Boston belongs to school kids everywhere. When we were young, at R. J. Vance Elementary in New Britain, Connecticut, we could count on two annual field trips: one to the Boston Freedom Trail, the other to the Boston Museum of Science. At the museum we saw chicks hatching in incubators, fuzzy new life, and Foucault’s Pendulum, proving that the earth is not stationary but in constant rotation. The Freedom Trail took us from Boston Common past historic sites including—this sticks in my mind—the Granary Burying Ground with Mother Goose’s grave. Although I’ve never lived in Boston, yesterday’s bombing felt personal. I think it did to everyone. The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s great sporting events. I can picture the finish line and feel the emotions of joy, exhilaration, exhaustion—people cheering their loved ones on, eight-year old Martin Richard of Dorchester waiting, watching for his dad to run past. The cruelest bomb, if there is such a thing, placed in a location of celebration and victory, is designed for maximum injury, destruction, and trauma. News cameras showed slashed bodies and pools of blood. Graphic, visceral images I can’t get out of my mind. And that place: that familiar stretch of Boylston Street, so near the Boston Public Library, where I spent hours researching and writing a never-published first book that I walked across the Common to hand-deliver to a publisher on Park Street. 951 Boylston Street once housed the Institute of Contemporary Art, where one literary evening I saw Tobias Wolff introduce Mary Robison, and she stood at the podium reading new work and drinking a beer, and the moment is emblazoned in my memory--a great and raucous gathering to celebrate a new collection of short stories. My parents spent their wedding night at the Copley Plaza Hotel—many parents did, many friends did. My niece won a poetry prize at Regis College, and we held a celebratory dinner at a restaurant on Boylston Street. Our family sat around a big table with friends and young poets, and afterwards, in cold spring snow, we walked outside, right past the spot where yesterday the bombs went off. There are moments in life you’ll always remember: where were you when you heard? Equally there are places in life that will gain new meaning after a tragedy—we were right there, we walked down that very street. This is human, a drawing together, touching the spot where others suffered, connecting through our hearts. Right now I’m in California. The sky is bright blue. The breeze blows off the Pacific, not the Atlantic. But my heart is in New England. I can see the spring trees just starting to bud, can imagine sunlight reflecting on the McKim Building of the Boston Public Library. I can picture the yellow and red sandstone campanile of New Old South Church—shown so prominently in the news photos—towering over Boylston Street. A good friend works at Massachusetts General Hospital, helping trauma victims, and I know that and other hospitals are flooded with those needing help. I’m far away, but I’m also right there, my heart and thoughts. So many of us are. Love to you, Boston.
The Silver Boat comes out on April 5, in just a few days, and this is a busy, exciting time.
I've had pleasure of giving interviews for radio, print, and blogs, talking to many wonderful people about writing, sisters, inspiration, family secrets, and Martha's Vineyard...the novel's setting. After the solitude of writing The Silver Boat, it feels so good to share the story. Here's a Q+A I did with Pat Grandjean of Connecticut Magazine.
Travel plans are shaping up--my first book tour in a few years. I'm so looking forward to visiting bookstores and libraries, and to meeting as many of you as possible...
My kick-off event will be 3/8, R J Julia in Madison CT,(shown in the drawing above) followed by 3/11 Barnes & Noble, Upper East Side, NYC. (I haven't read in NY in ages--I hope you'll come out to see me!) I'll update with other dates/stops as well.
St. Joseph College, West Hartford CT I know for sure that Miss Laurette Laramie (my high school history teacher, mentor, and great friend,) had a LOT to do with my receiving this amazing honor. Laurette graduated from St. Joe's, as did my mother, Lucille Arrigan Rice. My mother always said she could never have received a better education anywhere, and that St. Joe's gave her strength and belief in herself, and the knowledge that she could make of her life anything she wished. She chose art, literature, motherhood, and teaching.
Laurette taught me history, but even more, she taught compassion--for ourselves and for everyone on the planet. She encouraged awareness and consciousness, and a sense of our own abilities to make a difference. In her class at St. Thomas Aquinas we read the daily New York Times, opening our world view; during the holidays we paid special attention to the Neediest Cases stories, entering the lives of families affected by hunger, poverty, illness, and in reading about them, care about them and find a way to help.
I know how Laurette feels about St. Joseph College--she loves it. She is a vibrant scholar and activist--in this case her activism included so kindly and lovingly weaving, unknown to me, the scenario that makes possible this wonderful gift--an honorary degree from the college that shaped her life.
I'm grateful to St. Joseph College, President Pamela Trotman Reid, PhD. and Sister Patricia Rooney, as well as to Laurette Laramie, the late Kathleen Stingle, and my mother, wonderful St. Joe's grads who've influenced me so much.
I do have my own, private St. Joe's moment. When I was little, my mother would take us on frequent visits to the campus, to visit her former professors, Sisters of Mercy. I must have been about 5. We were in the Grotto, an ivy-covered secret garden, and I found a blue button. Remind me to tell you the story sometime. It involves a vision of the Virgin Mary.