Robert Hill was my second close friend to pass away in a very short period of time, and I've been looking through my old journals for stories I wrote down about both of them. I compiled a bit of a post with excerpts for each of them, and this one is for Robert—a sadly inadequate and incomplete collection as my journaling is scant at times, especially in these later years full of projects and not enough time. But I'm thankful for the memories I did write down, and I thought I'd share for anyone who's missing him.
This was a writing retreat the Henry Writers took together, and Robert used the time to work on a story he was writing for the book Stephen and I were producing, The Untold Gaze.
Monday, October 20, 2014, 4:05 PM—Lovely day-long writing retreat at the Tiny House. It was Liz, Kathleen, Robert, Sara and I, and the house was lovely. I spent most of the writing time up in the loft bedroom, which was so low you had to crawl across the floor to get to the bed, and the roof was a steep slant over your head. It felt cozy sitting on the bed with pillows and a window at my back. Sounds of frogs through that window. And geese. Geese were flying over constantly. At one point, I sort of stretched and craned my neck back and upside-down saw so many geese fly across the sky. Lovely sounds to write by. That and the occasional giggling of Robert just about directly below me in the great room. Giggling to himself about the piece he was writing for Stephen’s book. In the end he told me he was a little over the limit. “You wanted 600 words, right? Mine’s…” squinty-eyed face, “eleven hundred.”
Friday, March 18, 2016, 10:24 AM—Well, Robert’s launch was a lovely night. Looks like there were at least 75 people. The party at Liz’ beforehand was very nice. Stephen and I met Wes at the call box, and that was a lovely surprise. There were maybe 25 people at the party, and then Group had the front row for the reading, which I think was nice. Stephen and me, Kathleen, Steve, Liz, Dian, Sara (Margaret was out sick but just found out she was one of the runners up for the PEN, which is amazing), Laura, of course, Norm. Stevan Allred. Brad came, which was nice. Jamie, sitting alone in back. Liz was the intro, which was fabulous, and Robert gave a lovely tribute to Tom, which I told him about in my letter. Robert had flowers and/or presents for folks he was thanking, and mine… I sat on the floor and opened it with Kathleen and Steve and inside… so clever. First I unwrapped what looked like crackers and I thought, OK, where’s the cheese. It wasn’t until I finished going through it that it occurred to me, and I said to Kathleen, no, this is just like in the book! Tea and saltines! He gave me two tea cups and saucers, tea and saltines. And a sprig of apple blossoms which—he searched for… what is it in the book… cherry blossoms? But this was a good substitute. He really had the crowd laughing as he read. Stevan likened it to Shakespeare, how at first, you’re a little lost in the language and then you click into it and it becomes this understood, beautiful language you ride, and I think it’s true—the laughter just built.
Wed, May 12, 2021 at 12:08 PM—I had Henry group, which was just Liz, Robert, Steve and me as Kathleen, who was supposed to join us at the beginning and then the end, couldn't get back on at the end. I only saw her for a moment as she was getting off (I was a little late because of the poor mouse). Robert read the end of his book, which was amazing, and Liz read the beginning of a new project. So it felt like a momentous meeting. We talked and talked about just the last few lines of Robert's book, and it felt like a privilege to do so.
Bugs are buzzing, an owl is hooting, in the distance several dogs are engaged in an a cappella argument.
I have barely had any clarity to work on STUCK. Maybe 4 pages in the past 3 weeks? Ugh. But... I am looking forward to devoting a church of outdoor time today to diving into your book because it's so charming. And so you. And so therefore attention must be paid! Wait... Willy? Is that you? Are you home from Albany? The boys have a bone to pick with you! What? Lunch with the mayor of Providence? How... special. I made meatloaf for dinner. Digestion must be made.