It’s August, 2020. Armageddon is upon us. I know I wrote a mocking piece about the Rapture a while back, but honestly, this is feeling like the real thing. Fires, plague, comets, insect swarms, Donald Trump … sh*t’s getting real. I’m sorry I mocked it, okay? Stop already.
For months, I have not been able to focus, much less write anything. I finally read some books a few weeks back, and it was nice. Then it stalled again. Sometimes I get out my yoga mat. I go running. Lately I’ve been juggling between compulsively doomscrolling, worrying about my blood pressure (it’s a risk factor!), trying to get my exercise and diet sorted out once and for all, and binge watching sappy TV shows. Last night I decided enough was enough.
I better write something on the blog right now before I completely lose track of who I am and/or die of COVID-19.
I know. Pretty heady stuff.
For the past two years – at least – I have been meaning to write about Marion, life partner and professional sidekick of the famed architect Walter Burley Griffin, designer of Canberra and co-arch-nemesis of celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Ever since we bought our
house piece of Irreplaceable Australian Architectural Heritage, the story of these two and their dramatic/tragic Australian adventure has fascinated and obsessed me. And because I, too, am an American on an Australian adventure, I felt as if I was fated to find this house, to run headlong into their story, and tell the parts that still need telling. It is my purpose!
The problem was that I didn’t know how. Should I write a book? Maybe a biography of Marion? It would be timely, what with the Me Too movement. Marion was arguably the smarter and more talented partner in the couple, and she has been routinely dismissed and belittled by the architectural history cabal. Problem is, there’s a lot of missing information. Plus, someone already did one and it wasn’t very good. My impostor syndrome — no PhD in history or feminism, no expertise or even broad appreciation of architecture — was also a major problem. I’m not even a design buff! Who am I to write a Feminist biography of a famous architect? I’m a blogger, which means that I have zero — correction, less than zero — cred in any circles that count, be they history, architecture, feminism or publishing. Writer’s block is a walk in the park compared to what I felt when I thought about the biography project.
Okay, then, why not turn it into historical fiction? I could follow the current fiction-writing formula: write like it’s going to be made into a movie. It would be a page-turner, for sure, because they had some crayzee times here Down Under. But every time I started down that path I was blocked. I couldn’t do it. Maybe I’m superstitious, but I just know, deep down, that Marion doesn’t want me to make up stuff about her life or put words into her mouth. I respect her too much to do that.
So, faced with the impossibility of either penning a boring biography or a falsified fictional account, I did the only rational thing: nothing. Whenever people asked me the inevitable question “So what do you do?” I lied and told them I was working on a book about Marion. I felt like a fraud. But maybe it wasn’t a lie. Maybe I have been working. Maybe it’s just that my wheels, such as they are, turn excruciatingly slowly. I have done a ton of reading about Marion and Walter. I had her 1400 page memoir printed out so I could make notes on it. I have been thinking. I eat a lot of dark chocolate. The ways of inspiration are a mystery to the best of us.
And so it was that last night, after watching the very last episode of season 13 of Heartland and contemplating my unlikely future as a horse whisperer, it came to me: You can write about Marion. Just write it like you write everything else. Tell it like it comes to you, what impression it makes upon you, how it connects with everything else that’s going on in the world. Put it in the blog. What happens with it after that is another story, one that’s not important right now. Especially since you’re probably going to die of COVID-19 soon anyway.
So here goes nothing, folks. Welcome to the Marion Chronicles.