Unconventional Wisdom

The trees are bare outside my Writing Shed. Four small birds share a thin branch. Persimmons hang like ornaments from another tree. It is my California home’s version of winter.

Winter is actually the beginning of things – the time when light returns. I heard once that as the sun goes into Capricorn, the moon goes into Cancer, calling to the seeds planted deep in the earth that it is time for them to wake up and start their journey of growth.

That is how it feels to me, this time of year – like something is calling me to wake up and start a new journey.

I was thinking as I sat staring at the blank screen – we need rain. And then I thought well, yes, that is what I need. To end my dry spell.

I have a fantasy that I have this audience out there that has been waiting with bated breath for my return – who wonder why I stopped writing right after I posted a blog about getting women writers out of the corner — over six months ago.

I wish I knew why I did. I certainly started many posts. But none of them seemed to find their way. The blogs I started included: about a bowl filled with plastic fetuses at my local Farmer’s Market on “Family” night; the reaction to the movie The Help; that what America means to me was formed by the civil rights movement – and all its successors; about the death of a high school friend who gave up his law practice and became a teacher at our former high school; about the two “young” people who had a booth at the local Farmer’s Market that displayed the poster of Obama with a Hitler moustache; about the death of Steve Jobs.

Each time, after starting to write, I felt the need to remain silent — that more would be revealed in time.

I think it was a decision. I continued to write in my journal and started writing a story. None of it was for publication. At least not yet.

And, then, this morning it became clear to me that what had been rattling around in my writer’s soul was an increasing awareness of my mortality. Not so much a fear of death. More, the unmistakable reality that life will leave me some day.

My family lives long lives. My uncle died last year at 100. My grandmother lived to 99. Her father lived to 106.

I could have close to another 40 years of life.

On the other hand, my mother died at 83 and my father at 77.

I could have somewhere between 15 and 20 years of life.

My high school friend returned from a hunting trip feeling ill, went to sleep and died of a heart attack.

He was my age.

I’ve already had six more years than Steve Jobs had.

The point is, I don’t know — we don’t know — when Death will come knocking.

So that leaves me with: how do I spend my days? In fear, or making them count?

Not surprisingly, I want to make them count.

Yet Fear hangs in the air these days, nourished by political forces that seek power as an antidote for their own fear: “Push the unworthy in front of the speeding train to prove your own worthiness—in the eyes of God.”

It can make you want to stay curled up in a seed underneath the earth. I already started unfurling myself from the seedpod, so too late for staying curled up.

During my months of silence, I read a book about cave paintings in the south of France. The oldest are 32,000 years old – those discovered in the late 90s in Chauvet. The Lascaux paintings – discovered during World War II – date back to 14,000 years ago. The author noted that the culture of cave painters lasted for some 18,000 years. He also noted that like everyone else who visited the cave paintings, he came away altered, changed in some profound way – almost unnerved.

It gave me a perspective on time, including my time. Conventional wisdom says that in the days of Google, staying silent for so much as a month can lead to death by Google contempt. I’m hoping that I was following unconventional wisdom, that there is time and room for silence even in the day of the Internet.

I started this blog in May of 2009 to change my story.  I think that taking myself out of the corner was the end of my old story — that in the silence I found my way to the beginning of my new story.

I received an email from WordPress that linked me to my 2011 statistics. I was surprised to see how few blog entries I had posted (7) and surprised to discover that nevertheless, my audience had included folks from pretty much around the world.

I think that My Writing Shed is my cave – the place where I allow my story to unfold. And, hopefully, it is a place where others discover my story and find a connection to their own.

Here’s to more story in 2012.

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