If silence were golden, I would have amassed a small fortune. The complete idiom is said to be “speech is silver, but silence is golden,” meaning, of course, that sometimes it is better to say nothing. I personally like Thomas Carlyle’s version, who translated the phrase from German to English in 1831, in a poem he wrote where his character expounds at length on the virtues of silence: “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.” Perhaps not necessarily a full-formed and majestic re-emergence, but I’ve had an urge to break radio silence and say hello.
I have toyed with the idea of finishing the Anatomy of a Runner series on this blog, maybe even converting it into a book. There are several missing chapters, as my husband calls them, including the ankle, stride, the foot – not inconsequential topics. Unfortunately, a severe bout of writer’s block ensued. One day led to unending days of nothingness. As these about-face moments typically go, my husband suggested I write my autobiography for the grandchildren instead. His words still ring in my ears, “If you could learn more about your grandmother, wouldn’t you want to?” He has been the impetus for the most important things I’ve done in my life. Whatever interest I discover, he encourages. I plant the seed, and he makes it grow. So, I began writing my life story.
I recalled every significant and minor occurrence of the first fifty years. This blog then served as a reminder of the next decade. We found CDs with pictures we had taken during our trips to France, Italy, Spain, and Ireland, which prompted several more chapters. My husband kept a journal during our 2004 trip to Africa. That journal filled in the blanks of long-forgotten details and was a lifesaver for my story. Ninety-thousand, five hundred and fifty-eight words later, I was done. And then I started over.
It had, fortunately, become apparent that regurgitating life’s adventures can make for a lop-sided view of one’s life. I had saved a quote George Orwell wrote in the summer of 1946, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality.” I have decided nothing could be more accurate than this. Now there was a new energy and urgency to this book. Then Mr. Boggs went to heaven.
Mr. Boggs was a gentle giant of a dog with an oversized personality. His illness came on suddenly, leaving us with no time to prepare ourselves. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. We were heartbroken. We overwhelmed Bentley, our last good dog, with enough love for two dogs for several months. Finally, the house had become so quiet that it was deafening. Research led us to the Bergamasco Sheepdog and a breeder who just happened to have puppies available early February. And then my mother went to heaven.
Mother had negotiated with dementia for over a decade. So I was there with my dad, sister, and brother-in-law for her last days. We took care of her, held her hand, and kissed her cheek until she was ready to leave. After her memorial, my husband picked up our new puppy, Blue Ridge Blu Isidore Dell Albera (a.k.a. Issy). And that put an end to quiet.
Meanwhile, my ninety-thousand words became eighty-thousand, and then seventy-nine thousand while the story became more personal. I wrote things I have never told anyone. I searched my soul and described myself, my passions, failures, and whatever successes I felt had been achieved. I’d lay awake at night and reorganize entire sections in my head. I’ve spent so many hours editing that I’ve practically memorized the book. Finally, I reached the current day, and it was time to write the last chapter. My husband would remind me, “You’re still young! Your life is not over.” This was true, I hoped.
So, now I’ve written the end of a book that no one may ever read. Actually, my husband has read it twice. Halfway into the first read-through, he recognized the title hiding in plain sight, There Is No Finish Line. Until that time, the file on my computer was named “B.” The first ninety-thousand-word edition was uninspiringly called “A.” As with almost everything else in my life, finishing this book was like running a marathon. It was long and grueling, but as soon as I cross the finish line, I’m ready for the starting line of the next.
Issy weighs more than forty pounds now and looks like a Giant Schnauzer Doodle if you can imagine that combination. He chases Bentley ruthlessly, and we spend most days running interference. He slides down the freshly mulched slopes in the back garden on his belly, and lying in the middle of a flower bed is his favorite place to chew a stick. By the time he is three years old, he will have dreadlocks. The thought of this is equally fascinating and terrifying. Life is decidedly not quiet, and there are stories still to write.