I got back the 100 pages of Book 4 from my editor earlier this week. She gave me the go-ahead, with one caveat. She thought the story had one plot element that my readers might not like, so I changed it. I always do everything my editor tells me. Of course, I have a good editor.
In any event, I’m now working on the second half of the book. Yesterday, I wrote a scene in which I had Martha say that she thought Alafair didn’t have to create works of art, since her life was a work of art. The reason I mention this is because that phrase has been rattling around in my head for about thirty-five years. The minute I wrote it, I instantly thought of Cheryl Dillsaver, who was a friend I had when I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University. She had me call her Cher. It was the ’60s, after all.
Cher was a fine arts major, a painter, and just as arty and flamboyant as you would expect a ’60s artiste to be. Her canvases were large and splashy and colorful, and she was a liberal and a protester, like we all were, and a good friend to me during that first year away from home.
My father died before the next academic year started, and I stayed home to finish my undergrad degree, whereas Cher finished up at OSU. We did see one another off and on over the next couple of years, though. Much to my amazement, given her politics, she married an Agriculture major and moved to a tiny little Oklahoma town and became a housewife and mother. Shortly after she married Bill (who was a great guy, by the way), she invited me to spend the weekend with her at her tiny little house in her tiny little town while her husband was away at a conference.
I accepted with alacrity, mostly because I enjoyed Cher’s company, but partially because I was curious about how she reconciled the life she had chosen with her previous artistic ambitions.
It didn’t take me long to see that she hadn’t reconciled anything at all. She was exactly what she had always been — a real artist. While I was there she showed me not only the painting she was doing, but the interior decorating, the beautiful dress she had made for herself, her plans for a garden. I still remember to this day the awe I felt over an apple pie she made. I thought that it was the most beautiful pie I’d ever seen. And that’s when it occurred to me that she was an artist to the very core of her being. Her entire life was a work of art.
I think of that sometimes. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’d like to live my life like a work of art. I’ve finally garnered the courage to take up writing again in my dotage. Now, I think I’d like to go back to painting and drawing. I used to be a pretty fair artist. In fact, Don and I have quite a bit of our art on our walls to this day. (Literally. I’ve done a couple of mural pieces.)
I’m talking about conventional arts, here, but I certainly haven’t forgotten that gorgeous apple pie. There should be joy and creativity in cooking, and sewing, and gardening, and cleaning. I used to feel that. I’d love to feel all of that again. Perhaps I’ll ease myself back into the art of living, Dear Readers, a little at a time. I’ll let you know how I do.
By the way, I heard from my former roommate at OSU that Cher had died a few years back. I don’t know what she died of, but I hope she lived her work of art right to the very end.