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Jennifer Egan, the wildly talented novelist whose most recent book is the rave-reviewed A Visit From the Goon Squad, was interviewed last week on NPR and I heard her say something that amazed me.

Jennifer Egan said that she is bored by her own life, so she invents stories to make things interesting for her.

Really? She finds her own life boring? Really?? Because I find ordinary life fascinating — and my own ordinary life most fascinating of all. I’ve written two memoir-ish books already and plan on writing several more, all about me, and how I’m getting through this life, and what kind of things I’ve found along the way that makes me not want to kill myself, because I really, really enjoy being alive.

Why, just this past weekend was chock-fullof stuff that made me glad to be alive, in my real life, taking notes for possible future memoir-ish books.

On Saturday Top Cat and I drove to upstate New York to deposit most of my  collection of vintage costume jewelry and other objets d’art with the thrift shop that benefits the Heart of the Catskills Animal Shelter.

(FYI: I did not enjoy this. It’s really hard to give your stuff away, even though you really want to de-clutter and downsize your stuff, but all my stuff used to be stuff I once loved and it’s not CRAP like on those Hoarders shows– and it doesn’t feel at all that great to put my stuff  in the hands of strangers, even if those strangers are lovely, very grateful, and considerate of your treasures, and are cat people. I’m just saying. I hate givng my stuff away.)

I should have taken some photos of the place but I was too stressed to think of it. But trust me, the Heart of the Catskills Animal Shelter Thrift Shop in Andes, New York, is a sweet little shop that you would enjoy buying my stuff in. All my owl stuff, my Trifari stuff, my Coro and Sarah Coventry stuff, my stering silver stuff including the silver bracelet that was the first real piece of jewelry that my first serious boyfriend gave me in 1977 that I haven’t worn since 1978…but still. It’ s hard to see it go.

In this neck of upstate New York, it is pot hole season. Winter freeze and April semi-thaw and all, for those of you who live below the Mason-Dixon line and haven’t seen the true ravages of Winter.

So, after Top Cat and I handed over my stuff to the thrift shop, we went to the East Meredith Presbyterian Church for the Third Annual Pie Auction to raise money for the East Meredith Historical Society.

All the pies are home-made by local pie-making geniuses.

The bidding started at $10. (The highest-priced pie was a Lemon Meringue that went for $65.00.)

The auctioneer was a profesional — he knew how to keep the action fun, but truth to tell: people knew this was a fund-raiser and they were ready to spend money. I love these people.  (I’m related to that lady in the apron, by the way.)

But I really wanted the Lemon Cloud pie and I was sure that the winning $55.00 bid was with me (as we used to say at Christie’s, when I was in the Faberge auction biz) but when the hammer came down it turned out that the winning $55.00 bid was with someone else. Bummer.

So Top Cat bagged an Apple-Plum pie for us, for $45.00. All told, the pie auction of 40 pies raised $1,155.00. (In this photo, there’s a lady who designs gorgeous coffee table books for prestigious publishers in NYC, and a fellow who was a LIFE reporter starting in 1961 who has done a bunch of the Time/Life books you love, and a handsome bon vivant who I’m married to. And that’s just a few of the people in this photo: I’m telling you, this was an auction for the cognoscenti.)

Well, fast forward to Sunday, when we took a walk in the country. We had a good old DoG named Malcolm with us, a rescue DoG from the Heart of the Catskills Animal Shelter. Life: it’s a wheel. Or a circle. Or a chain.

Anyhoo, we’re all connected.

DoG joy leaps and bounds, it soars in happiness. It’s  a good day to be a DoG! It’s always a good day to be a DoG!!

I waded into the swamp marsh that is, for the moment, high and dry. In a month this will all be overgrown and hidden, so I had to take advantage: I was looking for birds’ nests.

I found two beautifully preserved nests in the thicket. One was so very, very delicately woven onto its perch on a low bush (above). The other one was smaller, and perfectly balanced in a teeny tiny sapling. It looks like just a random clump of dead mush…

…but on a closer look, you can see how marvellously it’s been engineered:

And then it was time to head back to Long Island. But we had to make a pit stop: We’d heard tell of new owners of the local convenience store, a Dutch couple who’d bought the moribund general store (it’s also a worm and bait shop) last July. This I had to see, not least because I’d had some of the Duthch wife’s home-made almond cookies and they were the best thing I’ve tasted since the last time I was in France. (I’m a big fan of the French almond patisserie called Pithivier — and those cookies were the delicious Dutch version: no frilly pastry, more down to business, all butter-almond crumb filling baked into a cookie. Very Dutch. Very to the point.)

