,” to quote one of her professors. And it is. She’s that good. I continue to be humbled by such compassionate, gifted friends like Catherine.
“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction… I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
One of my favorite things about the traditional Derby Day cookout is seeing John Lumagui. I never get to see him enough, so any opportunity, however long or short, is a joy. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s usually something that makes me howl with laughter. John met Wally for the first time today. In fact, Wally was the official greeter, and he loudly announced each new guest. This, of course, was not what John was expecting. He was one of Sadie’s best friends who, like John, was very quiet. Wally is anything but quiet, but he and John bonded by the time the party had ended and that was a good start for me.
As is often the case, the crowd changed throughout the day. Early arrivals, Deb Chenault and Marcella Christensen (below), had obligations that took them away before the race. Meanwhile, The Brereton-Stewarts and The Davis-Olivers (both relative newlyweds) arrived later in the day to help ring in the race. Watching his bride from across the yard, Greg Davis remarked, “You know, it was two years ago at this party when I first saw her in her Derby Pants.” That was the first any of us had seen of Vanessa’s Derby pants. She wore them again this year. Some things are tradition.
I almost cancelled this year’s party because I’ve been sick with what I can only assume is a horrible case of allergies. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I especially couldn’t do it because Sandy Davis is moving back to Boston in a few weeks. She has been a mainstay in my Derby Day tradition, and I’m hoping she’ll make this a reason for her annual return to Kentucky so that her smile will always grace our cookout. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel. Even though I couldn’t say much – literally – I enjoyed seeing everyone’s happy faces; hearing their jovial banter and gentle, steady laughter; and feeling the kindness they each possess for one another, even the people who were just meeting for the first time. That’s what the cookout is all about for me: being with people who are kind and happy. I’d have to be on my deathbed not to have it. Luckily I’m not.