Monday, January 18, 2021

A Writer Waits to Find the Words: A Memoir Moment

Writing is my work, my pastime, my job. With writing, all the rest falls into place. Lately, though, finding words to describe what I feel remains elusive. 

There is no velocity to the days, no urgency to get anywhere. As one day blends into another, I attempt a few creative tasks―finish a chapter in my novel, read a book, take a long walk in the brisk January air as ravens caw from barren trees.

The sameness of the days, the twisted chaos on the news, the lack of face-to-face encounters, the virtual workshops and events planned well into the year make me feel something is amiss. I can’t figure out what comes next.

Maybe I’ll get new flooring. I have this old tile kitchen floor and wall-to-wall carpets that could use an upgrade. There’s a sale on at this place a few exits up the turnpike. It’s like every other place right now ... should I risk it? I read about the new COVID-19 variants, the South African and Brazilian variants, perhaps more deadly and immune to the vaccine. And then there is the UK variant, more contagious.

Last week I dined on mushroom stuffed ravioli and asparagus tips. The restaurant bar area resembled a ghost town out of "Twilight Zone", although my sons and I struck up a lively conversation with our waiter who said he pondered retirement. From the window next to our table, I looked out on the gray day … folks huddled in winter coats next to heat lamps. What planet had we landed on?

We have a vaccine and people are dying by the thousands daily. I’m on a waiting list. Who knows when or where I get my vaccine? A while ago, my friend said there should be a lottery. How do you prioritize one life over another, he asked?

Yesterday, my church held a Zoom coffee hour fellowship. The conversation turned to how faith sustains us. When did we first believe, the pastor asked? I don’t remember the exact moment, I say. I just know that it all came together sometime in my forties, although that's not to say I don't have moments of doubt. I've written a chapter in my new book about spirituality. The protagonist, Ava, says of her journey:

On Sundays I attend the 19th century Episcopal church, once a way station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. The little white church looks out on a highway where cattle drivers drove their herds to the marketplaces in Lancaster County and beyond when the land was no more than farms and open fields.

It was several years after Jay died before I again started attending church. Early one Sunday before a 10 a.m. service, I walked into a church up the road from my house. I don’t know why, but I do remember a gold crucifix on the altar glowing in sunlight streaming through a stained-glass window depicting Jesus as a shepherd, holding a lamb. A coming home, a sense of peace in the embrace of my Christian faith enveloped me. 

My son left his puppy with me, actually, she’s now seven months old, a beautiful German Shepherd named Rin. I turned from the Zoom computer screen and looked out the window. Rin and my dog, Lily, ran with abandon in the backyard, barking at those walking on the other side of my old rickety wood fence. It’s good watching them play, doing their “jobs”, protecting their turf. When the Zoom fellowship ended and after my son had picked up his dog, I went upstairs. I dusted, threw out some mismatched socks, tended to a Christmas cactus ready to burst into bloom.

Despite the weariness, writing this gives me a spurt of glad energy. As Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way
As gray, as controlled, as dreamless as we may strive to be, the fire of our dreams will not stay buried. The embers are always there, stirring in our frozen souls like winter leaves.
Maybe it’s not so important to worry about what comes next. Instead, a writer waits, knowing and believing she will find the words in time.


kathleen pooler said...

Amen to your musings. Susan! You are spot-on. It’s been an ultimate challenge to stay focused right now in this upside-down world. But, as you say, the words eventually come if we can have the patience to wait. Here’s hoping we can get on the other side of this pandemic and move on, taking its valuable lessons learned with us.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Amen to taking away valuable lessons, Kathy. Meanwhile, my patience begins to grow thin. I find, though, that writing is, as always, a healing journey and sharing this with you and all my readers offers invaluable connection and community. Stay well, my friend.

Marian Beaman said...

Yes, the entire piece resonates with me. Some special images from your reflection: mushroom stuffed ravioli & asparagus tips and playing with Rin, the German shepherd.

Right now our grandson is helping pare down an oak-root protrusion on our walkway out front. "It's an accident waiting to happen," we agree. Now with a saw and chisel the trouble-maker is being whittled away. Because the root is from a live oak, the project is taking hours.

Thanks for this on a cool Monday afternoon, Susan.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Marian, Hope your grandson is ok. I always used to worry when my guys took on projects with saws. Yes, the meal was good. I had forgotten how big the portions at restaurants are. I got three meals out of that ravioli! Stay safe and healthy and thanks so much for taking a moment to comment.

ShirleyHS said...

I am slowly returning to the keyboard after months of focus on family and health. All in the midst of national and global disasters. My daughter compares her return to writing to coming out of a coma. Stuart and I are taking our first vacation in Florida, trying to observe CDC guidelines. After that, I hope to finally return to a book ms. You describe this unprecedented time very well, Susan. All best.

Marilyn said...

Susan, I agree that with these unfocused times, these unchanging days, it can be challenging to get actual words on a page. For me, the answer is not to force. I sit back and wait for inspiration. In the meantime, I play my piano; I take a walk; I call a friend. Inspiration always comes, sometimes in the most unexpected way. My trust that it will come sustains me.

Susan G. Weidener said...

Shirley, Best of luck to you in Florida and may it offer a well-deserved respite and rest. May it lead to finishing that manuscript. I think all of us are looking forward to what "comes next." Susan

Susan G. Weidener said...

Marilyn, You are smart to wait for the inspiration, knowing that in time it will come when you least expect it.