Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pearl Diving

Today, for me, was a frustrating day.

For the past week, rather than toiling away at Ward 6 Review any number of poems, or the novel I've long been promising myself I'll finish drafting someday, I've been spending stolen moments at a nearby restaurant—typically two or three hours just after lunchtime—to pound a few haphazard paragraphs toward a collection of short stories. Until today, the time has been stunningly productive. With no dogs to fret over, no chores staring at me, no television masking the silence I seem to fear each day, and no Internet to peruse, I've managed first drafts of a handful of interesting stories.

Alas, today, I got off to a late start, uncertain which of a number of half-finished drafts I'd tackle. I spent several minutes working with a list, a few minutes staring at a seemingly worthless free-writing exercise where my mind wandered to places that could be only be of interest to an intellectually challenged actuary, and a few minutes trying to take stock of where that aforementioned collection stood (123 pages of double-spaced prose, much of it in need of fairly serious reworking). Of course, such work is worthwhile. We all need time to mark our surroundings before treading too deeply into a dark wood. We all have those lulls in imagination where ideas that once seemed to bloom so frequently that many would rot before they could be properly plucked are nothing more than the sound of a rake scraping the dust-dry earth. Alas, I wanted a story for the day.

Eventually, I did manage to eek out the first few paragraphs of a story, but the narrative—from voice, to setting, to plot—was more forced than a Rush Limbaugh smile would be at the Democratic National Convention.

Perhaps I let such minor failures bother me perhaps too much. But that perpetual annoyance drives me. Now, as it nears 11 at night, my wife is sleeping on one of our sofas. Dixie is curled beneath a blanket, propping her head on Michelle’s leg. Archie, after fighting sleep briefly like an infant, has clambered under the comforter to my left to sleep. The television, at long last, is quiet. The heater shudders and thumps to life. Warm air blows through the vents. In the distance, I can just hear the sound of the washing machine churning a quick load of laundry with filmy soap. Here, at last, is quietude. My mind, at last, feels at ease. I feel, for the moment as though I could write absolutely anything, and you would believe me. I feel, if only for the moment, as though I could dive into the deepest crevices of my imagination, those fetid places reeking with the mildew and mold of shame or regret, chip away at the cracking surfaces and come forth, breathless, with something tiny, glittering, a jewel of sorts—just for you. Perhaps, in a few minutes, I'll step outside into the heavy wind, feel it rush against my face, letting my back tense and uncoil with shivers. Perhaps I’ll gaze out at the hillside where our house rests, studying the sameness of the crested roofs, imagining one or another lifted to the Black Forest, as if for one of Grimm's tales. Perhaps, I'll simply flick on the TV and laugh.

I'm not sure yet.

And even though it occasionally feels ulcer-inducing, it's nice to know I have that option. And so do you.

Each night, after work.

Each morning, after you wake.

There are moments scattered throughout the day where you could lapse into something comforting, like a bowl of rocky road ice cream, or you could step, one foot after the other, into the dark of your imagination, curious about what you will find.


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