In small towns there isn’t always enough light to go around. Streetlights mark out the border: a square and measured constellation from the air. The secondary roads that stretch out beyond the town line dissolve into darkness — shadowy boundaries that quickly descend into black.
Crossing from the half-lit sheets into the dark periphery, the eyes are forced to flicker, scanning for any particles of light to guide the next step. Turning to face the town it sits in a soft orange glow, like a quieted carnival after the crowds have departed. Expect to see the pinwheels of ferris wheels and tilt-o-whirls, but only see the blurred blink of traffic lights, signalling the way home for one lonely car.
The large black-winged birds
behind the brewery have a secret
they want to share, yet guard it
with the ferocity of Poe.
But these dark creatures are more
verbose than his dark visitor;
these birds, leaping from flimsy birch branches,
squawk rapid-fire in single syllables.
Taunting, taunting, daring
And curious listeners stop, look up —
seduced by the complex cacophony of cackles.
Birds or madmen?
Some pretend to know the answers, to decipher
truths in the discordant avian chatter.
But the birds, as always, know better:
luring with small bright clues, but
never sharing enough to solve the riddle.
The train smells of exhaust and oranges. The citrus is a welcome change. Foreign on this Friday evening exodus from the city. Rumble of tracks shake the cars, pitching them back and forth, side to side. Through the window: a blur of broken backyards and deserted buildings, of flimsy fences and weed-choked parking lots. A glimpse into urban periphery.
Light drains from the sky, leaves seeped-in patches of grey. It wants to rain, but can’t quite commit. Water sighs in the puddles along the tracks: liquid memorials of an afternoon downpour. Crossing over the streets, the red taillights pattern the damp concrete, their impatient flickers blink for blocks.
Soon the city is left behind. The rattling tracks relent, soften to a gentler sway. And residential roads give way to highways, factories, and sprawling storage facilities. The parking lots are slotted with unending rows of trucks ready to haul away loads and loads of manufactured things. Things so new they have no stories to tell.
The train has plenty of narratives. Clutches of conversations surface from surrounding seats. Laughter and coughs. Cell phone rings and one-sided stories. Recognized faces reuniting over aisles. Remember this… remember when… becomes the lyrics the train’s hypnotic rhythm.
Outside, the last of the light clings to clouds, dresses their edges in pink. The trees and electric poles stand as starved silhouettes. Beyond, the fields stretch out, languish in the twilight, oblivious (or perhaps apathetic) to the silver streak slicing through in the semi-darkness. Its piercing whistle a mere inconvenience.
But it announces our steady progression into the evening: the cadence of moving metal, metal moving toward the next lighted oasis through the next stretch of unfractured dark.
The water tower is coming down.
It used to be dark green. And at some point it was painted blue. That was after I left town, after I stopped looking at it. And now it’s coming down.
When I was young it was huge: a looming dark monolith in a field just in from the road. All the bad-asses in town claimed to have climbed it, but there was never any photographic evidence. The bad-asses’ older brothers also bragged about scaling its rusty face, but they had grown up and left town, unavailable for comment.
Sometimes I imagined grabbing hold of the metal ladder rungs and climbing into the clouds, but I never touched a rail. Climbing water towers, as the sign indicated, was dangerous, so I stayed on the ground. Always looking up. Never once even thinking that its bulging metal shell was actually full of water. Never once wondering how unnatural it seemed to keep a huge drum of water in the sky.
The water tower was on the way to my grandma’s house and near the store where I used to buy grandpa’s smokes, so almost every day I was moving past it, flying by on my bike. My cousins would come and we would play in its shadow. It was just always there. Sometimes it blotted out the sun.
And now the water tower is coming down. Chain link fencing encircles its base. And there is a new warning sign: Danger: Demolition. Big yellow machines have rolled in, awaiting the great dismantling. A new gravel road, freshly scuffed into the land, awaits the lumbering trucks that will haul away the metal bones.
And after not thinking about the water tower much, I know I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.
The Autumn: people either revel in it or detest it.
For some it’s the slow suffocation of summer: weeks of creeping cold and damp, and just a few last warm exhalations before the earth grows cold and dies. For months. Many freezing cold months.
For others (like me) the arrival of Autumn is greeted with open arms (especially in sweaters, scarves or lovely pea coats). It can be intensely creative time. Perhaps it is related to the trees and plants slipping into dormancy. Their departure feels like a kind of loss, something to mourn. And our poems and stories and essays — borne of grief — become eulogies to the departed.
Or perhaps a less poetic take: the end of something often prompts reflection. So maybe the winding down of the seasons causes us to slow down and look back on the months before — whether we want to or not. The newness and excitement of summer is fading fast, and this dissolution of summer can allow some clarity to surface. And the emergence of these viscous truths can make great beginnings for great writing.
