February is about to slip off the calendar and I haven’t written any posts here this month.
What have I been doing? Aside from work and teaching and family?
I’ve been running a lot. I’m preparing for the Cambridge Half Marathon on the 10th of March. I like it when my long training runs get up to about 10 miles and more. It’s a good distance and amount of time to be in a moving solitude, sorting through the days. I usually do the long run on Sunday morning as a way to end and begin the week. Though it’s been a cold winter, spring is steadily arriving – admittedly one step forward, two steps back sometimes – and I see the changes in the landscape. (I’m also fundraising for Cancer Research UK with this run. If you’d like to sponsor me and support their mission, please consider donating here)
Oh, and we have two new family members. This is Pandora.
She lives up to her name nicely, getting into the bathtub, falling into the toilet, climbing up the bunk beds, taking her bell and collar off. As the expression around here goes, she’s full of beans.
This is Zelda. She’s Pandora’s sister. She lies around looking lovely. Let’s hope she’s better for my writing than the other Zelda was for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s!
They are both pleasingly black. Not a spot of white anywhere on them.
And I’ve been reading – David Whyte’s, The Three Marriages. Wonderfully written and very thought-provoking. I’d recommend it. And I just picked up a collection of Nadine Gordimer’s short stories, Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black. Wow. Stunning.
Although I haven’t been posting on the blog, I’ve been writing. I looked through my journal and I have about 120 A5 pages of writing from February. What do I fill these pages with? Sometimes questions that struggle across the page, inarticulate and clumsy, left unanswered. Sometimes I’m trying to organize my time. Occasionally I’ll follow a writing prompt from a book. Frequently, I sit down with the only directive being Natalie Goldberg’s ‘keep the pen moving’ and I see how far I travel in thirty minutes. I’m always surprised where I end up.
What, then, is the work of writing for me? Is it a form of meditation, played to a soundtrack of jazz in moments of solitude? An hour of escape on a weekend afternoon? An easier descent into sleep? An exploration of that liminal land between waking and dreams? I don’t know. It changes.
Much of my writing lately has been a voyage inward. It’s the practice of paper. The main purpose, the bones of it, is to write. I go a bit cross-eyed trying to think of audience or product at the moment. An essay, a poem, a story – these might grow from the compost of words I am creating and turning these days. I am scattering seeds and improving the soil of my garden. Writing inwards to dig up old roots, separate clumps of bulbs that are too close to each other to breathe and grow, clearing last year’s dried leaves and stalks.
I read a quotation recently that was something like ‘writers are the only artists who must generate their raw material before shaping it.’ This is a season of creating raw material. So, I’m not really writing pieces with a beginning, middle and end. Or bothering much about development, meaning or even general coherence. I’m simply showing up at the page because it’s a guaranteed doorway into the unexpected.
Flowers will bloom later – they always do.