|This book is a collection of short pieces by ten Senior Citizens gathered together over a three-year period for a writing course taught by syndicated columnist and author Terry Marotta, who found her own life changed as a result.
In the poem that gives the book its name, Robert Frost meditates on the difficulty of gathering together a yard full of leaves. Like the gathering up of a lifetime of experiences, he finds it no small task:
"I may load and unload
This story begins about four years ago, when I began wishing I had a book out, a collection of reader-favorite columns, say. So I gathered up 50 of these and trotted them around to some publishers.
"Thanks but no thanks!" they said almost as one. "Collections don't sell!" they exclaimed, shaking their canny heads.
Saddened, I accepted this - until the day I happened to have lunch with one of those plain-clothes Angels that appear in your life from time to time. She was one of the first to subscribe to this column, the former editor of a big-city paper, since turned book publisher herself. I told her what happened - how I thought maybe I should just give up the writing game altogether.
"Give it up?! You're THIS far away!" she cried, holding her thumb and forefinger an inch apart. "Start your own publishing company! It isn't hard. I'll show you how."
Thus was Ravenscroft Press born, for the price of some stationery and the yearly rental on a P.O. box. Thus did my book come out, I Thought He Was a Speed Bump and Other Excuses from Life in the Fast Lane. And it did sell, after all.
Then appeared another of those suggestion-making Angels, in the person of an elder from the local Senior Center who called to say that some of the folks there wanted to take a course in writing. They wanted me to volunteer an afternoon a month to teach it, prepare the lesson each time, then comment on what they had written.
As she spoke, I began to get that tingly just-before-you-sneeze feeling that means you're on the brink of saying yes to something that 99 times out of a 100 you'd say no to.
So, one afternoon a month for the next three years, ten senior citizens and I learned together about the art of Writing From Personal Experience.
At first, some of them were reticent. "Nothing ever really happened to me," some said. Then one day both Bill and MaryLou arrived with descriptions of their dads. One of them wept, reading it aloud. That changed everything. Reticence disappeared; and the 92-year-old class member named Clarence began calling the classes "your seances."
But boy, did we have some great sessions. And boy, did they have a lot to say, from Ann's story of the best glass dishes exploding under cold ice cream to Eleanor's dream of growing grass in her apartment; from Isabel's lyrical nature poems to Sarah's description of the night when, as a young mother stricken with polio, she felt and fought off the cold hand of Death.
Being "the mother of beauty" as the poet says, Death figured in their writing quite a lot: There was Mildred's tale of mentally bidding her mother a lakeside farewell; Bill's description of the grace-filled final moments of his son, cut down by cancer in his prime; and Violet's almost mystical account of the old hymn her husband used to literally lift himself into Heaven...
Finally, I could teach the course no longer. One year passed and then another. Three of our number died. Then last summer, it suddenly seemed crucial to me to bring out these tales. I wrote the Library of Congress to ask if it was book enough for them to list. It sure was, they said. Then I came upon a phrase in a Robert Frost poem about the effort of gathering up elusive armfuls of leaves, and knew that it conveyed exactly what it feels like to gather up memories.
As of this week, The Mountains I Raise is a book in the world, a delicate harvest of pieces by ten senior citizens, as well as a few of the best things their teacher wrote in the three years spent under their influence.
Excerpts from the book:
Love in the Sleeping Time
Apostrophe to Chicle
Sarah Goes to the Mall
Those wishing to obtain a copy, say, might contact us - that would be me and any angels as have yet to make themselves manifest - at the address listed on the main page.
$9.00 + $3.00 S&H
©Copyright 2002-2011 Terry Marotta, All Rights Reserved.