Crossing the Disraeli

It wasn’t exactly the Rubicon, but crossing the Disraeli Bridge last winter on my first day back to work after a year and a half away seemed momentous. It was a very cold morning and everything was slow, the car crawling through exhaust and spumes of smoke spilling out of chimneys like foam, and there ahead of me, our small city’s small cluster of high-rise towers. One of those dark, tense mornings, the roads clogged and everyone cautious, and enough time to “feel” the progress of dawn, from deep blue to milky blue sky, trees thick with their bare branches against it.

I was exhilarated that morning in spite of the traffic — about being alive, and warm in the car, and thinking how much I love this city and listening to songs nominated for a playlist of 49 best Canadian songs to present to incoming president Barack Obama (K.D. Lang’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Alleluia,” for example, and Ian and Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds,” and a song by Blue Rodeo). And yes, going back to work after retiring once, now that I’d decided I’d do it. “It’s only a year,” a friend reminded me. 

Winnipeg sits on land as flat as a chopping block, but the Disraeli rises to cross the Red River, and marks the “hilly” spot for me where I can see downtown and remember my city-love. This year, it was also a kind of halfway marker from our house in North Kildonan to the offices of the MB Herald. 

Driving back at day’s end the bridge was a marker homeward, and had I been in some horse-drawn conveyance, I suppose that’s where the reins would drop and Black Beauty would know the way alone, and probably pick up the pace to boot. 

Now, re-retired, it’s a true crossing back. Then: editor; now: writer. And no matter what Madam Editor said in her last post about writers still being needed, on this side of the Disraeli, wariness over editors returns. Will they want it? Like it? Change it? 

We definitely need each other, editors and writers do, but the priorities are different and there may be a power struggle, or nervousness at least, until you know one another well. I’ve had mostly good experiences, but there was that story that came to me in its published form with its verb tenses changed, and that experience of re-reading something of mine in print and thinking, my lands, I must have been asleep, that doesn’t sound like me, only to discover it wasn’t me but the editor. On the basis of such few and flimsy episodes I’ve become one of those writers who drives editors crazy, insisting she has to see the revisions (please). Most good editors, if they do anything substantive, show them anyway. Then again, what’s the definition of substantive? (Naturally, you do want the errors and foolishness caught.)

But before I engage in too much writerly insecurity, I’m taking a rest — to read and catch up on housework (and blog of course). I was already complaining to some writer friends that the inspiration to work at my (interrupted) short stories appears to be absent. The same friend whose advice helped me above, had some for this side of the Disraeli. “Of course the inspiration isn’t there yet,” she said. “That comes AFTER the rest.”