Much have I spent these days, travell'ng through the realms of memory and gold. I have pursued with some wild surmise old colleagues and loves both (and, indeed, some both in one).
On first looking upon the cloudless bio of an old long-distant friend, I am struck with the richness of it all. I have, yes, travell'd in these realms, and I know the difference in wealth and import between principal and partner, managing and plain; I know without wild conjecture that a string of founderships of richly-titled firms, evocative of stone heroes and Parthenonic piles, means salaries in the mid-six-figures. These, then, are the fates of my old office-mates, my fellow graduates, my long-lost but not all mourned past loves. But for the grace of God and the bards, there goeth I.
There might I be: standing in $300 high heels and charcoal gabardine suit, smiling confidently at the camera as my paragraph to the right read "Wachovia" and "Merrill Lynch" and such, "Ms. Gilbert has fifteen years of experience in leveraged finance and mergers and all the rest."
But I am not. I sit before you, thrift-store Sporthill sweatshirt and bare feet, nine-some years of lifework, now, in parenting these boys; well-versed in the workings of my red thesaurus and its fast friend, the identically-clad French presspot. I smell of coffee from the peaks of Darien; a new poem swims into my ken.
And I am here before you breathing the pure serene, the heady air I never knew before now, despite my travels and travails and resume. I have received a letter: "I'm delighted to inform you that your essay 'Veteran's Day' has been selected by our judge as winner of the 2011 Water~Stone Review Judith Kitchen Creative Nonfiction Prize." Poe Ballantine, a man whose work I have now read, consumed, with gratitude and love, said this about my essay: "'Veteran's Day' is the easy winner, lyrical and powerful, worthy of publication in any magazine. A (sad) pleasure to read."
Have I yet begun to see? This is the life I've chosen; I must move back to Coleridge, now, and discern that this is not a charitable benefactress's path. "And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, / A mighty fountain momently was forced: / Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst / Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail..." Want I to swim the sacred river? I want. And without the seething turmoil, the fragments of my young investment banking dreams hailing down around me, I cannot reach that sunny dome, those caves of ice!
This is my honeydew, my paradisiacal milk: I won first prize in the first essay contest I entered. I am wooed and amazed and beholden. Thank you, Poe, and thank you all who read me here: my piece will be published in October, and I will keep writing.
My prose playlist: John Keats 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.' And the writer would like to thank the Write Club, of which she cannot speak but proves weekly that workshopping can be full of life and meaning and utterly collaborative; and of course, Mara, who was and is her sister-in-motherhood.