Thursday, December 17, 2009

Around the Table

I have been a member of my Boulder writing group for seventeen years, ever since I moved to Colorado in 1992 to begin my job teaching in the philosophy department at CU. Last night we had our annual holiday dinner, at Annie's house. When I joined, the group had eight members; I was the eighth. Over the years three have left the group - one retired from writing, one decided to express her creativity in other ways, and one has developed a different writing process that doesn't involve soliciting biweekly critiques of her work. But we reunite each year for the holiday dinner.

First we watch Annie cook the main dish for the dinner (the rest of us bring salad, dessert, appetizers, wine). By our request, she makes the same thing every year: an incredibly delicious stir-fry that is the single most tasty thing I have ever eaten. She cooks it right in front of us, which makes us think that maybe we could try to copy what she does and make it at home, and it would be equally delicious, but the truth is that we can't. Only Annie can make it.

Then we gather at Annie's beautiful table, with her golden reindeer candle-holders leading the way across her red tablecloth, and the red napkins in the Santa napkin rings. And we hold hands around the table. We have different religious faiths, but we thank God/the universe/each other that we are together once again. We have shared so many of each others' stories, published and unpublished, written and unwritten. It's a powerful way to forge a friendship, through the sharing of stories: it takes such vulnerability and openness on the part of the writer, and such responsibility and sensitivity on part of the reader. Some of our stories have been better than others; some of our critiques have hit the mark and made the manuscript stronger; others have not. But through the years, we have done our best.

And last night, we came together again, to hold hands around Annie's table.

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