The Salem Wife: Reflections on Paris, Lake Arrowhead, and the Writing Life

ImageSaturday, April 19, 2014

Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA

The ridge is always alive. This morning the oak leaves, the color of peaches and chestnuts, reflect the early sun—small curved hands opening to birdsong and bells. It is Easter week. I’ve just reread the prologue to Paula McLain’s captivating book, The Paris Wife, born again to words unfolding the Paris of the time between the great wars, describing the weight of despair felt everywhere, a place “full of ghosts and the walking wounded.” Yet also a place where “On any given night, you could see Picasso walking from Saint-Germain to his apartment in the rue des Grands Augustins, always exactly the same route and always looking quietly at everyone and everything. Nearly anyone might feel like a painter walking the streets of Paris then because the light brought it out in you, the shadows alongside the buildings, and the bridges which seemed to want to break your heart…”

Over ninety years later, Paris is not so different, nor the world. Such a lovely place to suffer. Loving, seeking, and undergoing the process of constructing a life wherever we might be. Breathing. I am not in Paris now, nor anywhere like it, but having been there, if you were one who walked the streets as an artist, means you keep it always, tucked safely close to your poet’s heart, drawing on the images and the memories of those exquisitely crowded streets.

It can be intimidating to write after that. How does one earn a credential that in essence joins your mean scratchings to the great ones’? Better to stay home, you sometimes think. Give up these grand ideas and dreams and do something practical.

So you do, something practical that is. But you never actually become practical. A cloud never goes unnoticed, nor a perfectly expressed thought, nor a moment of harmony. Well, you can, at least, keep a diary. Sometimes years go by in this way. Practically. But the inner search never stops, never quite gives up on you. Reading feeds your urge to write. A drive alone. The heartbreak in your child’s cry. Your divorce. Your mother dying. The hummingbird glimmering near your head, begging for nectar, as you drink your morning coffee.

Somehow, if you can steal some time to write it down, you know you will capture some of it, store it away in your poet’s heart right next to the spot where you keep Paris. So it is this morning, in Lake Arrowhead, California, on my daughter’s deck. My home here is no more. Soon I will steal away from these ridges, and the mighty oaks, and the pines. Away from many happy years spent teaching, raising children, and welcoming grandchildren into the world, going toward the once known, now foreign place of my childhood, toward a future day where I will sit at a desk near a river in Salem, Wisconsin, my husband by my side, being practical no more.

©Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, 2014

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Salem Wife: Reflections on Paris, Lake Arrowhead, and the Writing Life

  1. Cheryl Hayes

    Beautiful thoughts and words on paper. Paris has touched your soul as I hear it does all that visit her. Yes, all of your life experiences are stored in your heart and they will need to be written down as artistically as this. Salem, Wisconsin, will be your writer’s haven. It can’t help but not be.

    Like

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