Friday, May 2, 2008

May... and writing free

Each writer must find the writers whose work inspires, whose particular rhythm makes her own work flow onto the page. Today, I have found two: Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and poet, Mary Oliver. These muses speak directly to my Camp Edalia girl soul: The part of me that remembers the cushion of pine needle forest floors, ponds brackish with algae and buzzing with dragonfiles, and deer appearing and disappearing like flickers of sunlight through trees.

Hush.

Though my current habitat is planted with telephone pole and traffic light, reading Annie or Mary reminds me that just under the surface of my daily round, my Camp Edalia girl is poking a stick into a creek bubbling with treasures--tadpoles wiggling, bright orange salamanders scaling the banks, slippery stones that beckon, "Take off your shoes and dip those toes."

I drive teenagers to malls and stop, captivated when a bird with a red tail swoops in front of my car as if telling me something, when a frog hops across my asphalt path, when a gaggle of turkey vultures stops traffic as they cross a highway. Last summer, a hummingbird buzzed up and hung in the air right in front of my forehead as if to say: We know who you really are.

These arrivals strike me like a tuning fork, vibrating me deep down, soil to bedrock.

When I read Annie and Mary, I perch on a tree stump and watch them aim their binoculars to capture some ordinary woodland wonder--a clump of blueberries, a timid hare--and bow their heads to scribble notes in a pocket-size, wire-bound sketch pad, transforming it from everyday to exalted.

They are with me, these muses, on this May morning, in my car, in the parking lot outside of a cafe, where a wave of my own voice suddenly breaks the winter log jam and bursts free...

I have left my notebook somewhere (at the bottom of a bag? stuffed in a pocket? open, mid-sentence on the kitchen table?) so when inspiration comes bubbling and tumbling up, I rush to grab pages of a just-printed manuscript to pour these words.

My words spill into margins, fill ten pages front and back.

Oh, I wish you could see it, the ecstatic, exuberant penmanship, wild swirls like waves themselves—as each line courses from me like champagne released from the neck of a green glass bottle, words tumbling over each other like new schools of fishes, bursting through boundaries like swollen spring streams, gurgling and giggling with a joyful, Yes, Yes, Yes.

I write all of this with my car windows down, breathing in May, as above me, a hundred little black birds perch on a wire, shivering their wings and switching places, as I take flight.

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