Tag Archives: Billy Collins

What I Haven’t Been Writing About When I Haven’t Been Writing



Are you familiar with the work of Billy Collins?

Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets. Lately, it seems that he’s gone so far beyond making wonderful words go together that he’s now using poetry to talk about poems. Kind of like “Art for Art’s sake” or, more common, “Art for the sake of other Artists”. Except that his work is so accessible to everyone, often humorous in a sweet way, and delectable in word and phrase.


You can probably guess what it was about.

I thought about that when I titled this bit of writing today.

Kind of puts it all out there, doesn’t it? Except, of course, that I didn’t list the things that I haven’t been writing about. I wouldn’t dare. You may have felt you didn’t have to read any farther. But here they are, now, with apologies for my lapse in publishing.

(1) I have not been writing about work.

It’s too soon. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, helped me in whatever ways they could. Still, it’s all new. New and different schedules, new responsibilities, new expectations. On the one hand, I can say this is the most relaxing summer with the lightest work schedule I’ve had in nearly thirty years on Beaver Island. On the other hand, doing different things every day can be exhausting.

Working at the hardware store, I’d come home in the summertime tired to the bone after a nine hour day. I knew why. Ordering merchandise and putting away freight, mixing paint, making keys, cutting and threading pipe, re-screening doors and windows, cutting glass and plexiglass and hauling 40 and 50 pound bags of soil, grass seed, dog food or bird seed to vehicles “just down the street” were just some of the jobs that would fill my day. Of course I was tired! Too tired to work in the garden or do any deep cleaning; those thing had to wait for a day off. It was all I could do to stumble through the necessities of laundry, dinner and dog-walking.

Now, I come home from 4 hours of taking care of a small gallery, or 5 hours of answering telephones, booking restaurant and hotel reservations, or three or four hours serving dinner, and I am equally exhausted! Wouldn’t you think I’d have energy to spare?! It would seem that I’d be tackling major renovations…or at least window-washing. But no, those things still wait for a day off. And, because of the nature of my summer’s work, days off are not regular or predictable. Today, for instance, is my day off and I have a long list of chores to fill it. My aunt would like me to stop by, and prepare her upstairs for company (since I have the day off). So, though her request won’t take more than an hour or two of my day, it’s enough to throw off my best intentions.

Soon, we’ll be into autumn, and my schedule will settle into a regular pattern, and I’ll write about the adventures – and misadventures – of up-ending one career path and going down several others…but not yet.

(2) I have not been writing about my mother’s death.

August 11, 2011 was the day my mother died. The month’s leading up to it, and the weeks, and the days…and then these twelve months since have been filled with sadness and poignancy and wonder.

I’ve been putting it into words in my head, on tearful long walks with the dogs, or nights sitting awake in the dark. There is much I want to say.

The way we came together, my brother, sisters and I, and friends that were like family, and strangers that became friends, through all of our differences, to share that hard time. The little dance Mom and I did, going from pot back to bed, with her arms around my neck and my arms around her waist, a quarter turn, and I’d lift her in my arms, whisper, “You’re light as a feather,” and place her on her freshly fluffed bedding…the way Sheila’s boyfriend would come in, staggering and smelling like beer (he was grieving, too, as we all were, for Sheila) place his face two inches in front of Mom’s face, and shout, “MA! MA! HEY, MA!” until she’d flicker an eyelid in what clearly spoke to us of her being “nearly fed up”, and he’d stumble out, saying, “See? She’s still hanging in there.”…the way we grew to be able to accomplish whatever was needed…the way we each took our turn, curling up beside Mom in her bed, for rest and simple closeness, as we knew how precious each moment was…how we poured wine, when it was all over, five daughters and a daughter-in-law, with assorted grandchildren and a couple dogs in attendance, with Sheila and Nita in our hearts, with Mom’s spirit still floating around the room, I’m sure, and toasted our mother, for a life well-lived, and then toasted ourselves, for helping her to a good death, in her home by the water.

The experience was so enormous, it seems to diminish it to reduce it to words on a page. Mom has died. I’ve been living with this reality for over a year now. It comes to me as a wave of sadness at unexpected times, or as a sharp pang of memory, or like a sigh. The anniversary of her death was not worse than every other day. I don’t want to sound as if I’m living in a constant state of mourning or sadness, either. I’m okay; I find joy in life and living. I am enriched by the experiences of last summer. I’m just not yet ready to write about it.

(3) I have not been writing about “The Perfect Pie”

Actually, I have been writing about the perfect pie. It will be my contribution to the second edition of The Beaver Island Reader.

I was asked to contribute to the first edition of The Beaver Island Reader, published this Spring, but the deadline loomed too close, causing time constraints and writer’s block. I don’t want the same problem next time. I’m writing it now. It starts like this:

“In August on Beaver Island, when you run across someone over-dressed for the weather in denim or canvas, with all exposed skin shredded as if it came in contact with a major piece of farm machinery, with burs in the hair and a smile on the face, the appropriate question is, “Where are you finding the berries?”.”

It will – of course – include an actual recipe for the perfect pie.

I’m not sure of the restrictions, having never been published in a real book before, but if it’s possible, I’ll publish it here first. Or second. Or maybe simultaneously. But not now, in any case.

So, that’s it, as promised by the lengthy title, what I haven’t been writing about when I haven’t been writing.