Friday, June 15, 2007
Chico writer journeys through loss, to creativity, to play
By DAN BARNETT
About a decade has passed since Chicoan Susan Wooldridge published "poemcrazy," a book about the magic of words that was a longtime offering of the Quality Paperback Book Club. Words still beckon, but times have changed, and now the creative impulse is called to sustain her in the midst of loss, failure, death. In "Foolsgold: Making Something From Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process" ($22 in hardcover from Harmony Books), Wooldridge takes the reader into her sanctuaries: Chico Creek, One-Mile, the Upper Crust Bakery.
"When I started the book," she says in her introduction, "I was grieving the death of my father, the end of my long marriage, and the breakup of a subsequent romance. & I began writing these pages when I decided to make a small collage box each day for a year with what I found on my walks -- often the most ordinary, seemingly worthless bits of nothing. That's when fool's gold became foolsgold for me, a field around us, or state of being, where everything can be transformed by our seeing and creativity.
"Merged into one word, foolsgold describes a paradox, the value in what may seem to be worthless. Foolsgold reminds us to look beyond appearances, even in ourselves. What seems to loom in us most darkly may finally be what brings the most light. Everything can be transmuted by attention, play, love." Wooldridge's maiden name is "Goldsmith."
The book contains almost 50 short meditations on life, loss and creativity. Wooldridge wonders how best to celebrate the life of her Poppa Julien, "the renegade bright-star atheist scientist who fled the Jewish fold. ... Sifting through small pebbles as Chico Creek rushes past, playing with juxtaposition, I feel as if I'm engaged in a kind of primitive and almost unconscious creekside alchemy. I search for a way to contain, classify, make sense. & I suspect this is what Poppa, a geochemist, was up to when he was studying mineral & structures in a high-pressure lab with ominous warnings on the door." Poppa is honored by the family with a telephone Kaddish from cousin Harold -- an embrace of ritual -- and, a year later, a scattering of his ashes in Chicago, the day the author's divorce is final.
The spontaneity of creativity, Wooldridge realizes, must be given form by ritual. The chapters of her book "help me wrestle emotions into shape. Frame them." The community she has built, with her two children and the 30 families where she now lives in Valley Oaks Village, has freed her to dance.
It is enough.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.