Wreaths or Books

Wreaths or Books 

Mary Lou Sanelli 

First published Summer 2011 


The first thing I saw this morning when I drove out to Fort Worden (in Port Townsend, Washington) was a huge wild rose bush, the biggest I’ve ever seen, last season’s hips still glowing orange, if a little puckered with age. But who isn’t?  


It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Fort, so I stayed there leaning against my steering wheel, looking up at the bush in front of me, thinking how the whole thing was like a scene from my past, when I could strip an entire bush bare of every single bud in minutes in order to turn out the heart-shaped wreaths I sold in a shop on Madison Avenue, ahem, the Madison Avenue, after I read in a magazine about a shop that sold homemade crafts from “all over the country.” 


I sent a photo of my first wreath, back when you still put a photo in an envelope and kissed it before dropping it in the bin, never dreaming the shop would make an order.  


They did. And then they did again. And again. 


I started going out at night so I could creep further into people’s yards, especially the yards around the Fort. For some reason, those bushes were loaded! Maybe because they are farther out, not pruned to townie perfection.  


Anyway, the wreaths were selling like mad and I had to decide, then and there, whether wreaths were my future, so I gave up stealing rosebuds and never looked back. I grasped that this was a life-altering decision of manufacturing product or stories, wreaths or books. (Wreaths pay better, sad fact.) But being a wreath-maker seemed an embarrassing way to describe myself after awhile. I don’t know why.  


The idea of doing both occurred to me. But at the time, I owned a dance studio, was artistic director of a dance company, aside from the poetry I was desperately trying to publish, in the way all poets are desperate for a little, even the tiniest, morsel of acknowledgment. I was tired of sustaining it all. I was no longer up to my entire collection of dreams and aspirations. I had to lay off doing so much and find a refuge in one dream and one dream only! Two at the most. 


I closed my studio. I promptly took a writing residency in Spain, one in France, another in France, one in Costa Rica. I can see now how I was succumbing to a transition from dancing to writing, or of giving writing more weight than dancing, something I hadn’t done before. For twenty years, I tried to weigh them out equally, but dancing was heavier most of the time, requiring more from me, mostly because dance involves so many people, a multitude of egos. 


After letting go, of making it through the passage, I kept dancing, but only for fun. Honestly, who knew it could be fun? little about dancing is fun, really. It’s a lot of other amazing, incredible, competitive, challenging things, and no part of me regrets any of it, but fun is not how Id describe that kind of pressure. Fun is not the point of having fun on stage. Any real fun while performing is too great a luxury. The focus is too intense for fun. The fun you perceive from your seat is an act. Dancers are great actors.  


I’ve been so absorbed writing this, I forgot to notice my word count. I may have gone on too long. I t’s as if I blinked and this page wrote itself.  


That’s how it is sometimes.