Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Living Large: In Memory of Kent Haruf

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This morning my sister called me on her way to work to let me know that the novelist Kent Haruf had passed away, and our conversation has left a watermark on my feelings all day. It might be the first time I've felt true grief for a perfect stranger, but I suppose anyone who has read Plainsong might feel the same way. Kent Haruf had something and he gave it to us and it mattered, and now that it's over and done and we're left to say, That's it?  But we wanted more.

In an autobiographical essay published back in 2011 Haruf wrote, By [the time my first novel was published] I was forty-one years old and had been writing as hard as I could for almost twenty years. If I had learned anything over those years of work and persistence, it was that you had to believe in yourself even when no one else did. And later I often said something like that to my graduate students. You have to believe in yourself despite the evidence. I felt as though I had a little flame of talent, not a big talent, but a little pilot-light-sized flame of talent, and I had to tend to it regularly, religiously, with care and discipline, like a kind of monk or acolyte, and not to ever let the little flame go out.

In closing Haruf observed, Over the years I have tried not to write too small, and I want to believe I have tried not to live too small, either.

Now doesn't that just make you want to climb back on whatever horse has bucked you off and hold on a little tighter? I like to write about writers and artists because it amazes me again and again and again how humans can create something to fill up the nothing. And even though Haruf is gone, he filled his space, filled it right up.

So, now that I've read the online tributes to Haruf and spent some time this afternoon thinking and writing about his autobiographical essay, it's time to return. James is crying in his crib and the yellow school bus just passed by, which means kids will burst through the door in a moment. We're going to work on math facts and practice instruments, and then we're going to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner since my dad's in town. All over my house small fires burn, bills to pay, Christmas gifts to mail, ornaments that have been removed from the tree by prying little hands and left on the floor to be stepped on. But I feel open to it and ready. To everyone else it all might feel small, but this afternoon, to me, it feels large.  

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog on Power of Moms and this post was just what I needed. I too am trying to balance writing and motherhood--two pursuits that take extensive amounts of energy and courage. I wish you well!


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