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Saturday, November 12, 2011

About Elaine

This is the first of a series of posts about my friend, Elaine Hughes.  She had a profound effect on me becoming a writer.  Because it is a long story, I am breaking it up into several posts.  I hope you enjoy reading about this incredible woman.

In the summer of 1994, when Clint and I were on the first leg of our car trip across The Lower 48, we stopped for a couple of days in his hometown, Vicksburg, Mississippi.  It was there that I finally met Elaine Hughes, Clint’s friend from high school.  For 20 years, I heard about Elaine, but she lived in Manhattan, had an apartment in New Orleans and was never home when we visited Vicksburg.
Over the years, I heard of Elaine’s free spirit and her passion for life and her incredible capacity to love.  She was a teacher of writing at Nassau Community College on Long Island, New York, and the author of Writing from the Inner Self.  She also co-authored several textbooks with Jay Silverman and Diana Roberts Wienbroer.  My dedicated copy of Writing from the Inner Self is one of my most treasured possessions.
Clint and I had been married for 20 years, and in all of those years, Elaine was one of only two of his ex-wife’s friends who were open to me and accepting of me as the person I am.  When we met, she reached up and gave me a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek, saying, “I am so glad you and Clint found one another.”
Reached up?  At 5’3”, I towered over her tiny 4’10” frame.  Her hair was raven black, her lipstick red and her smile wide and sincere.  She was wearing all black and had a red scarf draped around her, falling in graceful folds.  I was immediately infused with her caring, her positive energy.  I think we fell in love at that minute.
During our two days in Vicksburg, Elaine accompanied us to lunch one day, and the next evening we went to a bar in a local motel where she sang sometimes when she was home.  She was wonderful!  So alive and filled with energy and, yes, she could sing.  
By the time I met her, Elaine had retired from teaching and was spending a great deal of time at the Esalon Institute in Big Sur, California.  She had been living with breast cancer for ten years, following only holistic approaches to control it.  She went to Esalon to search her own inner self for healing and living her best possible life.  
It was during that time in Vicksburg that Elaine brought me be back to writing.  She asked if I kept a journal, and I had to confess that I had abandoned my journal years before, had abandoned my efforts to write poetry and short fiction as well.  Before we left, she went to the store and bought me a journal for our trip, and she gave me my copy of Writing From the Inner Self.
“Write something down every day,” she admonished me,  “even it it’s only the date and your name.  This trip across country is the perfect time for you to re-energize your creative side.  You won’t have your usual distractions.  Writing about the places you go and the people and things you see will serve to activate for your right brain.” 
So, I followed her advice and wrote in my journal every day along our way through the Southwest and up the California coast to Oregon and Washington.  I continued as we returned to Georgia through the corn and wheat fields of the Mid-West and across the Appalachian Mountains. 
That journal read like a travelogue, but at least I was writing.  It was a beginning, and after returning to Georgia, I began to write more about my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams and my sorrows.
Soon after our return, my brother, John, was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  The next spring my granddaughter, Addie was born.  My son, already alcohol and drug dependent, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about the time she was born.
There was plenty to write about.

© 2011 cj Schlottman

To continue to the second part of this series, click here.


Linda @ A La Carte said...

Great story....looking forward to more. b

Sue said...

Really interesting stuff, CJ. I'm excited to read more.


Viki said...

She sounds like a lovely woman. I am totally impressed that she was living with breast cancer for 10 years, wow.

Katie Gates said...

This has me so engaged, cj -- I look forward to the next installment!

Martha Mawson said...

I love reading your blogs. I can picture you so clearly doing what you are doing. Shall have to read the new blog too!

deborahjbarker said...

Hi CJ, It is always good to give a thought to those who have inspired or helped us along the way. Elaine has obviously influenced you greatly and I look forward to reading more...