Horseback riders who jump the Grand Prix fences of terrifying heights talk of ‘throwing their heart’ over the fence so their horse jumps after it. We must do the same.”
Julia Cameron in Walking in This World
I made a very conscious choice to remain silent during the month of May. That is I decided not to write for public consumption.
I spent the month of April closing the studio in which I had hosted a monthly literary salon for over seven years. I locked the door, delivered the key to the landlord, and soaked in a bath to soothe muscles that were tired and sore from packing, lifting, and carrying.
I was relieved to have the completed the task, surprised at how easily I had been able to dispose of “stuff” I had accumulated. I think it’s called letting go.
What followed was a weeklong journey wrestling with doubt. I had dubbed the studio Livermore’s Literary Arts Center, with the belief that if you build it – it will be. I mean how cool to have a literary arts center in a town?
I wondered – had I failed? Or more, was I a failure?
And then I faced the great looming prospect of life without a center in which writers could congregate, read their work, listen to other writers read, and communicate in the language familiar to those who take the leap into believing that they have something to say and want to say it well.
I was also sad. Sad because even though I had built it, it had not come to be. It did not seem to take root. I explored starting a nonprofit, but came to realize fairly quickly, that I had just run out of steam. I needed to focus on income – inviting money to come in for my own personal safety and security – and just didn’t have the wherewithal to create a nonprofit, find a new place for the center, bring in income, and do my own writing.
Closing the studio brought chaos to my home. We turned our guest room into our office; I added books to my writing shed; we stored furniture destined for a garage sale into our library; and put boxes into a garage that was already overflowing with stuff.
I freaked out, fretted, and generally consternated. At some rational point, I consulted my inner adult, who told me that I needed to get my domestic house in order first, and then determine whether freaking out, fretting, and consternating was productive.
We spent the month of May deciding where to put things – and then putting them there. In some cases that meant putting things that had been there, somewhere else until we could decide where to put them. We cleaned an embarrassing (I mean really embarrassing) wealth of dust that had accumulated throughout the house. I created chaos in my writing shed and then cleared it up. And, perhaps most satisfying, we cleaned out the garage. We opened boxes that had sat unopened for ten years and realized, we didn’t need what was in them. We pulled up the gnarly carpet that had been gathering dust and other crap for thirty years.
I came to appreciate the beauty of handy haulers, small dumpsters that for some reason I wanted to call tater tots.
Yesterday, I finished. I emptied the last of the boxes of office supplies, and then went to see the film, Everything Must Go. Good choice, though I didn’t even put two and two together until I just wrote that I went to see that particular movie.
Earlier last week, as I saw the end of May looming, I did some freaking out, fretting, and consternating. What, I wondered would I do without a literary arts center?
“Maybe what you need to do,” my friend Mary Ann suggested, “is to be alone with your writing.” We’ve been friends for over 50 years; you don’t take lightly a suggestion from someone who has known you for that many years.
I had told myself to just take a break from writing until June 1st. Today is June 1st.
And so, here I am writing.
My home is more welcoming to me than it ever has been. My writing shed, more than ever, provides a shelter in which I can write.
The things I freaked out about, fretted over, and consternated about have not gone away. We seem to be living in a time where young, foolish men seem to believe that adopting Ayn Rand’s philosophy is both courageous and a commitment to reality. Simple minds with simple answers to the complexity of being alive.
I am the unofficial godmother to a seven-year old girl with autism. Once a week, she rode horses at an adaptive riding center. She spoke her first words while riding a horse. Other programs at this adaptive riding center pair wounded veterans, including those suffering from PTSD, with horses.
The horses at this center are big hearted – they seem to have the patience and wisdom to carry heart-wounded humans to moments of peace and healing: two sentient beings connecting on the field of what it means to be alive.
I’m not so much afraid of horses as I am in awe of them. I have ridden a horse exactly once, and was overwhelmed with its power. But I am drawn to horses – to the life force they embody.
Yesterday, I found the quote about riders “’throwing their heart’ over the fence so their horse jumps after it.”
So that’s what I’m doing today, June 1st, after two months of cleaning and clearing and letting go.
I’m throwing my heart over the fence so that my life force jumps after it.