Monday, July 11, 2011

Cabin Fever at St. Peter's Abbey

This morning we had standard Saskatchewan weather: rain, harder rain, more rain. But in my endlessly optimistic way I decided this was a good thing. It would encourage what Sherwood Anderson once said was the only reliable source of a writer's inspiration: fastening the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair.

But then this afternoon, luckily after the sun came out, I had an awful case of what Bill calls "the yips." The sound says it all for me; "the yips" is a kind of edginess that creeps into your muscles and your brain. So I went for a walk, to change the focus of my senses. Because it was muddy underfoot, so I was trying to figure out where to walk so I wouldn't skid in the mud, the first thing I noticed was the sound. Along the gravel road that runs east and west at the end of the alley of trees, there's a not very thick but extremely varied woods. The wind in the aspens sounds different from the birches, and these in turn sound different from the ashes and certainly from the pines. Interestingly, it reminded me of the sound of language, something that often gets left behind when you translate words to keystrokes too quickly. I was also reminded of a principle of nature that is also perhaps a principle of society and certainly of art: a richly varied ecosystem is a gift.

Interestingly, the verges are also varied. The edge of the road that goes east is filled with purple vetch and clover. Here the dragonflies were busy. There were large dusty blue pterodacyls that hovered like hummingbirds. Smaller gold striped ones looked like aerial tigers, and the smallest of all were an electric blue with wings so transparent they looked like levitating dashes.

Once I turned south, however, the sound and the roadside changed. Here I listened to the sighing of enormous pines and the wind through tall grass. Huddled in the grass were wild roses in full and fragrant bloom. There were more of the tiger dragonflies, but these were joined by an orange butterfly drawn, perhaps, to the roses.

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. But how crucial it is to change our perspectives: to see things both up close and far away and to be reminded that both views need to speak in our writing.

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen, this is lovely. Running in the morning the wind sounds different to me, the road looks different, the curve of the sun & the shape of the sky, different, different different. To know the names of the flowers i can speak them now & will hear their sounds as i lift my head to pass them in the early hours.
    Thanks a million time over. Look forward to the next blog.