“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 92: Spring Melt

While I was a cave-dweller in a sick daze our world heated up.  The temperature rose 40 degrees in so many hours.
photo by Tara Freeman
Zoe likes a change if she's in the story, preferably as the protagonist if needles and drugs are not involved.  So my return to the studio to write becomes her return to the balcony to survey the back yard and make sure it's safe from encroaching groundhogs.

I write with a pen today in a notebook in one of my timed speed-writes to break through something that's been cold a while and needs to thaw.  When I play this game I go through the dictionary first with my eyes closed and point to a few random words I have to use without over-thinking them.  One of those words made me laugh when I found it.  Samizdat?  Really?  Okay.

I actually find a really handy use of this Russian word I didn't know before.  Sam means self, and izdatelstvo means publishing; the word refers to clandestine self-published pamphlets and other forms of literature produced following the death of Stalin as a revolt against restrictions on freedom of expression of dissident Soviet authors.  It actually has a purpose in the chapter I'm writing.  Who knew?  My character is Russian and the semi-WASP family she's visiting, in 1988, are fascinated with her ethnicity.  And the characters are all playing a game of Risk.

Maybe blogs are the samizdat of a different kind of self-publishing craze, but hardly clandestine.  I read a Joyce Carol Oates story once in which some artists are on a trip to Eastern Europe in the Cold War, and her narrator makes a case that trying to write what will sell, what will be commercially viable, creates another kind of censorship.  The characters under Soviet rule are not convinced.

photo by Tara Freeman
When the meditation timer goes off I'm still blazing away and I go for another half hour without lifting the pen off the paper except to turn the page.  It's a good day.  Then I hear Zoe hunker down closer to the sliding door of the balcony.  She's peering inside but doesn't want to disturb me.  And when I bring her in, she rolls around on the Indian rug and says she's glad that things are on an upswing.

Outside, on our walk, the earth makes a squishing sound.  We track through slush, mud, and rivulet, and everything that could be green is revealing itself to us, although much is still brown and greyish-white.  We walk for an hour but Zoe would like more of this, please.  Tomorrow, I promise, I'll be up for something longer.  As a compromise, I put her on the tie-up outside so she can tell off all the dogs parading past our house without a permit.

But still, before we give in to the changes we humans think we are due--and I think now of a pink-skinned girl I saw running down Main Street in shorts--I see that my conservative dog is in no hurry for a new season.  She finds every patch of snow left and walks with her head bent low, jaw scraping the ground to taste every last bite of winter with each step.

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