One Rainy Day

One of the interesting things about having kids is you get to listen to music you would otherwise ignore. Would I have realized there’s a whole world of music out there, further down the dial, if I didn’t have daughters?  Not likely…..

Some of this music is just darn hot, some not so.  But if you’re driving around with the radio on to the general pop station, one thing you quickly realize is just how blasé a lot of this stuff is.  The dynamic range doesn’t exactly knock your flip-flops off.

Without trying to be what the younger members of my household would call “a complete dork,” I’d like to single out a currently very popular song that exhorts girls not to try particularly hard to prettify themselves for the male gender.  Obviously, I agree in spades on that one (hair brushing has never been my forte); however, I can’t help but object to the flip side of this advice, which encourages a kind of passivity for girls.

One thing Maureen Corrigan’s Gatsy book illuminated for me was just how darn hard Fitzgerald worked at his craft.  Perhaps because I’m a rural Vermont mother, I’m not a Tiger Mother who’s determined to get her children to succeed at mathematics and writing, Latin, violin, the breaststroke, classical piano, ballet, tap, drama…… with the unshakeable goal of attending Harvard Law School and presumably buying an island or two in the Mediterranean, or something along those lines.  That aspiration is commerce driven.

While Fitzgerald undoubtedly wanted to keep feeding a bank account that persistently slipped through his hands, and he certainly wanted to sell books and garnish accolades, his sense of craft must have been an entirely different passion.  To write that hard and that beautifully can surely only spring from a passion for writing in itself.  Poor Fitzgerald, whose life didn’t end very well; a life, admittedly, that traversed the whole dynamic spectrum.

About a hundred years ago, my undergraduate thesis advisor, when I complained that I couldn’t possibly work on the darn thesis anymore, ever again, told me to go back and work some more.  Someday, he told me, you will write a book, and you’ll believe you can’t  keep writing it, and yet you will.  That piece of advice has stuck with me like a piercing all these years.  That admonition contradicts our often far-too-Hallmark-card culture, where tepidness and blandness predominate, spiced up with a little bit of sex, a little bit of anger, but not too much.  Pursuing creativity will inevitably land the pursuer in the realm of too much or too little, out of the median and out of the norm.  Yet, what’s the trade off?  Is the middle a vacuum?  Or, to arrive at the middle and remain there with happiness, is it necessary to schlep up some mountains, and stumble through some soggy valleys?

On that wet note, it’s been a cold rain here for two days.  In “Home Burial,” Robert Frost remarked on human creation:  Three foggy mornings and one rainy day/will rot the best birch fence a man can build.


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