The big dipper looks bigger in my backyard tonight than it did last night outside our camper in eastern Oregon. It’s not that a hundred miles makes a difference, it’s the amount of sky in view. There, the sky is huge, the milky way is vibrant and we can see satellites tracking across their path. Here, there are tall trees that limit the view so the big dipper is all I see over the rooftop.
My writing exercise this week has been about limiting the view and turning an overload of information into a few focused pages where each sentence is bright and stellar. This was a good exercise for me as yesterday I again tried to distill a rambling 45 minute characterization-by-the-stars workshop into a coherent 1,500 word article. I’m about halfway there and gaining confidence.
The other stars in my view this week are from My Journey with Farrah by Alana Stewart. It’s a chatty diary style book and the horrors of Farrah’s surgeries and procedures are brushed passed in the first half of the book as random information, like how many times Farrah vomited in x-many hours. So if you are interested in reading this book but afraid of it being too brutal, no worries. Alana mostly muses on thirty years of recurring parties and events between two blond girls from Texas who are really into down home cooking. Even with a roster list of big Hollywood names peppering the pages and parties, there’s little fodder for movie star fans to get an insider view of that world. Instead, most of the journal entries take place in Germany.
Even as breezy, depressing, and subtle as the story of Farrah’s primary caretaker seems, I was engaged in watching Alana change and grow while Farrah slowly died. I have not seen the documentary they were working on during that time, nor was that Alana’s reason for being intimately involved with Farrah’s care. Instead the flavor of the journal was for these two soul-sisters to have a clear record of a horrible time with a focus on Alana’s side of the story. They probably both expected a success story where Farrah could lament that while she endured these horrible things, Alana was off having a passionate affair with a delicious German chef.
I think that aspect of Alana’s journey is what shows an honesty few will admit as a normal reaffirmation-of-life response by a healthy person, intimately entwined in the shadow of illness and death. There are few stories that highlight the caretaker role in life altered events, and while it wasn’t Alana’s intent to do so, that is what she created with this memoir. All she really wanted to do was be there for a friend she dearly loved. And she was.
The caretaker story is often overlooked because the focus is primarily on the victim. But life is short, and personal growth through love and compassion for others is a really big deal to experience and almost impossible to explain. So the more I think about this nicely written book, the more I appreciate the time I took to read it. Regardless of her fame, or if she’s got a star on the boulevard, Alana’s shining bright in my mind tonight.