14 July 2009


Dear Nancy,

Thank you for writing, for slogging along, for saying out what's within. Thank you for choosing life, time and again. Thank you for modeling so strong a response to what it is to be seen as different/outcast/less-than. Thank you for writing about loss, its lessons, contours and ordinariness, Thank you for your candor and courage in evaluating yourself and your motives. That’s worth saying again: thank you for modeling honesty and bravery; thank you for your candor and courage.

Thank you for questioning, for not pretending to have the answers. Thank you for lifting the lens of feminism, for allowing me to look through it with you at the world, our society, my motives. Thank you for thoughtful reflections, wry humor, truth-telling.

Thank you for offering hope.

I have read all your books save the most recent one, and that one I ordered today. Finding “On Being a Cripple” in an anthology of essays led me to ferret out your books at our local university library. I read Plaintext, Ordinary Time, In All the Rooms of the Yellow House, then before I finished Remembering the Bone House, I had to return the lot. I was hooked. I ordered a copy of each, paycheck by paycheck. By now I’ve also read and wept and laughed and cheered and underlined my way through Voice Lessons and Carnal Acts and A Troubled Guest and Waist-High in the World.

You show me myself. This dumfounds me. I am not a woman, a wife, a mother. I am not a cripple. I am no Catholic. Yet you lead me into the plain, ordinary, bone yellow house of myself. It stinks. It smells beautiful. It leaves a metallic tang on my tongue. You open one chamber after another, invite me to peer inside. This room reeks of growing up, that one of being different, discounted, discarded. This one smells of sex, cum and desire; that one carries a whiff of wholeness, of bodymindspirit. And here—oh compelling fragrance!—indignation, independence, inseeing.

Am I looking at you? At me? At me through you? You lead me to realize—no, to real-ize, to real eyes. You help me see what’s around and inside me. What you write, what I read rings true. You do not candy coat your experiences, opinions, evaluations. You look long and hard at life, at self, at society. You are candid about the pain involved in all of these endeavors. Yet you come down on the side of hope, of life, of joy. When my journey lands me in similar places I find you already there, already exploring the territory, explaining what you’ve heard, seen, smelled, tasted, touched.

Your writing inspires, instructs, encourages, equips. Your writing resonates, reverberates, reassures. In reading you I better know myself; I lean more deeply into my own losses and my responses to them. I am reaffirmed in my daily decisions to choose life.

Thank you for your acts of creation and co-creation. I remain

Gratefully yours,

Bryn Marlow

Nancy Mairs:

In All the Rooms of the Yellow House (1984)
Plaintext (1986)
Remembering the Bonehouse (1989)
Carnal Acts (1990)
Ordinary Time (1993)
Voice Lessons (1994)
Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled (1996)
A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories (2001)
Essays Out Loud: On Having Adventures & A Necessary End (CD) (2004)
A Dynamic God: Living an Unconventional Catholic Faith (2007)

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