Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After 47 years

After 47 years of marriage -- yesterday to be exact -- I am getting divorced. I do (fully) intend to get back to learning how to blog. Mindy Oja has been an angel of mercy, but it's time I go forward myself. I probably won't be blogging again until I'm completely settled in another state; a year out?
In the mean time, I'd like you to know that The Notre Dame Review Winter/Spring 2012 reviewed my novel titled Blacktime Song by Rosalie Wolfe. They seek innovative writing, and I made that cut. The review is wonderful for me to have gotten this year. So wish me well as I move on to a new chapter in the real true novel known as life; AKA "What a life!" Love, Marylee Daniel Mitcham PS: no italix used in this post on purpose.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Letter received in Brussels

"Hi Marylee, When I was 33 and trying to find some sense in a busy world, I bought a large piece of forest here in Nova Scotia and lived on it. My partner and I lived in tents for the first couple of summers, then built a cabin using hand tools only. We had no running water, no electricity, but a lot of good intentions. In the fifth year I lived in that small [space] (160 square foot) for an entire year and was transformed. I read An Accidental Monk in that cabin and loved it.

I have since written a novel, to be published in Feb. 2012, based partly on that experience. I would like to use a quote from your book as an epigraph for one of the chapters. It is this one: 'I could say it this way: my consent feels like leaving home; God's grace feels like coming home; the struggle to be faithful to a call feels like being outside in the weather.'

I loved that quote when I was outside in the weather, so to speak, and I love it now. In any event, thanks for the book you wrote and good luck with your blog and novel[Blacktime Song by Rosalie Wolfe]. With appreciation, Scott Fotheringham"

I wrote that book in the early seventies, a time of spiritual transformation for me. It sold several thousand copies, then it was decided to not reprint it. Print on demand days weren't here yet, so the small paperback has become more and more rare. I've seen it for sale for $240 and also for 19 cents! Thanks to Mindy Oja, the whole book in now on my blog, and can be read for free. It is photographed, so all the artwork is there too.

I named my blog after that book, not because of Catholicism, but because I am, ever since 1969, aware of a contemplative calling, if you will. Is there a calling within that box that says Seeking? Exploring? Investigating? Perhaps it was always my nature, but I experience it as a gift that was given. It means everything to me that I am allowed to be "at large" in relationship to my Father in heaven and on earth, and in the body of Jesus, His church.

The quote Scott is going to use is as fresh to me today as ever. I continue to spend a lot of time in the weather; I know it to be a true and human place. Scott's novel is titled All Else is Silence. I'll buy it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Passage of Time

This morning I was reading "The New Yorker" magazine (May 30, 2011) and my attention got caught on a book review on page 83. The novel was We Had It So Good, by Linda Grant. I've never read her work, so what caught my interest wasn't about the novel itself, it was about the review. The review said this: "There is no plot---only the passage of time, which forces the characters through history...life loses its immediate heat; the past is reduced to a series of nouns, black words arranged on a cold white background."
I've been meditating on that this morning. Would someone say that about my novel? Daftwooly (on Amazon.com) gave me a very good reading, which translated into 4 stars. He or she must be a gentle soul. I'm so lucky to have this review. And (not "but," and) his last two sentences said, " The book has much in the way of post-modernity about it, and I didn't quite get how it all added up in the end. But it is nonetheless an excellent read."
So here is my response to Daftwooly: In one sense, it doesn't add up in the end; no life does. Think of the architect who conceived the Twin Towers, only a twinkle in his/her mind's-eye at first. Think of all the "heavy lifting" to bring that project to conclusion. And finally, his life all added up! Until. Or maybe it added up as a disaster? But not necessarily. We are left with the passage of time, and perhaps with jaded spirits (who have lost their immediate heat"). And now all that's left are words, a poor representation of reality. Words like dead plants?
I can imagine that Linda Grant's novel was more than "forcing the characters through history." If I was writing a novel about the passage of time (I did), I would be making the word "passage" contemplative. I would make the passage carry them, as in God carrying us. I would make each moment a moment in eternity, a living in eternity right now, a destiny perhaps, a moment with wonders to explore.
I get it about language. It can be cold and false. That's why I chose song, because it has something beautifully divine about it, even when it's expressing the ways of beings who are hugely inadequate. Writing to my mind is alchemy; we keep going for the gold, and I don't mean money.
I would add up my novel [Blacktime Song by Rosalie Wolfe] this way if I had to right at this very moment: The grown woman protagonist made it through many changes, and still loved God. Her daughter, at the moment the novel ends, is thriving in a life full of possibilities. Both characters still live in gratitude, a virtue that matters to me. I hope God's eye has a twinkle in it for these two characters. I do. I can't help it.
As for Mark Twain's Afterword, he speaks for me, even if I'm not yet beyond the veil.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


