The artist in me is back today. She was away for a spell while the practical side of my brain dealt with job applications, copyediting duties, and loads of spring cleaning. I went to sleep last night my quiet self: belly full of two different kinds of ice cream, book closed neatly on the otherwise untouched pillow beside me. But it was my busy self–my creative and loud self–who woke up this morning.
Today I want to do it all; today I want to write and craft and sew and plant and cook and sketch and play. Most of all, I want to hurry up and finish all my boring work and errands so that I can slip into my writing mind. My process of doing this feels like something secretive and dark, something wildly indulgent yet necessary. I know that all writers have their own sly ways of tapping into their imaginative space, and that I talk about my writing all the time, so that there really is nothing secret about it. So why then do I snuggle and creep my way into the office on days like this one, slither down into my chair with tea or wine or coffee curling a scent to me from a far corner of the desk? Why then do I say a silent thank you to the weather for being wet and grim, and to the shuffle setting on my music library for somehow knowing my mood and selecting only the most non-distracting instrumentals and blues songs? I do all of this because it is part of my ritual, because I adore the sensation of releasing my brain to the creative.
Doing my little preemptive writing dance today, I thought about the way this process travels with me, changes with the scenery. I’ve talked some here about what good medicine it was for me to get out of my office, out of my house, and in fact out of the country last month. When my family and I arrived in South America, we headed up into the mountains of Ecuador and stayed at a cute and rustic little resort in the cloud forest, about two hours from the city if Quito. Once there, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy not being in charge of anything at all.
After a hike in the rain, I drank a few beers with my family while we all watched the near-constant congregation of hummingbirds in front of the lounge. Some time passed, and slowly a few phrases and beats started forming in my brain. I stood, ordered another beer, and walked back up the wet gravel road up to our house. I pulled a heavy wooden chair across the deck on which to set my beer and books, and wrapped myself in a scratchy, wool blanket. I lowered myself down into the cloth hammock hanging from the ceiling and opened my notebook, then sat swinging with my head resting back for a few moments before positioning my pen above the paper.
I was perhaps already a little tipsy by this point, and I let myself slowly drink more, relax my mind enough to let those bits of writing I’d mentally composed back at the lodge work their way forward. I left my earbuds sit on the bed behind me, and allowed the rain and dusk-sounds be my soundtrack. I wrote a critical scene for my novel in the moments that followed, letting the rain and foliage of South America inspire a story about the rain and foliage back home in Seattle. And afterwards, I wrote a poem. It’d been a while since I had felt like writing poems and certainly it had been a long time since I felt like writing any poems about hummingbirds.
I thought of Uncle Wooby when I typed this up. He once asked me, after reading some of my dark and severely undergraduate poetry, if I ever just wrote poems about spirit. Here’s one for you, Woobs.
I cannot hear the throb
of the hummingbirds’ wings above the rain,
above the patter onto so many leaves, above
the rushing sound of so many drops
to the rainforest floor.
But I can feel that throb,
that impossible beating
in my bones, under my chin,
where I swallow another gulp
of some local Ecuadorian beer.
My family huddles against the rain,
rubber boots squeaking against one another
in the cold. We sip beers, watch
the rush hour of hummingbirds.
And we are mesmerized as if sitting
in front of a great fire, not certain
why we are so transfixed,
but transfixed, nonetheless.
And as the rain taps its heavy rhythm
against elephant ear leaves, thrashes its weight
upon the already saturated soil.
I wonder if it is the alcohol in my belly,
or the speed of those tiny creatures’ flight,
that makes me feel a throb of my own
in the place where a heart, 40 percent
of the body’s weight, ought to be.