I’m getting this chance to post while I’m sitting and waiting for my car to get it’s oil changed.
My professor at Ashland, Joe Mackall, put out his second book, Plain Secrets, writing about his perspective on life with the Amish. It took me all of two days to read: Joe has always written a compelling story, and I appreciated the subject matter for various reasons. For four years, I lived with the Amish as a constant reminder, be it from standing in line behind an Amish person at the local Wal-Mart, or from watching the Amish roll by in their buggies as I waited to cross the street. Also, I don’t have any serious envy for the lifestyle the Amish lead, but I do appreciate the quiet simplicity of their lives. I could never give up my freedoms as a woman, nor could I give up my technological creature comforts. But, I do love going to Lehman’s in Kidron, and I do have a few Amish cookbooks, and I’ve always been fascinated with living in the country.
In addition, I received a copy of the book using a gift card given to my by a friend, and I had The Boy hand-carry it to Joe to have it signed. I was absolutely thrilled to have Joe’s second book signed to me with a personal message, but a little bummed out that it was as perfunctory as that. I miss Joe. Not only do I have a copy of his first book, The Last Street Before Cleveland, but I have it signed, and I went to his book reading for it when it was hosted at Ashland. I was not the only one to be moved to tears at his reading. I admire and respect him in more ways than I’m sure he knows, and if I get the opportunity to sit and have coffee with him, I will tell him that I wish that I could have worked harder for him in his classes, that I’m sorry that I skipped as many as I did, and if I could go back, I would have attended every class, and worked so much harder on my writing.
Joe gave me such a wonderful gift by opening me up to writing, and such simply-worded praise that I will never forget. I discovered the world of the personal-essay my freshman year of college at the same time I was going through one of the roughest periods of my life. I wrote a piece about my grandmother’s death, which I didn’t realize at the time, could have been a total cliched subject. But somehow, I wrote something worthy enough for Joe to say: the story of a grandmother dying could be so cliched, but [I] got to a part of this and realized that this was like no other story.
I’m butchering the quote, but it really was as simple as that. There was no waxing poetic about the story that I told, no flowery language, no glowing praise. But there is something about those words that have driven my writing ever since.
The machinations of my life are as mundane as any other: I eat, I bathe, I work, I fuck, I laugh, I cry just like any other person. But steeped into those experiences is the words. I love language: I love how any and every word is impregnated with potential meaning; I love that I can forever pin the butterfly of my experience for display. I haven’t written in a long time, but it’s not for a lack of story to tell. Reading Joe’s words inspire me to write again. I long to get back to that.