For the last few months I've been posting once a month on Ladies of Mystery, which has introduced me to several writers new to me as well as new readers. But this meant that I have sorely neglected by own blog. Today was meant to be a stab at catching up, abandoning bad habits and establishing a new practice for the coming year, but instead I find myself thinking of what a sad ending this year is for me and many of my friends.
Last week a writer on the North Shore who should have been much better known outside of this area died after many years of work and community activity. Peter Anastas had unappreciated gifts as a novelist, and gave generously to up and coming writers as they set out on a path he knew well. He also worked in social services at Action, Inc., known for his commitment to those less fortunate than the rest of us. I've read several of his books, and enjoyed his lectures and reminiscences of the poet Charles Olson and poet Vincent Ferrini, whom I also knew. He wrote incisively yet lovingly of Gloucester, his hometown, and the literature created by others in this area.
And then yesterday I learned of the death of another writer who wasn't known as a poet because he didn't publish much poetry but was nevertheless a writer and thoughtful reader of others. We were in the same book group for the last few years, and I learned a lot from him. His wife, Ellen, and I taught at the same college for a while. Doug Guidry listened and shared ideas about books, literature, ideas, and more. His comments were always intelligent and insightful, and he listened carefully to the rest of us.
This is not the way the year should end. We should be celebrating our achievements, the simple and not so simple--living another year; grappling with a knotty literary problem and confident in a new essay on a favorite writer; planning a trip to enjoy more of the world and meet new people; finding new challenges; settling down for a quiet afternoon of iced tea and family stories. Instead I look at the new year as unexpectedly bleak, bereft of two who contributed so much to so many in every conversation, every meeting. I know we get over losses and move one; new writers come along to replace those who have left us. But some loom larger than others, and in the coming year I know there will be moments when I'll think, "Oh, Peter would know the answer to that," or "That's just what Doug was talking about," and I'll catch my breath and feel a twinge and my thoughts will wander to earlier times and lively conversations. And then I'll remember.
It's too simple to say I hope all of us will have a year without sorrow and loss, but it's a human even if it's a naive wish. And so I hope the new year will bring less pain and more joy to everyone.