Oct. 22, 2005

Why You Travel

by Gail Mazur

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Poem: "Why You Travel" by Gail Mazur from Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems. © University of Chicago Press. Reprinted with permission.

Why You Travel

You don't want the children to know how afraid
you are. You want to be sure their hold on life

is steady, sturdy. Were mothers and fathers
always this anxious, holding the ringing

receiver close to the ear: Why don't they answer;
where could they be? There's a conspiracy

to protect the young, so they'll be fearless,
it's why you travel—it's a way of trying

to let go, of lying. You don't sit
in a stiff chair and worry, you keep moving.

Postcards from the Alamo, the Alhambra.
Photos of you in Barcelona, Gaudi's park

Swirling behind you. There you are in the Garden
of the master of the Fishing Nets, one red

tree against a white wall, koi swarming
over each other in the thick demoralized pond.

You, fainting at the Buddhist caves.
Climbing with thousands on the Great Wall,

Wearing a straw cap, a backpack, a year
before the students at Tiananmen Square.

Having the time of your life, blistered and smiling.
The acid of your fear could eat the world.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the novelist Doris Lessing, born in Kermanshah, Persia, which is now Iran (1919). Her father was a captain in the British army. Her mother was a nurse.

She grew up in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and then moved to South Africa. She supported herself working in a dress shop writing advertising, where she started to read Virginia Woolf, Proust, and D.H. Lawrence, and she began to write. She emigrated to England after World War II.

Doris Lessing said, "I was a communist for some years from which I learned a great deal, chiefly about the nature of political power, how groups of people operate, I think, according to specific but little-understood laws and the force of self-delusion. I am still leftwing in politics, though pessimistic about the human condition and more interested in philosophy and religion than I expected to be. Yeats said that a writer must work a way inwards, into self-knowledge. I am always surprised at what I find in myself and this to me is the most rewarding part of being a writer."

Doris Lessing is best known for her novel The Golden Notebook (1962) and her most recent book The Sweetest Dream.

It's the birthday of the true crime writer Ann Rule, born in Lowell, Michigan (1935). By the time she was eight, she had decided to become a police officer. She joined the police force in Seattle and then had to quit, though she loved her job, because her eyesight was deteriorating. So she began to write about crime.

About that time she volunteered at a suicide hotline center and met another volunteer named Ted Bundy. They often worked alone together until 3:00 in the morning. She said, "He was one of those rare people who listened with full attention."

In 1975, she signed a book contract to write about a series of unsolved murders in Seattle. And while she was writing it, she learned that the main suspect was Ted Bundy, the man she had found so charming.

He eventually was arrested for the murders of more than 30 women in five states. Bundy was loved by nearly everyone who knew him. By the time he was arrested, he had become chairman of the Seattle Crime Prevention Council. Ann Rule did research into Bundy's background and found that most of his victims had resembled his ex-fiancé.

She spent about three months writing her book. It came out in 1980, The Stranger Beside Me, one of the bestselling true crime books ever written.

It's the birthday of the Russian novelist Ivan Bunin, born near Voronezh, Russia (1870). He's the author of acclaimed novels about life in the Russian countryside, The Village and Dry Valley in 1911.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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