Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sweet Saturday and The Fruits of My Labor
Dear Friends, wherever you are...
There are just a few of us at Ucross this weekend.
The others have left. More are coming. (Wait. That sounds Cormac McCarthyish. Like we're the last people on the planet.)
I like the weekends here because they feel lazy, even though they're not really that different from the rest of the week as far as my routine: Get up, check e-mail, make some coffee, get some breakfast, then head to the studio. (My studio is right downstairs from my bedroom.) If it's sunny, I"ll close the blinds because the sun is so bright. I'll kill a few million box elder bugs that are crawling around on my desk. Then I'll try to immerse myself in another world, this book I'm trying to write. Sometimes immersion works and I'm transported but a lot of times as I'm writing, I'm thinking, this feels mowing grass by hand--uphill.
Then I'll kill a few more bugs and get up and have another cup of coffee. I'll look at my watch. I'll wonder what kind of leftovers are in the kitchen fridge for lunch. I'll chew on a piece of beef jerky and worry about the high sodium content. I'll check my e-mail. Then I'll try to get back to work. Maybe I'll call my husband on my cell phone. We'll talk for a couple minutes. (I'm not a phone person.) Maybe I'll call my son. More work.
Self-talk: No, you may NOT check your e-mail again. No one could've possibly sent you anything important in the last five minutes. Sometimes I'll pluck a novel off the bookshelf and page through it, trying to see how other writers describe their characters without being too damn intrusive. Sometimes I'll check thesaurus.com online to see if there's a better word for "shadow."
I might check on the history of Basque sheepherders in Wyoming. I'll look for the name of a male Basque character. (We like the name "Gorka." Sounds like a Croatian brand of granola.) I might check out real estate prices in Sheridan (waaaaay too high by Ohio standards). Then I'll yell at myself again. I'll look at the lone box elder bug bravely trekking across my desk, its splindly legs going step-step-step. Should I kill it? I feel powerful. I'm the Emperor Nero. Thumbs up. Let the creature live! Roaring cheers from the amphitheater! Release the doves! And the panthers!
Today I feel like I'm chopping wood. Write a page, there's a stick. Write another page, there's another stick. Write, write, write. Stick, stick, stick. I hope this kindling catches fire.
It might be time for a nap. Wait, it's only 2:20 p.m. The others are going hiking in Crazy Woman Canyon. I should go but I'm too busy. You know. "Working." And so it goes on this quiet Saturday. Right now my mind feels like a very small room with no windows. There's only one thing to do: Get outside.
One great thing about Ucross. There are lots of great books to read. In James Galvin's wonderful novel, "The Meadow," he quotes a poem by Robert Duncan, "Often I Am Permitted to Return to A Meadow."
Here is my favorite stanza:
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down
That stanza makes me think of the west, the wonderful long tilt of the sun when the shadows grow long, and the prairie and the trees and of course, the wind.
Writing is such a solitary act, and yet it's a conversation too. I love how those words, written so long ago, have the power to move me in many different directions.