As a direct descendant of Lot Smith, I've particularly enjoyed reading the Jeannette Walls book, Half Broke Horses, A True-Life Novel. Lot Smith's son James Smith is the author's grandfather.
On page 148 she writes so beautifully the words she remembers coming from him. I quote:
"Sometimes after supper when Jim got home from a storm, the kids would describe their escapades in the water and mud, and Jim would recount his vast store of water lore and water history. Once the world was nothing but water, he explained, and you wouldn't think it to look at us, but human beings were mostly water. The miraculous thing about water, he said, was that it never came to an end. All the water on the earth had been here since the beginning of time, it had just moved around from rivers and lakes and oceans to clouds and rain and puddles and then sunk through the soil to underground streams, to springs and wells where it got drunk by people and animals and went back to rivers and lakes and oceans.
"The water you kids were playing in, he said, had probably been to Africa and the North Pole. Genghis Khan or St. Peter or even Jesus himself might have drunk it. Cleopatra might have bathed in it. Crazy Horse might have watered his pony with it. Sometimes water was liquid. Sometimes it was rock hard--ice. Sometimes it was soft--snow. Sometimes it was visible, but weightless--clouds. And sometimes it was completely invisible--vapor--floating up into the sky like the souls of dead people. There was nothing in the world like water, Jim said. It made the desert bloom, but also turned rich bottomland into swamp. Without it, we'd die, but it could also kill us, and that was why we loved it, even craved it, but also feared it. Never take water for granted, Jim said.Always cherish it. Always beware of it."

That's my kind of nature writing! I feel the shared genes, passing down to me also the wonder of existence, of the material world, but in my case, of the inner world as well. I marvel at the sheer power of mere words, when one can find them, that shock us into seeing things that are ordinary but extraordinary. I love paradox too. Unlike water ("Without it we'd die, but it could also kill us...")paradox is safe. I can almost hear Jim Smith whispering in my ear--"Damn safe"--then laughing at his little joke.
Hats off to Jeannette Walls for her two great books which have helped explain me to myself in such fine writing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Something Amazing

Peter Bonavich is a character in my post-modern novel, Blacktime Song by Rosalie Wolfe. Although he only appears as 'written about' by another character in the novel, he lives and breathes quite nicely. At the end of the novel, we want to know more about him because, among other things, he is the father of Meadow Wolfe Dent, a BYU professor who has never seen or heard from him. Meadow is the most essential character in the book; we feel for her.
I based the character Peter Bonavich on an old Colorado Springs schoolmate of mine from Junior High. We knew each other in the classroom from 7th grade through the first semester of our Junior year when I moved to Texas. Our relationship was mostly one of sheer observation, but I always thought highly of him, and -- more important -- remembered him.
Before I published my story, I searched him out to ask permission to use his whole name for this fictional character. He, in turn, asked me to read him (over the phone) the parts in which Peter was mentioned, so I did. It was rather embarrassing since it had to do with making love. The real Peter and I had never even danced together, let alone kissed, let alone ....
At this point, I can finally get to what was amazing. On April 2nd of this year, I met Peter Bonavich in person after 52 years! My husband, two of his friends, and I ate lunch at the the Vera Cruz Fish House in San Marcos, California, and Peter accepted my invitation to drive up from San Diego to eat with us. It was a big moment for me. All the reasons I remembered him came back to mind. But here comes the real surprise: He has a pioneer Mormon background through his mother like I do! And,in fact, he also has Native American heritage (not to mention Jewish heritage) like I do. This makes my fictional portrayal of him a lot more accurate than I realized. There is no way that we ever talked about this as teenagers, that's for darn sure.
Various readers of my novel have wondered what part of it is actually based on truth. Well, when I made the fictional mother of Meadow say to the fictional Peter, "Sometimes I know things I don't know I know" I was TRULY telling the truth (little did I know). I apparently knew something real about the real Peter Bonavich, only it took me 52 years to realize it. This knowledge feeds my sense of mysticism. It confirms grace. SomeOne GOOD is messing with me, giving me opportunities to enjoy life, even as I plow through difficulties and sadness; I have joy.
FINAL NOTE: Excuse me for a bit of promotion for Blacktime Song by Rosalie Wolfe. Peter Bonavich read my whole novel the day before he met us for lunch. He apologized for his "trepidation" but he seemed glad to tell me that he knew it was going to be good, but he didn't know it was going to be THAT good, "stunningly good." He called the overall architecture of it "brilliant." Now you can fully imagine why it was such a big moment for me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections related to Mark Twain

