Going Back to Suspicious Country

I took this blog down for a time. I wanted in part to let Nina’s memoir, The Bright Hour, stand on its own, without this as precursor. Nina used her material from this blog in the book, of course, but she edited, restructured, altered, and otherwise transformed it, and I didn’t feel quite right having a parallel text out there to square with the final product. But then I thought: this was the starting place. This is where the wheels got turning that ultimately led to her writing the book—turning a few dozen pages of blog posts into over three hundred pages of memoir in about four months’ time, all while dying of cancer.

Nina finished The Bright Hour only about six weeks before she died, just over four months ago. I feel like I’ve lived four years since then. But at the same time, just two weeks before she died, back in early February, we were on a trip to Turks & Caicos together—our last vacation—touring the island on a Vespa. It’s like laying next to a quickly moving stream. So close, so quickly gone, all at once. She’s obviously started to recede from my everyday life, the way people do when they are gone. But in many ways I feel her immanence too. In pictures, in things my kids say or remember, and of course every time I open her book I feel a connectedness that reminds me our life together is not so impossibly far in the distance behind me. I love when I get a message from someone who’s read The Bright Hour. In part I love it because it’s like a sympathy card—a gesture of pure kindness. But I also love it because most of those people have just “met” Nina for the first time! It’s like a little renewal, a small recursive going back and touching on her while my life without her still moves forward. And it is one of many things about Nina’s book project that aids in my grieving and memory of her.

So I’ve decided to pop my head back into Suspicious Country. I made the blog public again and I wanted to post this here to say: please enjoy her book, her blog, and all her writing, and feel free to comment or send messages as you’re moved to do. Those of us Nina left behind appreciate tremendously all your kind thoughts, remembrances, celebrations, and discussions of her life and work.

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10 thoughts on “Going Back to Suspicious Country

  1. When I discovered Nina’s incredible voice last year in her Modern Love column, I fell completely in love. I’m sure you know better than anyone how easy that could be. I read and re-read this blog in the months after, devouring every word I could get. Her writing has touched me more profoundly than any author has in many years.

    Thank you for sharing her with all of us. Continuing to send thoughts of peace and healing to you and your family.

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  2. Thank you for allowing us to access this blog. i just finished reading The Bright Hour and am (literally) not ready to close the book. I’m not ready to let go of her and look forward to reading all of her posts (and John’s too). I’m heartened to know people like Nina exist in this world. She makes me want to be a better person.

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  3. Thank you for keeping Nina’s blog up. I just finished The Bright Hour, but I’m not ready too let go. Looking through the blog is a gift and I am grateful.

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  4. I just finished reading her book, and I’m crying as I write this. When I saw the photo of her at the very end (of the e-book), I was not at all surprised to find a picture of someone with such a warm smile and friendly face. Her book is beautifully written. She must have been a treasure to have in yours and your sons’ lives.

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  5. Hey, I’m so glad you put this blog back up. I found out about Nina in the strangest of ways: through a emailed UNCG alumni newsletter I received yesterday. I wasn’t sure about reading the book. It’s hard for me to power through pages like I used to. I’ve been on opioids 24/7 for almost 6 years. It slows me down, during a period in my life when I’m trying to hurry up. I read reviews on GoodReads this morning. I’ll never stop being shocked by how many OTHER people have Stage IV cancer. Then I found the blog. Maybe I’ll read the book, maybe I won’t. I wish I had known Nina when she was here. Our lives had so many parallels, I wonder why our paths didn’t cross. I’m grateful for her voice, grateful that someone with such insight was willing to share her private moments when time’s winged chariot was hurrying near. Sometimes a person’s beautiful mortality is what makes them immortal.

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    1. Read the book! It’s got some sad, obviously, but it’s not a hard book to read. Way more beautiful and funny than sad. If you find it anything but beautiful, hilarious, and true I’ll pay for your copy. 🙂

      XOJD

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  6. I just finished the Brightest Hour or as you put it I just met Nina for the first time. She is lovely. So lovely. It was truly an honor to get to know her. I didn’t want the book to end. Her writing is beautiful.

    I read your piece on A Cup of Jo and I think of you and your father in law often. I cannot imagine the pain you have both been through. Although I do not know you… I send you light and love all the time.

    Your wife’s words and your’s as well will stay with me always.

    Wishing you and your boys only the best all the way from California.

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  7. Thank you for making the blog public. I loved Nina’s book and wanted to read more of her writing. She was a beautiful person, and so generous with her story. I am sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine how much you miss her.

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  8. What a beautiful legacy that Nina left us with her words in The Bright Hour. My heart aches for you, her dad, and most especially your boys. Nina’s book read like a love story to your boys and clearly they were her proudest accomplishment.
    My mom passed away when I was young and while the loss is heavy and never ending, the love shown to us while she was living has sustained me for over 20 years without her. The love that jumps out of the pages for Freddy and Benny which I am sure is a small fraction of the love they have running through their veins, will never leave them. We are missing Nina alongside you. What a loss. What a legacy.

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  9. Not sure how else to get in touch with you but I’m the person who awkwardly introduced myself at the local dive bar this past Saturday…and then squeezed myself into your conversation with L. Sorry about the intrusion but meeting you both in an unexpected place was a serendipitous moment. I’ve loaned Nina’s book to everyone I know because she was such an amazing and talented writer, and she maintained her sense of humor and zest for life all the way to the end. I wish I could have had the gift of knowing her in life. Thank you for letting me share my own story Saturday evening and for keeping Nina’s blog going strong…

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