Thursday, October 23, 2008

Waiting for moonrise, and then the dawn

After months and months of writing to deadlines, playing hard and fast and fun with words, the ideas zipping from my heart and brain to the page, my creative drive simply stopped dead this week.

Richard and I had driven to Arkansas to visit his family, and after we arrived home, I couldn't write. Oh, I wrote in my journal, wrote some emails, and even wrote a snail mail letter. But beyond those commonplace communications, I couldn't find words.

I told myself that my lassitude was due to the drive. We did nearly 2,000 miles (950 miles each way between southcentral Colorado and northwest Arkansas) in six days, so that's a pretty good excuse. By the end of the second day, when I still couldn't drum up my usual writing jones, I knew it was something deeper. I live to write. Writing usually clears the fog and gives me energy.

This week I've felt like the ruined picnic shelter in the photo above, a relict of a whole host of planned "recreation facilities" built along the shore of what was to be a large reservoir, except that the lake never filled. Without that watery playground, the parking lots and boat ramps and picnic areas and scenic viewpoints and campgrounds never filled either. Eventually the whole complex was not only abandoned, the facilities seem to have been deliberately destroyed.

We camped there on our way to Arkansas, winding in on asphalt roads shrunk to one lane as the prairie reclaimed them, threading past restrooms with windows smashed and doors swinging open, parking lots knee-high in autumn-colored prairie grasses, light posts tilting every which way, electrical boxes with wires ripped out, and picnic shelters with tables gone and bases smashed. It was eerie, like a post-apocalyptic world.

We set up our little nylon tent at the end of what had been a long loop of tidy paved camping spaces, each with its picnic shelter and electric plug-in. I told Richard that I was glad he was there. It was a place I wouldn't stay at night on my own.

I know just how desolate that place feels now. I've spent the last couple of years keeping up a work schedule so insane, that it's been the rare weekend when I didn't have to write straight through to keep up. And then last February, Richard began to pee blood. Not just dribbles, streams as dark as a good pinot noir, full of clots and chunks. In April he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and in July he went through his first surgery. After the second surgery, in early September, his surgeon told me he thinks they got it all. I should be relieved; I should be dancing with joy. Instead I feel empty, worn out, exhausted. Hence this dry spell, and my fear that the words - and my passion for changing the world with them - won't return.

That night by the lake that didn't happen, we ate our picnic dinner as the sun set and swatted the last few mosquitoes of fall. When the stars appeared, littering the black sky with pinpricks of light, we crawled into our tent, snuggled close, and watched the level Panhandle horizon for a silver glow. It grew brighter and brighter until the dazzling rim of an October moon edged up. Immediately, a pack of coyotes nearby tuned up, yipping and barking and howling, lifting their voices in song to that huge, round orb of light. The wind howled that night too, flapping our tent fly and whooshing through the branches of the nearby grove of trees. When dawn's light edged the rim where black sky met darker land and the silver moonlight gave way to pastel day, even the destroyed picnic shelter looked beautiful.

I can still see that moon rise in my minds' eye, and hear the wild coyote chorus rising over the stark landscape - and the dawn light, pearly and soft, heralding a new day. And I know I'll have my new day too: I just need the patience of those coyotes, waiting for the silvery orb of the moon to signal their singing, and then the stars swimming across the sky until they gutter out in the quiet beauty of the dawn.


Beverly said...

You've had a rough time, but I can tell yourself are healing. To me.

You have a calm and positive way of looking at the world…and I appreciate that. Whenever I come read you…which is regularly…I come away feeling more hopeful and yes, even healed.

Thank you,

Deborah Robson said...

As another go-getter, I understand the out-of-juice dead spaces. They're rare, and they're unsettling.

I've quit trying to pretend they don't exist. I'm in a small one now: just picking out what I *can* do, even if it's making up sheets of labels with the names of breeds of sheep (to be applied later), or taking a blessed nap. Or reading a book for fun in the middle of the day. Even when I am (or certainly should be) anxious about the stuff that needs to get done, the bills that need to get paid, and so on.

This morning, I got a free (though I tipped) chair massage at a local coffee shop. I'd seen the sign a week ago about Friday mornings between 9 and 11. I have a commitment 10 to 12, but the stars aligned and I have fewer kinks in my shoulders.

I suggest horizontal therapy, of some sort. There are many varieties. Time to change perspectives.

Hugs, Deb

eduardo said...

Ay, mi amiga, you're not alone. I could add my own words of comfort, but I don't think anything I say will minimize the fear-factor and suckiness of having run dry. And anyway, I know this isn't your first dry spell, and won't be your last. (Which means this one WILL end....)

Nonetheless, keep on keeping on. Step by step you'll traverse your way outta this dark forest.

Linda said...

Ah, friend, remember that silence speaks too. I only hope you can put down the deadlines so you are able to listen.

Words come out of silence. Or so you've reassured me when fatigue steals me away.