Starting from Silence

First, I must apologize to my blogmates, and to our readers, for not having posted in some time. I've been on the road, my thinking muddled by long hours, long miles, and vapid, floral motel rooms. But now, at last, I'm home again, in my own office, with my books around me, a familiar view of snowcapped mountains outside the window, and my feet tucked under my antique pine desk. (The desk is made from the floorboards of an old house; when I rest my hands on it, I travel along the path of ghostly feet.) I have every reason in the world to be happy, at peace, and to do good work.

And that's just the problem.

After weeks or even a few days away from writing, the silence that falls between me and the page is loud. Yesterday, my first day home, I did everything I could to avoid sitting at the computer with it. I unpacked. I looked around. The metal patio furniture urgently required a good wiping. The yard needed raking, the porches needed sweeping, the garage and the outbuildings needed cleaning, or rather none of these things were necessary--it's still winter, after all, and doing spring cleaning now is like setting poppies on ice--but each seemed a likely enough reason for not going anywhere near my office. Where the silence waited.

How quickly it can accumulate, the space between self and work. Into that space all sort of stiffenings and rheums creep, and questions that hang in the air like frost, and won't go. What if I have nothing left to say? What if I go back and look at what I last wrote, and it is terrible? What if it simply isn't as good as I thought? What if I can't get back in? What if I've lost the thread? What if I get lost, am already lost, and I just don't know it?

Surely it would be better not to find this out.

And so I find reasons to stay outside, bundled in my coat, examining the fruit trees for signs of budding, taking inventory of dead limbs that need to be cut down.

I consider going to work for County Extension. It would make more sense than writing.

I peek into my office, still considering.

But no. I sit down. Here in this chair. The silence stretches. It doesn't mock. Or dare. Or titter. Silence--at least my silence (perhaps yours is different?)--doesn't do that. It is simply a line that it would be easier to stay behind.

Deep breath. Don't think so much. Thinking is the enemy of action. Thinking is always being done, while you walk, while you cook, while you sleep, while you drive a car from state to state, while you shower, while you dither, while you fret. Thinking takes care of itself. Pick up your fingers the way you would pick up a lamb fallen on snow. Don't hesitate. There is no reason to. Pick your fingers up. Warm them. Bleat. Make a sound with them. Go.

And so.



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