Before I get to the actual gathering, and my impressions of same, a word about Jene's monumental achievement. A few years back (I believe this was also at Poor Richards), Jene' let slip to me that she was considering a book based on a list of activities that she felt she had missed out on - Wild Oats she had failed to sow when she was younger. Jene' had grown up in a restrictive religious family and had never smoked, drank, - well the list goes on and is in fact the focus of the Project. At the time, I remember, she was somewhat embarrassed by how little she felt she had experienced. She was now married and the mother of three and maybe time was running out. She had a yen to, at long last, taste what should have been, and still might be, defining moments in her life. In the coming months, Jene' revealed that she, and some friends, had put together a list with the purpose of actually sowing, albeit at this late date, these selected Wild Oats.
And then she began to check items off her list.
Get drunk - check.
Smoke marijuana - check.
Watch a porn film - check
Get a tattoo - check in spades. This particular Oat is shown on the cover of the new book. A long spiraling life-line that begins at her toes and winds its way around her body culminating at her neck. A very definite Wild Oat to sow.
If I'm not mistaken, Jene' went out and performed thirty-two activities. Some challenged her preconceptions. Some challenged her life choices, including her religious views. Some challenged her fears. As a group, they proved to be life changing.
Eventually, Jene' and her husband separated. She took on few unusual jobs. If you ever see her, ask her about these. You'll both get a chuckle.
And through it all she wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Last evening she read a selection from that writing, the opening passages from the book that had consumed and in the end transmuted her. She started slow, hesitant, her voice at times halting. As she read, the words seem to take her over. Pages flew after pages and I sat transfixed (which is saying a lot since I had missed dinner and was starving).
I'm not sure how she'll take this, but I was proud of her. Good writing reveals something about the writer, great writing can lay the writer bare. As Jene' Jackson read those I found myself thinking again and again, 'THIS IS SO GOD-DAMNED BRAVE.'
As the night went on Jene' introduced the Wild Oat group, the women who helped her compile and often complete her tasks. Hugs were shared, a few tears, some gifts, a bit of love. In the final moments (my final moments really, I understand the party went on long after I departed) folks were invited to share their own Wild Oat stories. With these ringing in my ears I walked off into the night.