So, luckily, the shop was open and I told the Mr. Dutchman that those cookies were the best thing I’ve tasted and I bought all the rest that he had left. And he kindly showed us some more Dutch specialties that he had on the shelves:

It seems that the Dutch are very fond of licorice — there are several different kinds for sale in the worm/bait/Dutch Deli in Meridale, NY. I would have bought some licorice because I have a very Dutch fondness for it, but the last time I had licorice I broke a tooth. Teeth: they get surprisingly brittle after age 50.

I really liked this table, set up right by the front door of the shop. I would like to sit here one day, with a Dutch almond cookie and a cup of tea, and watch life inMeridale come and go. (The wife brought the oil-cloth all the way from Holland. So: Holland people like table cloths that look like Delft tiles, with pictures of Dutch scenes on them! Nice!)

And this is my haul of Dutch treats:

And all this coming week I will have Dutch treats with my tea, and I’ll be ruminating about my jewelry for sale in Andes, NY, and wonder how that Lemon Cloud pie that should have been mine tastes, and try to imagine all those new birds’ nests being built, and I’ll think:

Jesus Christ; I have a facsinating life.

14 comments to Why I don’t have to write fiction.

  • Great post, Vivian. It is a wonder to see what fascinates us and a joy when you can revel in it.

  • Pie = an excellent reward tactic for de-cluttering.

    I don’t see how the truly observant could ever be bored. Life is fascinating indeed.

  • Rachel

    Yes, I was knitting the other day at a meeting, I am always knitting if I am at a meeting, and someone said to me *dont you get bored doing that??* Bored? Me? Well, not in this lifetime. Although I do carry the knitting and sketchbook in case things get a little *slow* in a place I have to be. As my mind flits from here to there to everywhere, how could I possibly be bored?

    Your life is always fun to read about. Best wishes to those doing such good in the north.

  • Sallyann

    If someone told me they were bored with their life, I would think they needed to GET A LIFE.
    Our lives are as boring as we allow them to be.
    I have friends that tell me all the time that I see everything, things that others walk right by and don’t see. My response is: all you have to do is slow down and pay attention. It is all there, free for the taking. I take the time to watch the birds, really look at flowers in their different stages, look at the pebbles on the beach, listen to the wind, etc. I love to watch people, listen to what they say and see the humor in life.
    Life is indeed exciting, inspiring, full of creativity and can be overwhelming in delight.
    But I do believe looking at the world as an opportunity for all the above, takes practice. The more you look the more you see. I feel sad for the author you mentioned. She is missing so much of life because she doesn’t take the time to “see” it. You can gulp and swallow ice cream or you can lick it slowly and savor the flavor. Life is the same.
    Sallyann

  • JOAN

    I have never understood people who claim they are bored, live a boring life. Having never been bored, always curious, seeking out new experiences, involved in the natural world, having animals to tend to, loving birds (it’s migration season!) I can honestly say I’ve never been bored. My life might appear to be very mundane to the casual observer but not to me. I have something going on all the time. Knitting, sewing, embroidery, reading, blog reading, art…the latest endeavor is Zentangles! What a hoot this is…it’s repetitive drawing/meditation. Google it. I’m having a ball with it.

    So glad to read that the costume jewelry was given to a greatplace where the benefits to needy animals will bring much good karma into your life.
    The pie auction (how quaint!) netted you some goodies as well as the Dutch convenience store…you would never find anything like either in my neck of the tourist woods…my mouth waters over the Dutch yummies.

    The bird nest is such a treasure. Just imagine constructing your “nest” without benefit of hands or fingers…an engineering marvel for sure.

    Life is good, it’s spring…everything is brimming with possibilities. Who could be bored?

