23 October 2007

The sky as infinite grace*

Every year I forget about geese until I see one symbolic flock, stretched black against the sky, straining southward.

It's been ten years since I first saw this house and drove through this foreign state with a pompous sense of evaluation. The fall was too brown and golden, none of the bloody-fire of a Connecticut River Valley autumn, no sugar maples. Johnny and I surveyed our new back yard and found it wanting: no climbing trees.

Rhode Island: brown and boring.

But we marveled at Rt-102, those hills reaching like ramps into the sky, flanked by forests and straight for miles. We liked the stone roads over Scituate Reservoir.

We didn't spend the fall here, anyways. We went to Cape Cod for the subsequent weeks and walked beaches and took stacks of books out of Falmouth Public Library as we waited for our house to be ready.

Leaves are blowing across the street today, everywhere I go. Towards my office the patched roads and peeling buildings look a little gentler alongside yellow trees and hemmed in by tumbling oak leaves.

And the sky beautifies anything today, marbled blue with high white wisps veining it sparsely. Low fast clouds swell fatly and race along the tree line, having just escaped from nearby smokestacks.


*"For rich people, the sky is just an extra, a gift of nature. The poor, on the other hand, can see it as it really is: an infinite grace."
-Albert Camus, Notebooks

18 October 2007

My tea spilled twice today in my car. Both times suddenly as if it was springing out of the cup holder. And I’m out of napkins.

There are red wine stains on my tawny-grey seat, coffee stains dark on the liner rug and now black tea all over the passenger side.

It’s always a competition, me versus my travel mug. Most days it behaves. Four out of five days it will balance placidly in the holder as I navigate around curves, take a tight turn onto the highway or come to a halt at a traffic light.

But invariably, when I am running late or when I am slightly stressed and not up for a challenge, it catches my expression, conspires within itself, and leaps out of the cup holder and into my lap, onto the carpet or seat and starts gleefully leaking my sanity all over the car.

13 October 2007

every tendril uncurled

"Writing feels like work," said my editor-to-be when she interviewed me. That's what happens when you spend the day typing articles and news briefs. "So I paint and do pottery because it feels like rest." Her novel has been sitting for ten years.

I am trying to sketch for the first time in years on a Saturday afternoon in a bakery courtyard: empty wrought iron tables and chairs, leaves blowing across red brick patio stones, the stucco side of the bakery, grey and cracking.

It's hard, just a few lines on paper, infinitely harder than writing.

There is an absolute quality of removal--as if something inside my head is stretching, trying to dislodge, almost the tingling of new exercise. I am trying to unwind all those knotted brain cells, those tendrils that you see plaited across a dissected brain.

I am trying to draw finches and vines in the arbor. I am trying to draw a bell lamp that's painted grey. I cannot get the glass belly of the bulb right; it doesn't look rounded at all. I have no color to capture the sky behind it all, intense blue and the ribboned power lines hanging black against it.

The snapshot, the summary, that's what I've been practicing these five months at the newspaper. I don't mix colors or sketch until things look right. I don't labor to arrange or tease out words. I don't stop what I'm doing just because a phrase is ringing in my ears.

Phrases don't ring in my ears. I don't whisper them beneath my breath until I find a pen; every adjective poised, every pause premeditated.

This weekend stands quiet, released from one job and not yet begun at the other. Every job has been a season, none intolerably long. This change continues the motion, the assurance the I can work, the satisfaction that I can earn some living with my pen, even if it leaves me quieter.

I must search every aspect for grace: in orange slices and reassuring smiles, in encouraging words that temper my cynicism, in the newness that has me bending my mind in new ways and making lists of resolves, trying sketching for rest and instead finding myself begin to write.