Thinking about 2011
Many years ago, I taught Creative Writing in a private high school. We had the freedom and the budget to take several field trips each semester and my favorite, by far, was always our visit to the local rest home. Each student was paired with one or two elderly residents to draw out and document the story of their lives. In this way, we were reminded that each person has a story, and almost always a narrative arc that spans a lifetime. In listening to the stories of elderly people, we saw that there were many chapters filled with uncertainty, tragedy, coincidence, humor, even surprise endings. My students were amazed. One of the things I remember about how the residents recalled the most important events of their lives, was the way they begin their telling: “Oh, that was the year the horses drowned.” “That was the year the gypsies came.” “That was the year my neighbor died . . . “
As I look back upon 2011 (which has flown by), I am still trying to figure out what its theme was. I started out fragile, spending almost half of the year recovering from illness and surgery. Everything in my life slowed down for a while – my writing, the blog, activities and travel – but I was buoyed by cherished friends and the continued study of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I took a lot of cues from Hadley, who was grateful for every moment of wonder and sorrow that she lived during her busy years with Ernest and throughout her life. In June, I went to live in Spain, still recovering but getting stronger under the Andalusian sun. In July, we went to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, we visited the beautiful costal city of San Sebastian, and the lovely little town of Saint Jean de Luz in France. I collected a lot of material in Spain that I plan to publish in the coming months.
Pamplona was one of the highlights of the year for me and I think about it often. I think I really understood the fiesta as Hemingway saw it, the thrill of it and its essence. I know that I will never run through those ancient cobbled streets like the runners do every July, careening around corners with the hooves of huge bulls pounding behind them. But I think I know something about the fear of death and overcoming it, the nearness of the bull, its warm breath. But I am safe. Just like the runners in Pamplona, whose faces are bathed in relief and gratitude for days after the encierro, the encounter leaves me breathless, joyful – impossibly, wonderfully, and thrillingly reminded that I am alive!
In late July, we traveled to Mojacar, Spain and spent time with Ric Polansky, his wife Karen, and American matador Jeff Ramsay. I interviewed Ric about his love of bullfighting and the 42 years he has lived in Spain, both of which were inspired by Hemingway. (Ric’s interview will be featured here soon) and Jeff and Ric talked at length about the history and beauty of bullfighting. On my last evening in Malaga, I went to my first bullfight, a surreal experience that was primitive and formal at the same time.
It is hard to believe that there is “Life after Spain” but there is. In October, I traveled to Ketchum, Idaho for the Hemingway Symposium. It was a wonderful autumn weekend and I met incredible people. The theme this year was “Hemingway and Women” and I gave a presentation on Hadley and the Hemingway Project. It went well and I got to meet John Sanford and David Meeker in person as well as several other people who have become my friends through the Hemingway Project. I interviewed David Meeker about collecting Hemingway materials and his business Nick Adams & Co. Rare Books, which will also be published here soon. There is most certainly such a thing as “Hemingway people” and they are delightful.
In December, I joined my husband in Chile for the winter. I look forward to reading, writing and blogging from here. Wishing you all a healthy, Happy New Year, Allie
Here are a few photos of 2011: