"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

01 December 2009

Writing is Survival

Deciding to eat breakfast in the cafeteria today, I caught up Ray Bradury's Zen in the Art of Writing to take with me, as I am teaching Fahrenheit 451 again next semester. The preface reminded me of the need for writers to write: "[W]riting is survival," Bradbury writes. "Any art, any good work, of course, is that."

Restlessness sets in when a writer fails to write for any length of time. And so, a few minutes this morning to exercise the writer's means of knowing the world.

Life is, of course, too busy. Urgency upon urgency demands moment after moment until one's days are filled with a frantic attempt to get it all done while perhaps failing to ever approach the truly important. In light of this reality, Thanksgiving break was a true break for me this year. Tuesday after collecting the last essays due, I went shopping for a turkey and all the "fixins," as my grandmother always said. Wednesday I thought to do some grading but ended up taking off altogether, reading, napping, surfing my favorite websites to catch up on the reflections of writers I've come to know and appreciate. The Young Man had declared his intention to cook for the holiday meal, so I took the turkey from the fridge before I went to bed so it would finish thawing overnight and went to sleep without a thought to the next day's work.

I woke Thanksgiving morning to the enticing odors of cornbread, sauteeing onion and celery, pumpkin pie -- and the lovely feeling that there was no rush ahead of me. It was only the three of us; we could eat any time. I ensconced myself in the living room LazyBoy with my laptop and notes for the online course I'm designing, dispensed a bit of requested advice about the cranberry-apple dessert, and got a couple of hours of relaxed work done. Once the dessert was out of the oven, I did my bit -- put the turkey in and washed and sliced the sweet potatoes to boil and mash just before time to eat. The next four hours I worked a bit, watched UP and cried like a baby -- and simply relaxed. Dinner was a delight (except for the occasional infelicity resulting from my failure to be a sufficient civilizing influence on my barbarians' dinner conversation), the men cleaned up the kitchen, and I got some more work done during the evening after a nap.

Friday was another lovely day, waking when I was ready, working on the online course, napping, a trip downtown to the antique store where K. bought me a set of rings (finally I can wear a wedding band that fits again!) and a necklace, Thanksgiving leftovers. Saturday was more of a strain, simply because commenting on freshman essays took longer than I had anticipated. But Sunday morning I was able to finish them, and, surprisingly, completed the advanced comp essays before dinner time with the evening to work on the online course again.

Five days, almost all my planned work completed, and completely relaxed except for a panicked hour Saturday evening when I knew I wouldn't finish the freshman essays and despaired of having time for any rest on Sunday. But the rest was provided, the panic unnecessary.

The details aren't what's important, of course. It was the taste of a few days of the way I think life should be. Accomplishing work but without the constant sense of harried desperation that permeates our culture. Resting without a frantic need to do something and the sense of real leisure for reflection. Surely this is something, however remotely, like what we were designed for?

Last night, K. took me out for a hamburger after work. As we walked to the car from the restaurant, I looked into cold and threatening clouds, darkening into late evening, to be greeted with the nearly full moon faithfully lighting the sky. Hope to hold on to.


Lutestring said...

I love your writing.

alaiyo said...

Thank you, dear heart!

barn swallow said...

I watched UP over break and cried too--especially during the part where the old man sees the pictures behind the "things I will do" page in his wife's adventure book.

GrumpyTeacher1 said...

This post was a really enjoyable read. Thanks for the taking the time to write it.

Kamilla said...

Yikes - that Bradbury quote? How true, how true!


alaiyo said...

Thanks, all. I am so glad you enjoyed my little story! It was a lovely time composing it and made the whole day go more smoothly, I think. Or something did, anyway. :)