219,000 words later I was haunted, haunted by the ghosts of Edgar, Almondine, and all who had shown like strands of gold in the tightly woven braid that is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Light catching each one of these characters, so that they’ll continue to sparkle long after the sun has exploded in the sky, long after I’ve shipped this novel off to another, this book of secrets and sadness and love gruffly being tossed into a dark truck then to a dark mail box, as though its package carries nothing special at all.
I can picture it waiting. The seemingly innocuous manila envelope, a dirtied carcass with a thriving soul still inside; Now having mingled with all the other packages, its traveling brothers, fighting for space in an ugly white bin, four corners of plastic, purpose, protecting these travelers from the rain. This book hides among ordinary things, bills, late notices, coupons; those items know not what they’re up against. Because not only has this story attached itself to my perspective like a barnacle to a boat, only able to be pried off with a violent knife, it has stirred something in me about my own writing and life, a pot of questions boiling to my surface as tears. No coupon could ever do that.
How can I even attempt to write something, create something, when the world I might dabble in, holds stories this GOOD? And if I try, should this be what I’m striving for? To unleash into the world an Almondine, a creature so real that I can see her standing before me when I close my eyes, hers staring up at me, saying follow me, silently, a gaze that says it all. I’ll take you to the rest of the story. I’ll show you everything.
Edgar Sawtelle’s significance has been confirmed by worldwide book sales, by Oprah, the Great and Powerful Queen of Literary Pop, her opinion more meaningful and momentous then my enthusiastic emails to friends and posts on Facebook, exclaiming to them all that this is not one to be missed, get ready, it WILL change your life. Despite it all, the book’s sales, Oprah’s praise, I’m not sure anyone will or has cared and cried like I have. Salty snot and tears, inflaming my face like a new-born, fresh from the wet hot womb of The Sawtelle’s kennel. I cannot help but feel that this was written just for me. Edgar. Almondine. Trudy. Gar. Claude. All of them. A way for God to communicate, to whisper into my ear, that he, she, exists – in the fields, in the sky, in the eyes of dogs.
These words, these characters, these tears, have planted, fertilized and watered something beautiful in me. Mr. Wroblewski set free a cast of characters who I feel were there all along, burrowed into my skin, a family of engorged ticks feeding on my fantasies, my loves, my passions. He exposed Almondine, as though she were a part of me from birth, just as she was a part of Edgar, hiding in the sunflowers, always a part of the journey.
Almondine. The tears will come now if I let them. Thinking about Almondine. I replay moments, allowing myself to remember certain events of those 219,000 words. If I linger too long, if I indulge, the rain from my eyes comes as though from pregnant clouds that MUST expel the afterbirth, the magnificent, but poisonous thing that feeds life. But unlike the rain that does not decide, unlike the rain that just comes, I CAN push back my tears, keeping the placenta inside, swallowing it down, to be expelled another day. It won’t kill me.
Fervent Google searches have helped to distract me these last few days. I’ve gone on quests, swiping aside useless pages, amazon purchase links, slight references to Edgar’s author, just David Wroblewski’s name next to an award, a vine I’ve already swung on. In my searches, I’ve pushed away those rotting or fruitless limbs, to clear a path to some ripe berry I couldn’t find before. Articles about Wroblewski have helped to anchor me back in the harbor, the patiently waiting boat, no longer a pirate ship of ghosts.
Learning more about the process, the decade long germination, the gestation of The Sawtelles, has helped quell my sadness. Their story has ended and I must move on, though I see the flicker of the Sawtelle Dogs in mine now that I know.
Back to hot yoga classes I’ll go. Back to dinner with my understanding husband, who tolerated the book at our table, where I’d swoop it up, a crying pup, hungry for my attention, cradling it between my fingers the moment my food was finished. Back now to writing my own story, where I won’t try to compete, can’t compete, because it’s not about book sales, or Oprah, or making a person out there as crazy for my book as I’ve been for Wroblewski’s. It’s about finding a story that MUST spring forth from me onto the page like the product of a mating dance, un-choreographed and wild, the excited pulse of a hiding idea, an embryo, a story that only God can help me tell.