I read a good review of a book in the Denver Post this fall by Roger K. Miller, a wonderful review, I'd say. The book itself is by Lee Sandlin; it's a non-fiction titled Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild. I'm tempted to type the whole review, but won't. Reading it reminded me of my own use of Mark Twain in my novel, Blacktime Song By Rosalie Wolfe, in which I add an Afterward from the Dead: Mark Twain. It was somewhat intuitive on my part, but I stand confimed.

"It was as though they were all walking around in a perpetual state of rage." Miller quotes the author Lee Sandlin in describing everyday society in the lower Mississippi River Valley in the early 19th century. Twain once referred to his home ground as "a semi-barbarism which set itself up for a lofty civilization." The down river traffic of all sorts of craft dominated everything as "scow, skiffs, pirogues, barges, canoes, schooners and primarily rafts, flatboats, and keel-boats" required up to dozens of men to pilot them, even before the arrival of steamboats. Some rafts were 90 feet long, and cargo was extremely varied, both human and non-human. It was a dirty business from many angles, mythic maybe, but not idyllic. From my storytelling point of view, it sounds comparable to the human condition in general. "It was not an easy, languorous navigation, hence the appellations wicked river or Old Devil River. The river continually shifted, rose, fell expanded and contracted. Vessels were met, and too often upset, by sandbars, snags, floating trees -- or great clots of interlocked floating trees known as wooden islands -- and whirlpools and deceptive currents."

In this grim environment, besides rage there was "a recurring sense of looming catastrophe that gripped many residents", and along with all this was a confusion of values and morality; "perils and ugliness ... abounded in and off the water", think slave auctions, fires, fascinating warm and cold-blooded predators, plus yellow fever and cholera and sheer filth, but sometimes, at moments, paradoxically looking like hope and Eden. You needed luck and the knowledge of how to maneuver, and intuitively I wanted to give a shout out to Twain's (almost Jesus-like?) Horace Bixby and to writers in general, who try so hard to find words to describe both the sublime, the ridiculous, and the ever present deadening traps of lives lived in constant, churning motion, where discernment and grace really count for something.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Apples in the Street

I no longer drive due to corneal dystrophy, so almost every day I walk on various errands in the N.W. Denver area. My bones need strengthening anyway, so wearing a weighty backpack is, in itself, a health-promoting act.
Lately I've been seeing fallen apples on the sidewalks and streets of my territory. It didn't take long before I picked an apple off a tree not my own, the better to assess flavor. Then I decided to collect a good portion of those apples off sidewalk and street, which I deemed public. I took them home, washed them twice, and two days later threw them in the compost bin. Apparently, I was too lazy to make applesauce, I'm not sure why. The sloth of Eve? I ask myself this question: What in life have I not done enough of yet? This puts me in mind of reading and writing. I do have reading and writing on my mind. These two disciplines help me stick with my ongoing inner project---accessing the courage to be truthful, and the strength to love my neighbor(whose apples I hope I didn't steal). I can really sink my teeth in that project!