Not too long ago, while chatting with a particularly ineffective Canon to the Ordinary, the kind of climber that desperately and repeatedly runs for, and fails at, elections to various Bishoprics, I said of a bullying bishop “He would behave better, even in his clear incompetence, if he would, even once, have good sex.” I was told that I needed to speak more honorably about bishops in a patriarchy of power.
I remember my response. I said, simply, “Let them do their worst.” And though they did, and do, I putter away on this little island, making pots, writing, growing flowers, cooking meals, and raising money for people who are elderly, experiencing handicaps, and are caregivers. I have a loving dog and many close friends, My life is as beautiful as I could imagine a human life to be – and as painful as anyone else’s, while less so than many on this planet.
For ten years almost to the day, I have been writing to about 8,000 people (the open-rate) who have, in various ways, registered to read my essays. Weekly, in New Hampshire from Blackwater Bluff, and then six days a week in Denver to defend and arm a congregation I loved and then, in New Mexico and then on Whidbey Island, I wrote and wrote as I moved deeper and deeper away from people, to heal and process a life riddled with CPTSD. I wrote to heal. I wrote to help people, abused by the church, to also begin healing much the way Evelyn Waugh wrote novels to help people to feel less alone under the waning power of the aristocracy and its Edwardian judgementalism. And yet, like Waugh, I am part of the very thing about which I write so disparagingly. To write like that is both exposing and exhausting. It is better simply to let the institutional church die, slowly from financial and attendance-starvation as the last two generations to support it dies alongside her. Really, writing about a hospice patient is somewhat inconsiderate. They should be left to die in peace and we, the rest of us pagans, should not be distracted from the forests, beaches, and mountains – the fresh air – in which we spend time with whatever higher power we can see from our planetary perspective. Life, you see, is really very short. Time should not be wasted on tasks that bore one.
And so, like Trollope, Dickens, and even beach-reading like Ken Follett and Susan Howatch, I am now choosing to follow these and others of my favorite authors, to write a novel in which evil bishops and creepy clergy are only some of the hilarious, delightful and silly cast of characters.
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” said Albert Camus. And so, I plan to spend these next decades departing from short-form essays in favor of a shift to try my hand at a novel. Trusted and respected friends have said that the novel which has been embryonic in my gut for so many years, needs to see the light of day. It may thrive or it may be born sickly and so, die young and tragically, as I had always hoped to. But regardless, one must give new things a try. Give life a chance.
My Saturday mornings are dedicated to writing in the same way my Saturday afternoon and Sundays are dedicated to pottery. In the mornings, I write about a dying church and in the afternoons I make moon jars for human cremains. A Saturday of death can be a buzz-kill on a sunny day on an island in the Salish Sea. I quite like to make things, with my hands – shapes by word and shapes by clay. And given that one has but a few days in a week and a few waking hours in a day, I have decided to give my Saturday mornings to a new novel rather than to the short-form essay. This means that my writing for the next few years will be cloaked, which, as J. K. Rowling and C. S. Lewis have taught me, can be a tremendously effective sleuthing device.
And so, after 745,976 words written in The Daily Sip and related essays, I have decided to end the Daily Sip with this last submission. It is time to give myself a new, fun, and worthy passion.
This novel plays with time, taking place in Montreal, London, Paris, Marrakech, Nairobi, Moscow, Jerusalem, Florence, Rome, Buenos Aires, Denver, and Concord, New Hampshire. It follows one man, who like me, lived in each of those places. It follows a close friend of a 1st-century prophet from the birth of the church in the early second century through to its inevitable collapse in the middle of the 22nd century from its deadly combination of obesity and malnutrition and in a secular society that has walled off it and its elderly followers, for gentle, elegant, quiet, geriatric starvation. Sparkling rings and cocktail gowns but also, that rather noxious smells of decay.
But the church is only one of the novel’s colorful characters, much the way Jabba the Hutt was only one character in the Star Wars stories. Because of its timespan, it will deal with historical fiction but also some social, scientific, and ecclesial futurism. In short, it should be a tremendous bit of fun to write, regardless if it sees the light of a published day. And, perhaps it will, like The Daily Sip, contribute to my own processing of life, love, successes, and failures. For that to be the case, I, as an author, would not be alone.
It has taken me almost a decade and hundreds of jottings in seven pocket notebooks, to feel ready to write this novel, and I hope that the patience and feedback of my many editors and 8,000 or more sustained reading-subscribers over the years, will contribute to a slightly improved writing style. But in the end, I am making this shift for my own joy, towards which I look forward and on the other side of which, I hope you may join me once again as readers. Like the von Trapps, rather too much like the von Trapps, I now sing auf wiedersehen. And like them, I will find, after perhaps a perilous hike or two, a new and even happy life.
Warmly, and with deep gratitude for your reading of my work over this past decade of more than 1,800 “sips’, I thank you. As one friend once said, “The Daily Sip, Charles, is neither.” Oh well. But God, it was fun!
Charles LaFond, and with Kai, and now Sugar
Whidbey Island, 2021
Author’s note: A part of the Daily Sip collection will soon become a day-book of meditations. The essays I most like, will remain on www.thedailysip.org for the time being as a reference archive.