This is part of a DIY education project I’ve undertaken called The 1000-Day MFA that I learned about from writer Shaunta Grimes. You can read more about how I’m engaging with it here. By the way, there might be no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. Or they might, like today, have a theme. But basically, I just throw my net out to the world, and read whatever I catch.
Poem: Visitation by Mark Doty
Essay: Ladders by Anne Lamott
Short Story: The White Heron
by Sarah Orne Jewett
Please please do yourself a favor and read this poem. It expresses perfectly the tendency we have of immediately assuming the worst — when what’s actually happening would delight us, would thrill us, if we could only open up the frame of our perceptions and let in what’s really going on.
Ladders: Anne Lamott has long been a favorite of mine, mostly for her no bullshit delivery of the many colors of redemption that exist in this world — a world much more geared toward revenge. This essay explores her grief after losing her best friend to cancer, and it ends underwater, as she takes us snorkeling with her for the first time. There is a grace that sneaks in, as you float with her, “bobbing on the water’s surface, face down, lost in our own worlds.”
(And I find myself wondering if there’s an unseen hand putting these stories and poems in my net. The whale and his joy, the woman and her grief, both underwater discoveries.)
A White Heron: Because I know nothing, the way I find short stories to read is to google “great short stories.” It makes me grateful for the internet. I also love libraries, but the internet is my only option in the middle of the night.
So this short story was written by Sarah Orne Jewett in 1866. Its rich detail walks us through the world of nature, and tells the story of a young girl, her first crush, and a sacrifice she makes at the end for the sake some something larger.
I’m smiling now. I feel myself trying to say something astute about this story, something that will prove how earnest I am about all of this. I got nothing. I said I’d read it, and I read it. I'm really glad I did. That’s all.