Please welcome Camille Cole, the next in the series of Writing Through the Body’s guest blog posts responding to the prompt: Why I Write.
Why I Write
by Camille Cole
I write to untangle the confusion of my life, to remember the five year-old me, the twelve year-old me; me at thirty and fifty years-old. I can evoke the feelings and thoughts and conversations on the occasion of my sixtieth birthday party. Several of my close friends, my daughter, nieces, and a former nanny gathered at a beach house on the Oregon Coast on the weekend I turned sixty. It was an excuse to get together, honor our friendships, make vision boards, and for my friends, a chance to remind me that I am important to them. Even now, it’s hard to put that notion to paper because like many, I sometimes find it difficult to believe that others care about me.
There are events in our lives—it might be a moment, or a day, or longer—that reside in our memories like old friends who never go away. They are there when we’re hurt, when we have something to rejoice, when we’re worried or wondering which way to turn. When I write, my memory opens like a flower to the sun. As I put words together to form thoughts, tell stories, mine my deepest memories, the act of my fingers engaging with the keyboard, the process of calling up my muse and my memoirs opens worlds forgotten—a young girl who lays awake at night, afraid she might wet the bed; an older girl whose feet are too small to wear the new shoe style of the late 1950s. Her father drives her from shoe store to shoe store all over Syracuse, but there are no pointed toe flats in size 4 triple A. Once there was a young woman nursing her baby girl alone in a house truck in the Oregon woods. The baby’s father had abandoned her and she quietly stroked her daughter’s head, trying to understand what she had done to deserve this—surely it was her fault. On her fiftieth birthday another husband took her on a surprise trip, keeping the reveal to himself until they arrived at the beautiful bed and breakfast at the ocean’s edge. He had arranged dinner and made reservations for the best room. Before she turned sixty, he would abandon her, too, and she would work hard over the next ten years to be a better person, a woman who deserved loyalty and love.
The year she welcomed her sixth decade of life, her friends put aside their busy schedules, their obligations and deadlines and dogs and traveled great distances to celebrate her life.
As I write this I can see the horizon where the sky meets the sea beyond our beach house. Boxes of garden vegetables and fixings for four nights of dinners, and five days of breakfast, lunch and general snacking that litter the vast counter space in our three-story beach house. My heart swells as my friends arrive carrying presents and offerings for this time I will forever be able to evoke through story. Memories preserved in joy are as vivid to summon up as memories preserved in pain. All the days of my sixty-six years are important to me and are there for me to excavate whenever I sit before my computer or pick up a pen and paper and let my dream self and my hands work independent of my thinking mind.
All the events and affairs of my life—details I’ve seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt—are part of my heartbeat and my breath. When I was five I fell from my bike into the mud; at twelve I heard the mill train in the distance one lonely night in the new town where we had moved. As a young woman I tasted broccoli for the first time, smelled the smoke of a crackling fire that would destroy my home, and at all ages, I felt the pain of abandonment and the joy of discovering a new friend every year, for all my days. These experiences are part of my body’s blood, and I can call them up any time by transporting myself to another season, another geography, with my pen or my computer.
I write to remember, to spread my life out in story and discover the ways in which the pieces fit together. I write so that others might recognize our bond in the ways we are trying to figure out how to live.
Camille Cole is an author, writing coach, grant writer, and a retired classroom teacher and education administrator. Her most recent book, The Brass Bell, tells a story about the history of American schools and the life of an American educator, her Great Aunt Marion Parsons. Camille is a co-author of Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms and author of Connecting Students to S.T.E.M. Careers, Social Networking Strategies.
Camille works with emerging fiction and non-fiction writers, guiding them in the process of organizing their work; developing story and content; finding and approaching potential agents and publishers; and developing their author platform. She writes grants for schools and non-profit organizations nationwide and has raised over $5 million dollars for distance learning, educational technology projects and arts programs over the past ten years.
Camille is currently working on a YA novel, Nine Mile Creek. She lives in Portland with her dog, Lily.