A few days ago so many daffodils bloomed around M’s house that surrounding yards didn’t look nearly yellow enough. We were meeting for a walk, but she suggested we climb a mountain. She put her dog in the backseat and we drove a short distance to the base, talking about our families.
As we followed a path between trees, our conversation turned to books and writing. M stopped writing some years ago when the publishing process became too painful. I can understand, but she is brilliant, and it felt like a loss. Now she spoke about writing again for a few hours a few mornings a week. I hardly wanted to breathe as she talked, just quietly hoping she’d continue. She described her mornings with paper as sacred time, writing just for herself. And when her thoughts drift to someone reading her work, commenting, evaluating, maybe wanting to buy it or not, she tries to go back to this sense that what’s important is being with her thoughts and words. Nothing else.
Coming down the mountain, she stopped to show me our state flower, trailing arbutus, or what’s sometimes called mayflowers. Evergreen leaves with white blossoms, small, and endangered. She had me bend down to smell the tiny blossoms, both salty and sweet.
I like the idea of writing as a sacred time. Sometimes I make myself sit in a chair. Just do it, as they say. Be disciplined. Be tough. But I prefer to think of the time as a gift to myself, hours that are sometimes lonely, but in which anything can happen. It’s not to say that we don’t want what we’re working on to be published. Of course we do. But thoughts of a world we can’t control only distracts from what I begin with: a part of a story or an image or a few words, which I turn over to see something entirely new.
Some days writing feels like a chore, but there’s always the opportunity to be surprised. Writing poetry, I draw from what I know and what I don’t know. It’s kind of wonderful to see what I thought I believed change. What once seemed complex may look simple, and what seemed simple turns complex. There’s no falling down on my knees or chanting and rarely candles because I’m kind of shy about what seems at least a little bit holy. But I give a quiet nod to words and silence to show my vast respect. And sometimes words quietly nod back.