The theme of this month’s blogging challenge is Backwards and Forwards, because I like to look back and make sense of things, and I want to push myself to look ahead with hope instead of dread. Hard to do in a pandemic, sure, but I do see lots of lovely side benefits, people making masks all day long (unlike me), friendly waves to and from strangers on my daily dog walks, a reassurance from a Craig’s List person that when he comes to pick up our refrigerator, he will be wearing a mask and gloves. All these deaths are awful, but disaster also shows us what we are capable of.
It seems I am talking about now, not the past or the future. Maybe by forward I mean having the will to keep going. Thinking about the future is so abstract. I lose interest quickly. Toni Morrison said in an interview once that the past is infinite, and the future—she just shrugged and gave her knowing laugh.
Take back words. Sometimes we want to do this when we say something awful. Even if they’re not written down, if someone heard them and understood them, we can’t take them back. I have a notebook from sixth grade with several pages erased. It was a story I wrote about a new girl at school. I was a new girl at school that year, and I was supposed to be moving things forward in school integration: I was bussed from my predominantly white school to a predominantly black school. But it wasn’t going well. I felt guilty for not making this experiment smooth and easy. Guilty enough to erase my story, and then I wrote over some of it. But I mean to look again at the erased words, take them back, see that story I was ashamed of telling, and see what I couldn’t face that hard year.
I am all for words. My profession and my pleasure are all bound up in words. How lovely that we can keep playing with words and find new configurations in which to use them, to give nuance to a familiar idea and make it a little less familiar, and little more new. To move forward. For words.