“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, May 17, 2012

Part II, Day 37: Diary of a Dog-Centric Slacker

I wake up today at 5:30 AM feeling like anything but a slacker.  I'm up early.  It's a Monday.  I'm ready to tackle the beginning of the second half of my France novel.

Zoe and I head outside, where she chases a bunny as her pre-meditation warm-up.  We make our way upstairs to my studio.

I aspire to attain this kind of focus and concentration.  Sometimes I'm in the chair above.

6 AM: I meditate while Zoe meditates, and then I finish, edit, and post Monday's piece for "Winter with Zoe," Sunday House Call.

7 AM: Breakfast for both of us.

7:30 AM: Zoe leaves for the gentlemen's walk.  I'm ready to work on the novel.  I have no commitments until 6:30 PM yoga class.  I have nothing else planned.  Nothing.  There is no reason why this can't be not only a day of breakthroughs, but a day when I go way over my page minimum.  All that time is mine!  Anything can happen.

8:00 AM: Nothing has happened.

8:30 AM: Ditto

9:00 AM: I meditate again.  I pray. 

9:30 AM: I do what I said I wouldn't do--tool around with the first half a little, just to get ideas.  I realize that I don't like the way it ends.  Too much is explained.  Shouldn't there be some mystery left?  A carrot to draw people to Part II?  Maybe this is why I can't start the new section.

10:00 AM: I start looking for inspiration through novels that are either set in France, or have young, college-age characters as I do in Part I of my book, but I end up reading a beautiful essay by Brenda Miller, "Blessing of the Animals," which is mostly about her dog, and I realize that I have canine-brain today, and France feels very, very far away.

1 PM:  I wake up.  I can't believe it.  I fell asleep for two hours!  I have not done this, not napped, since I had a puke-guts-out-flu this winter.  And before that, I really can't remember when.   What happened?  I know I'm fighting a cold, but come on.  Was I abducted by aliens?

1:05 PM: I hear Zoe barking.  My husband has taken her in the back yard for the midday romp.

For the next hour, Zoe and my husband and I play games in the yard.  We stroll through the grass, hop onto flat river rocks, and then my husband royally trounces me in a round of Bocce.  Sometimes when the balls go flying her way, Zoe wants to catch them, so I throw a baseball to her instead so that she doesn't get reamed by the heavier balls. 

2-4 PM: Having surrendered completely to this state of not-knowing, the only reasonable thing to do is to chill for the rest of the day with my dog.  I claim the hammock and re-read my favorite scenes from The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  Then I browse through a book about plotting novels that makes me so cranky I want to drown it in the river. ("Plots are for dead people," says a character in "How to Be a Writer" by Lorrie Moore).

4:10 PM: How's this for a plot twist?  A vanilla/chocolate twist cone from Morgan's, our favorite ice cream place in the North Country.   Zoe gets a soft-serve vanilla.

The people who work here have a soft spot for dogs and a cup of soft serve for any dog with a sweet tooth.  Morgan was the female partner of the owners' maiden name and it gets a lot of play.  They once had dog named Morgan, and Morgan is their son's middle name and that's what people call him--or Mo.  Their current springer spaniel, Cooper, is one of Zoe's best friends.  Dogs used to get ice cream for free here, but Cooper told his family that he thought only he should have that privilege, and since his wish is their command, they agreed.

I savor every lick, but Zoe is more of a speed-slurper.  Still, a soft-serve vanilla on a warm May day is bliss for her.

photo of Sarah Scafidi-Mcguire, my amazing teacher, by Tara Freeman

4:30 PM: Zoe and I walk for an hour in the woods.  We see no one and I give her my complete attention.  Sometimes the quiet and the roominess we can enjoy in the North Country makes for an expansiveness of mind.

6:30 PM:  I go to yoga class and take my favorite spot by the window that overlooks Main Street.  From this window I can see the downtown of our village, the village green, our movie theater, and the ice cream place where Zoe and I spent a productive 20 minutes.  I feel grateful for this village, for this town, for this life, because even if the novel makes no headway, even if I never again write anything anyone anywhere wants to read, even if I fail at everything I set out to do, I am in a nurturing place where I can sooth myself with one dollar ice cream cones and inspiring walks in the woods and great yoga classes.

And then, when Sarah, my teacher, assists me in a handstand, it happens.  I have an epiphany.  I have to be upside down to have a breakthrough, I guess. It's another way to surrender: a bit like a nap, a bit like an hour in a hammock, only this form of letting go takes upper body strength.  I see a way to end Part I on a cliff-hanger (which is a bit like being turned upside-down, from the characters' point of view) and now I feel like I'm on the threshold of knowing how to start the book's second half.

Tuesday: The block (which I picture as a glacier) is thawing.  I play with the new ending for Part I.  I do a rough, free-write for what will be the first chapter in Part II.  Zoe sits beside me and pants now and then, adding to the feeling that it's getting hot around here, the ice is melting melting melting.

Wednesday: Part II, scene one launched.

I used to just push through things with the force of sheer will, using my intellect, but not my intuition.  Then I'd have to go in and redo it all anyway, down the line.  But sometimes self-discipline is not enough.  Sometimes determination is not enough.  Sometimes we have to just accept that the solution is going to take us to very new terrain, a place we haven't been before, and we have to feel our way there in the dark by being gentle with ourselves.  Not giving up, exactly, but just letting the thing simmer on a back burner while we do other things.  If I had to figure out what helped most--the reading, the nap, the bocce, the company of the dog, the ice cream, the walk, the sunlight, the many hours outdoors, the yoga, or the simple act of just surrendering on a Monday when I'd vowed to push ahead--I'm not sure which I'd choose because I think it was all of the above.

Zoe would say it was the ice cream.


No comments:

Post a Comment