Point of Departure 2: The best autobiographies create a sense of rhythm. A reader feels the pulse of a life being lived as the author moves from describing how incidents played out up-close, moment by moment, to then sweeping out to encapsulate how events unfolded over a period of weeks or months. Describe such a phase–up to a year out of your life–and tell the thoughts and feelings you had as it progressed.
Etsu Sugimoto introduces a phase in her life as follows:
My first year in America was a puzzling, hurried push from one partially comprehended thought to another. Nevertheless it was a happy year. No Japanese bride is ever homesick. She has known from babyhood that fate has another home waiting for her, and that there her destiny is to be fulfilled. Every girl accepts this in the same matter-of-course way that she accepts going to school. In marriage, she does not expect happiness without hardship any more than she expects school to be a playground with no study.
So I drifted on from week to week, occasionally having to remind myself that, even in America, the “eyelids of a samurai know not moisture,” but, on the whole, finding the days full of new and pleasing experiences. I soon learned to like everything about my home, although, at first, the curtained windows, the heavy, dark furniture, the large pictures and the carpeted floors seemed to hem me in.
But I revelled in our wide porches and the broad lawn which swept in a graceful slope, between curving paths, down to the low stone wall. The battlemented top was like an elongated castle turret, and the big stone posts of the iron gates, half hidden from the porch by tall evergreens, seemed to me to have a protecting air. Then there was one big, crooked pine and an icho tree, standing side by side, which when the moon was just right, made a perfect picture of an old Japanese poem:
“Between bent branches, a silver sickle swings aloft in youthful incompleteness, unknowing of its coming day of glory.”
Oh, I did love all the outdoors of that home, from the very first moment that I saw it!
Mary Seacole, in her chapter titled “My Work in the Crimea,” takes a novel approach to summing up her roles as “doctress, nurse, and ‘mother’.” during the “Crimean War” phase of her life:
I hope the reader will give me credit for the assertion that I am about to make, viz., that I enter upon the particulars of this chapter with great reluctance; but I cannot omit them, for the simple reason that they strengthen my one and only claim to interest the public, viz., my services to the brave British army in the Crimea. But, fortunately, I can follow a course which will not only render it unnecessary for me to sound my own trumpet, but will be more satisfactory to the reader. I can put on record the written opinions of those who had ample means of judging and ascertaining how I fulfilled the great object which I had in view in leaving England for the Crimea; and before I do so, I must solicit my readers’ attention to the position I held in the camp as doctress, nurse, and “mother.” …
The “written opinions” Seacole documents are a string of appreciative letters from soldiers who commend her healing work over the course of a year in the Crimean Peninsula. Rather than “sound [her] own trumpet,” Seacole humbly leaves it to them to describe this valorous time in her life.