Two posts about my family in two days, I know! I actually wrote this several weeks ago when Cara Strickland asked me to contribute a post to her de(tales) series. Writing the post reminded me of how horrible I am at noticing details. I live in my head way too much - in fact, when I first got my driver's license in high school, it was practically worthless because I only knew how to get to two places, school and church. I just never paid attention to much beyond the thoughts in my head.
Over the last few years, though, I've grown increasingly convinced that paying attention is not only essential to good writing, but also a kind of spiritual discipline. I try to cultivate it.
Attention to the physical details and emotional realities of life has always come naturally to my sister, though, and so as I started writing about details for Cara, it turned out that I was writing about my sister. Here's how it begins:
Track One: Just Don’t Want Coffee -Caedmon’s Call (1997)
I never pay attention to the details.
It’s 7:35 when I clatter down the stairs in Doc Martens and no make-up, my hair in one long braid still damp from last night’s shower. I choose an apple and a banana - lunch - and ask if you’re ready.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” you reply, wrinkling your nose. Your details are perfect, as always: your sticky notes color coded, your handwriting regular as a typeface, your mascara evenly applied and your shirt from American Eagle. I roll my eyes and head toward the garage.
You’d prefer almost anything, from the Dixie Chicks to MxPx, but it’s my Camry and my cassette deck, so you’ve had to make peace with my Caedmon’s Call tape. I love the way it begins:
Though I am small, I’ve seen things far beyond these city walls
The land is flat and it rolls for miles
I don’t know much, I know I’ve many places yet to see
I know I’ve been here for a while.
From the acoustic guitar to the whiny vocals, it’s exactly how I feel about high school in the deep south: desperate for a wider world.
You thrive in it, though. At school, you’re Quinn and I’m Daria. You are friends with the cheerleaders and the pretty girls. You all obsess over crushes together and have sleepovers and pass notes in class, and I feel vaguely guilty -- it must be embarrassing for you to have a sister like me, bookish, quietly defiant, misanthropic, feminist. But I just can’t get myself to care about those superficial details.