Driving in the Car with Anna Karenina

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Trying to call up an old memory is like checking my wrist for the time and realizing I haven’t worn a watch in years. I stare blankly, trying to remember what I was looking for, but it’s not there anymore.

Lately, though, I have been awash in words to describe the snippets and fragments of my past.

It started in my car.

I commute at least an hour each workday, a grind that makes me regret the lost time; I’ve been doing it for 20 years, though, so any day now I should start getting used to it.

At least I figured out a way to finally finish Anna Karenina, which I started two years ago for a book club meeting but had to return to the library way before I finished its 800 pages. By getting it on discs (count ‘em, 30!), my terrible commute became a pleasure with time at last to read.

I always read at bedtime, but on most nights I get about six minutes in before my head starts to nod. It’s a blessing to be able to fall asleep so easily, but it sure doesn’t help the carriage wheels turn through the cobblestoned streets of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

The miles roll by while I am listening in the car, and I have more ideas for writing than ever before. Seeing these sentences lingering by the dashboard somehow triggers half-forgotten memories, and they rise up in vivid sentences. It happened with an Ernest Hemingway book, too. The odd thing is that my ideas are completely unrelated to the book being played. I have just as few memories in 19th century Russian drawing rooms as I have hunting on the Green Hill of Africa, but my mind starts writing vignettes from my past.

As the CD spins, I’ll get lost in a daydream and unconsciously compose a few paragraphs about my own life. I’ll rewind the disc to find out what’s happened, but these called-up memories are captured like perfectly pinned butterflies until I have a chance to jot them down.

In my commuting switch to literature, I abandoned the news on NPR, at least for now. I am not as up on the sequester as I would have been, but I have bits of memoir scribbled on my scrap paper and Russian patronymics rolling off my tongue.

(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

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