Suzan Still: Minutiae leads by a nose

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susan stillOn July 16, 2012, I wrote a blog celebrating a slow, languorous summer and announcing that I was going to take a writing break for a few weeks. Nine months later, on April 3, 2013, I reemerged to announce boldly “I’m back!” and supplied a selfie shot in the bathroom mirror to prove it. I posted one more blog on April 6, 2013 with excerpts from my then just-launched literary novel, Fiesta of Smoke. And then…silence.

Those of you who formerly were faithful readers, and also those who have never read one of my blogs before, alike I greet you! I’ve been long away, and have garnered much to tell you in the interim—so much that it’s hard to know where to start. Do I paint in broad strokes—the cataclysms, screeching right-hand turns taken on two wheels, the mind-bending transformations? Or pick up the fine brush, the one with only two or three hairs, and carefully lay in the minutiae—the weather that turns along with the leaves, the squirrel being chased by the woodpecker, the advent of an iPhone in our technologically challenged community? Eventually, it will all come coiling out, in bright colors and dark, in light and shadow, like pigment from a tube.

So have patience, my friends, and forgiveness, too, if I’ve disappointed you by my absence. Some of the stories I intend to bring were bought at some cost, and they will stand in the stead of apologies to explain the silence of the intervening months. Life is not a ride at Disneyland. There are no attendants, safety rails, seat belts, or OSHA overseers. As in dreams, when the way is narrowly carved from an obdurate cliff and the car slews toward the drop-off, one wheel already hanging in space, life can be hair-raising. That, I suppose, is one of its fascinations—that, and the amazed joy that comes from occasionally understanding why it must be so.

There are the bright spots to report, too: a trip to the south of France last spring, my new novel, Well in Time, that is right on the cusp of launching, and the little joys that make each day special. Today, for example, it was taking on my first ballet-based exercise video, led by this young thing about 17, whose body is, by any standard whatsoever, perfect. Not to mention that her proportions are about two-thirds legs.

All the floor movements are based on ballet barre exercises, so, as a former dancer, I can relate to them. I just can’t do them. Well, that’s not completely true. I can do them intermittently and badly. All the while, she’s pumping away in her little white leotard counting 1 through 8, I’m huffing and muttering Holy CATS! and just trying not to topple over backward.

She has a “resting” position, sitting on the mat with one heel tucked up to her crotch and the other leg sort of draped in full extension over the top of the tucked leg, with pointed toe, chest pulled up, neck long, and stomach flat. I got one leg tucked up fairly well, but the extended leg refused to go over the top. It skittered off the mat and languished out in the room like a forgotten thing, while I did the rest of the relaxing moves she suggested, like twisting my torso while stretching my arms over my head. I rocked around like one of those blow-up clowns you can knock over and they pop back up again, my legs all tangled, my toes unpointed—except my right foot which arced in a cramp, but that doesn’t count.

Just this one encounter with the perfect little ballerina has taught me much—such as I am no longer 17; I am still very strong, but lack flexibility; and I still love exercising at the barre. Also, I can see that if I continue this program for several months, I will either be quite lithe, or under the care of an orthopedist.

So there we have it: it’s Minutiae in the lead by a head, with Cataclysm coming hard behind, into the first turn. Stay tuned!


Suzan Still is the author of Fiesta of Smoke and her next novel Well in Time will be released on January 20, 2015.

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On January 10, 2015
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