  • Jeannie

    The Dutch never met anything that wasn’t improved by a little almond paste! LOL! I have my Dutch husband’s family recipe for the almond tarts. We make them without the top crust. They are a labor of love and for special occassions, they are sent to and received from the relatives. Funny story: After my father inlaw passed, my husband was coming home after clearing out the house. He brought home the almond tarts that were in the freezer. The only box that was small enough to fit into his carry on was the box that his Mom’s ashes came home in. Yep, crammed those yummys into the box with the funeral home’s name on it. Going through security, the guard looked at the label and passed him through. Didn’t even open the box! So, if you want to smuggle jewels, I know a sure fire way.

  • Agreed!!! I couldn’t stand any more excitement than my boring life…

  • Deborah

    I’m hankering . . . for apple plum pie, almond tarts, and lemon cloud pie.

    This blog reminds me of a poem from when I was a kid:
    “The world is so full of wonderous things
    I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings”

    Things I found in a house sparrow’s nest this weekend: 2 artifical flowers, faded light blue yarn, similar colored blue plastic or cellophane strip, a piece of landscape fabric, and white paper. Very festive.

  • Carol

    One of your very best blogs, Vivian! I sooo agree with you that you can find happiness in very small things that others might overlook. BTW, my friend and I were talking about your blog yesterday, and she thinks you should write your next book by using some of your blogs–they all contain art, too–I thought it was a great idea. And I was so glad to see a DOG having such a wonderful time, too.
    Carol in Catonsville

  • patty

    The only possible way I could imagine being bored is if I had a job in a beige cubicle with no windows, nowhere to put photos up, and evil fluorescent light and no one to talk to all day….maybe then. But even still, I could plot fabulous meals, places to go on days off, and draw pictures of what I would wear to the royal wedding if they gave me a last minute invite. So I guess, no, I will never be bored.
    Gorgeous nests! And I’m glad Malcolm is free and happy.

  • Sandy

    Ahhh sounds facinating to me!

  • Oh, my, I identify with so much of this. My stuff is all great, too. As you say — none of that crap that hoarders have………..

    I was reading someone’s blog, several years ago. She was working on decluttering, and she said “Even if every single thing I have is *wonderful*, if it is stopping me from being able to create, it has to go.”

    I have been thinking about that ever since, and I am sure she is right (most of my clutter is in the room that ought to be my studio, and would be, if it weren’t full of stuff…), but … it hasn’t made it any easier for me to get rid of my wonderful stuff.

    My friends have told me that there is a tipping point, when you get rid of stuff, where it starts to feel good, but then … an awful lot of people say it feels good to exercise, too, which I have always found to be … well, crap, is what I have found it to be…..

    If exercise were fun, as they claim, everyone would automatically do it. No one would bother to sell it to us.

    Take eating ice cream. That really *is* fun. People try to sell you on eating a particular kind of ice cream, but not on the general principal. If exercise really *were* fun, like eating ice cream, they wouldn’t have to sell it, and the same is true for getting rid of your stuff. If it felt good, it wouldn’t be so hard to do.

    It does feel good to help the animals, but it doesn’t make up for getting rid of your stuff….

    Wishing *I* had cookies right now, or pie….

    The best blueberry pie I ever ate was purchased at a fund-raiser auction. The mayor-at-the-time made it, and she is a dab hand at blueberry pie. Yum.

    Bored? Really? With the internet right there, and photoshop, and all the books in the library? Even “just” with all the books the library owns which happen to live at my house just now? If they’re bored, let them go get rid of their stuff. I bet they’d decide rather quickly that they weren’t bored, after all, and would go bake some cookies. Or a pie…….

  • Jacquelyn

    The Sweet Beet blog out of NYC wanted readers to vote for best blogging award. All it takes is for you to miss a Friday and I get to thinking how much I look forward to those two days a week…it’s the way I start the week and end the week …I read 3 blogs, YOU WIN.
    Hope all is well and you’re not having molehills turn into mountains today.

  • I have been thinking about this post ever since I read it.

    On Boredom — I wasn’t bored before my post-college daughter moved back here (for the nonce), and even less so now, with another thinking individual in the house. Adding her interests to ours has enlivened the mix.

    We went on a road trip last weekend, and listened to podcasts (on her ipod, plugged into the car’s audio system) from the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects. I had no idea there even was such a program. What a great concept. And the episodes were very interesting. Bored? I don’t get it……..

    Also thinking about your opening “I don’t write fiction.”

    Me, neither. I have no … stories.

    Wondering, now, how often it is the case that people who write fiction are the ones who get bored if they don’t………..

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