It could be argued that mourning the death of our happy seasons and waxing reflective on the year’s failures and disappointment both betray a depressive mind. Perhaps. But some would say that many writers are depressed anyway, so of course the Autumn is rife with creativity. That seems too easy. But I don’t know what the answer is.
What I do know is that the clutch of cold in the evening air or the cool brush of rain on my face makes me want to write. Compels me to commit words to paper.
I would bottle that feeling if I could.
Waiting in the darkness,
waiting for the flick of the switch.
Wondering when the light will come.
The heaviness shifts: a breath-clenching
weight that moves from muscle to muscle.
Fluid but unrelenting, pressing
against the contours of flesh and bone.
Then the light: eye-slitting and brilliant.
Bright as a revelation.
And after a moment it fades,
dissolving the darkness.
And everything becomes lighter.
The ’31 days of creativeness’ has not quite gone to plan. There have not been 16 posts in 16 days. There have been just ten. So I thought I’d take a look at the distractions and dramas that have kept me from doing something creative every day in October and address them. There’s still time left to get back on track.
The beginning went well. For the first seven days there was a creative act every day. I managed to maintain the momentum. Where it all fell apart was the Thanksgiving weekend. I intended to get creative on Saturday (Day 8), but let the Internet completely distract me. Even being physically at my laptop for hours and hours, I did everything else but get creative. I thought about it, but didn’t act. So the first transgression was simply a lack of commitment.
Actually, in the end, all of the missing days can be chalked up to lack of commitment, right?
On Sunday and Monday I was travelling, but that could have been an opportunity for mobile creativeness. But, despite the rural excursions, interacting with old friends, and taking a collection of photos, no determined creative acts took place. Again, I thought about it, but didn’t commit.
And this past week, oh wow, there were many excuses: too much stuff to do around the house, not getting enough sleep, feeling guilty about not using the time to spend with family. However, going back to work (after being away from the office for a 9 days) seems to have had the most significant impact of the ’31 days.’ There was just one creative act during the whole work week.
Now, of course, it’s not the fault of work — it’s my fault. Completely. But this was a bit of an eye-opener. When I don’t feel creative at work (or any other place for that matter), that feeling follows me home like a shadow. When the shadow hangs around, no creativity happens. Instead there is TV, random surfing, and word games on my phone. Which at the time feel much more satisfying.
So to keep the creative movement alive, I need to make a choice. To just do it. To ignore all of the distractions and do this for myself. Make the time. And just get on with it.
It was so quiet here. Just a car or two every once in a while, the travelling crunch of gravel quickly dissipating before reaching the porch. And occasionally the distant rattle of a tractor, a jet scraping across the sky.
The best part was the trees. The little white house was enveloped by trees. Embraced by them.
The trees are what she misses most. The vibrant colours of autumn, the crackle of leaves falling to the roof. Bare wintry branches and their muffled creaks as cold crept into the dampened trunks. The dark, leafy canopy of summer that eclipsed the sun, but let the quiet warmth dissolve down.
From every room you could hear the wind rush though the leaves, a sound as soft as water or triumphant as applause. It thrummed over the roof, beyond the road and what lay ahead.
The best part was the trees. Even as the house shifted. And shifted.
On the weekend I read a great article about strategies for finding “sacred space” and making time for “deep thinking.” Ok, I saw you roll your eyes just now. It’s not what it sounds like. It’s about taking a few moments (or more if you can) to just shut the world off and just think. No chants or visualization exercises. Just plain old, distraction-free, time-in-your-head time.
The article examines how pure, uninterrupted time is pretty much extinct. We’ve heard this, we know this. We fully acknowledge that the omnipresence of in-contact devices makes it near impossible to focus on one thing for any length of time. In many ways we have lost our ability to enjoy those delicious “creative pauses” that requires being either passively or totally disengaged. If we’re always engaged, there’s never a time for those eureka moments when the solution or creative idea just presents itself. This is why if it happens at all, it’s going to get us in the shower where there is no Blackberry or TV or other device competing for attention. The shower is fast becoming one of our last great hopes for creative thought.
I am one of these “shower people.” This is when I remember the name of that film, when I think of a concoction to make from last night’s leftovers, when I daydream through that trip to London, when I think of a solution to that annoying problem. Sometimes the ideas just keep flowing and there’s too many to capture before they disappear with the water down the drain.
Today I tried something when I walked home from work. I unplugged. No Blackberry or iPhone, and no music. Just me and the street. At first I was really bored, so just I looked at everything I could see. And then gave these visuals a little thought. Each thought dissolved into other thoughts. And pretty soon I was almost home, with two ideas for my creative-ness project, the basic outline for something else I wanted to write, and a pretty good feeling all-round. I’m not sure that I experience anything as profound as “deep thinking” but there was at least a bit of groovy disconnected space, and definitely a pause that I can rubber-stamp as “creative.”
Hopefully I can engage (or dis-engage) a little more frequently in the coming days. I have a few creative-ness days to catch up on…