Picking the pen over the metaphorical lawnmower
Developing Laugh Lines returns
Bless me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been seven months since my last column and I can’t endure the loss.
Really. I can’t. Besides, so much stuff has happened.
My husband took a new job in a different state, and I went with him, leaving my adult children, my family, my friends, my home, my should-be-condemned cabin, my job, and my baseball team.
You know...my source material.
I thought I could handle it. At least, that’s what I told myself in the middle of the deadline-less nights. Besides, I had projects just waiting for that weekly deadline space, things I would start as soon as I was settled in my new place.
Settling in was an unsettling experience. There was the move, the packing, the insane housing market, the dismantling of the childhood home (kind of), the baby adults who still needed the childhood home (sort of), the dog who didn’t want to stay or go, the gas prices, the heat, the corn, the mice.
Meanwhile, I was jotting down notes for future columns to share with you. I knew there was no newspaper, but I couldn’t help myself. For 17 years, it didn’t matter where I lived, what I was doing, or why, we talked. I didn’t know what to do with these notes and I had enough other to-dos, so I didn’t dwell on them.
There is a Wilco song called “Hate It Here”, where singer Jeff Tweedy avoids grieving a person who left his life by doing chores around the house. At one point, he asks: "What am I going to do when I run out of lawn to mow?”
Well, one morning, I ran out of metaphorical lawn to mow. The short answer to Tweedy’s question: Yikes.
I had expected to miss my family, just as I expected to find new ways to be in their lives. What I didn’t expect was to miss the column as much as I did. No writer wants to believe they need an audience for their writing to feel complete, but, yeah, they do.
One of my post-newspaper projects was to anthologize the best columns. I uncovered 786 pieces, a mosaic of 17 years of processing nothing and everything with you. You came with me to Canada, watched my kids grow up, shared my cooking foibles and family vacations, and journeyed with me through grad school and the pandemic.
Anthologies are great, but I have new stories to tell. Heck, I turn 50 next year. My last doctor’s appointment was worth three columns.
I decided to rehouse the column, but where? Magazines are infrequent, blogs are overwhelming, and newspapers are unstable.
One of my former editors directed me to Substack, where other newspaper columnists have found a home. I like the reader-supported model. No ads, no clicky stuff, no the-powers-that-be-want-to-make-a-change.
Here’s the deal. I will resume writing the column. If you want to resume reading the column, subscribe to it. If one of the columns makes you laugh or touches your heart, share it.
Will this work?
I haven’t a clue, but there is no more lawn mow. There are, however, stories to write.