Back to Bach


This is totally weird:  for the first time in a bazillion years, I’m dragging my feet on writing.  Decades ago, it used to take me multiple mental tricks to get myself to sit down at the typewriter (yes, it was that long ago) even though I knew, as every writer does, that once I actually started, I would be perfectly happy.

Richard Bach, the author, knew.  He wrote about the splinters he clawed up from the floor as his muse dragged him kicking and screaming to his typewriter.  Bach wrote Stranger to the Ground, which taught me a lot about my lover’s job:  flying a single-seat jet fighter.  When Bob crashed, Bach was there with me explaining what happened.  In Biplane, he traveled cross-country alone in an open cockpit, and when I flew upside-down in a Stearman biplane, I listened to hear the wind in the wires, as Bach had told me to.

Nothing by Chance was Bach’s summer spent barnstorming, dropping into farm fields like my grandparent’s.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull was the book that introduced the rest of the country to the pilot I already knew.  Bach said that A Gift of Wings had no rhyme or reason—it was just a collection of his “best favorite” short stories, and that was good enough.  Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah was the last Bach book I read; I guess I’d learned what I needed to know.

I wrote to Richard Bach.  I don’t remember when or why or what I said, but he wrote back—a postcard that said something like ‘Anne-1984 will know the answers to the questions asked by Anne-1974.’  It must have been during the pain of grieving Bob’s death.

Richard Bach and I have had an ongoing dialogue:

And am I a professional writer?  It’s what I always wanted to be.  My attempts at publishing had limited success but I always figured it this way:  only I could write what I write; once it’s written then anybody can get it published.  I spent my time writing, first; after that, there was no energy for publishing.  Besides, the gene for capitalism didn’t run in my family.  We did what we did because it was right, not because it would make money.

Here’s the question:  did I choose, at some pre-birth planning conference, to waste half my life on antidepressants?  Or did God call me to it so he could demonstrate how bad that crap is for you?  Or was it some very bad this-life decision of mine, after which God said, “Not to worry, we can use it?”  I’ve had people say, “I’m disabled—does God still want me?”  You bet your sweet bippy—God has a use and purpose for everyone, no matter their condition.  If nothing else, you always can be used as a bad example.

Ever get tired of listening to people tell you why they can’t do things?

 A logical mind, and defiance of man.  One day I challenged a job foreman about a wheelchair access issue.  He said he’d fix it.  I kept bugging him.  He said politely, “You’re just trying to start a fight with me.”  Shocked, I wheeled away.  He was right and I’d never before seen that in myself.

That’s a bitch, isn’t it?  I’m in a freakin’ nursing home, for Pete’s sake.  What mission could possibly be left for me?  Jamila thought I should start a prayer group.  Not with this crowd—most of them are less mentally competent than me, and they’re rehab—just passing through, not staying long enough to form a collective.

I am on the second floor.  On the third and fourth floors are the people who are really out of it—they don’t communicate or attend to their surroundings.  They are alive:  what is their mission?  Among other things, they are mute testimony to Americans’ inhumanity.

The majority of the aides working here at the Iroquois were birthed in other countries:  Liberia, Bhutan, Nepal, Ukraine, Russia, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Nepal . . .  The man from Liberia said that in his country, families care for their elderly in their homes.  “We are not advanced enough,” he said, “to have [nursing homes].”  This is an advance?

I wonder.  I have written 868 posts.  What would the ten “best favorite” be?  Any suggestions?

Richard Bach also said that the way to know a writer is to read his writing–‘it is there that he is most open, most honest, most true.’  He’s right about that.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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