Saturday, September 22, 2012

annie adventure


So the magic continued this week. While at Squam, I received a lot of encouragement from Marie Manuchehri about the role of writing in my life. You may have noticed that I love to go places and do retreats and attend workshops, so of course I spent the first part of my week back Googling different writers and teachers and seeing what classes and workshops they offer. It isn't lost on me that I could have been using that time to actually write, but it was great fun to explore and dream about the Sun magazine writing retreat and Natalie Goldberg and Susan Piver's workshops out west.

And then on Wednesday morning I woke up and couldn't get dear Anne Lamott out of my head, even after I got to work. So I did a quick search just to see what her schedule looks like these days. Imagine my amazement when I saw that she was to speak that very evening in Knoxville, of all unlikely places!

It just seemed unthinkable that she would be in Tennessee and I wouldn't see her, so I called the church that was hosting the event and when they said they had a few tickets left I found myself buying one, cancelling my afternoon obligations, texting Rodg who I was sure would think I'd either been kidnapped or possessed, and figuring out which bus would get me back to my car in time to be in Knoxville by 6:30pm EDT.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anne Lamott speak, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to get there. Even a six-hour round trip drive melts away in her presence. Her topic for the evening was the search for meaning, and mixed in with stories about her son and grandson, writing, and Jesus, she talked about the power of letting go of perfectionism, deeply accepting one's own "neurotic, screwy self," and connecting with people to whom you can say anything.

She told a beautiful story about a scene in the documentary From Mao to Mozart (now streaming on Netflix - guess what I'll be watching this weekend) in which Isaac Stern tells a young Chinese girl, "Sing it to me" after hearing her play a piece technically beautifully, but seemingly without emotional connection. I loved her description of the importance of having people in your life that you really honor and trust and who say "Sing it to me." And how you find that you can and that you can pass it on.

The talk ended around 9pm and it seemed like the prudent thing to do would be to skip the booksigning and hit the road, but when I exited the church it was like a Grateful Dead concert had let out - people streaming out to their cars and total gridlock - plus I didn't really know exactly how to get back onto the interstate and was happy to let traffic die down. And, with so many people leaving, all I could picture was Anne Lamott sitting by herself in the church basement. So I called Rodg and he encouraged me to stick around.

It might have been smartest to go look at the line first, but I was high on the experience and relieved there were still books to buy, so I got myself a copy of the classic Bird by Bird, feeling like it would be a good totem for my writing life, even if I think we have another copy somewhere in the house. When I made it to the front of the line, which actually had been quite respectable and Anne was looking pretty exhausted, I told her a quick version of how I'd had her on my mind all morning, found out about the talk, and driven from Nashville on the spur of the moment. In classic Anne Lamott style she replied dryly, "That God is such a show-off."

amazing anne lamott

Thank you Anne! I'm ready to take your advice, to be in the holy moment, to carry a pen with me at all times, to write what I'd like to come upon, and to write badly so I can write something good. I can't wait until you come back to Tennessee again someday!