Once upon a time there was a shy little Mennonite girl–well, actually she was twenty-four and not a little girl at all, but because she was young and shy and mostly innocent, she felt like a little girl; and maybe a part of her always will.
Let me start again.
Once upon a time there was a shy little Mennonite girl who met a feisty old Ojibwa woman that changed her life.
And how could a feisty old Ojibwa woman change the young girl’s life, you ask? Well, by changing her mind. By changing the way she viewed herself and others. By growing her up.
The still-sorta-shy-and-still-sorta-small Mennonite woman–which is me, of course–is writing a book about it.
I started writing the book four years ago, when Char was alive and I was supposed to be working on another book, which I have since discarded. And so it goes. But while I was supposed to be adding chapters to the other book, I would sit down and instead write about Char–how that old woman infuriated me, how she melted my heart, how she crept into my soul and turned my vision upside down.
The book is almost finished now. I call our story–my story and Char’s story, the story that is as close to me as breathing–I call it Turtle Heart. I will let you read a few paragraphs from the introduction:
Char is my catalyst, and I am hers. We are different on almost every level, and yet in the middle of us there is a spot where we connect, where we share nerve and muscle and bone like conjoined twins. At that place in our center, our hearts are beating as one.
The connection is a revelation to me.
See, I grew up Mennonite, the kind who wear long dresses and coverings on their heads and believe in staying separate from the world. Insulated my entire young life, I somehow believed Mennonites were not like other people—that we had different emotions, different thought processes, different driving forces. I would never have opened up to someone outside my circles, because I assumed they could not understand me.
But Char needed me, and because she needed me, moment by moment and peg by peg, we built a friendship spanning continents.
Because of her, I came to believe I could write so that anyone could understand me. I came to believe that between myself and any individual, pegs and planks and nails could span the gap. I came to believe that love builds bridges, and that building bridges is the most important calling in the world.
I begin work on the final revision today, or if I don’t get to it today, tomorrow.
I was supposed to begin the final revision a month ago, but the words, once set aside, are difficult to pick up again–there is fear there, and forgetfulness, and more than anything, overwhelming busyness that prevents me from writing, or when I do, keeps my creativity cramped between confining minutes and hours. My first efforts at this final rewrite haven’t produced much.
But I’ll keep trying. I’ll get it eventually.
Pray for me if you think of it. Writing takes strength and courage and perception, and this story means more to me than anything I’ve ever written. I want to get it right.