Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Perch Revisited

The following is a sequel of sorts to the post that started my blog.  Although the new one stands just fine on its own, you might find it interesting to read (or reread) the original for the contrast and background it provides.  It can be found here. Both are relatively short posts, for me.    

I wrote this post in one sitting, in just over an hour.  I normally don't publish things without editing and revising them to a high polish, but in this case I'm leaving the post pretty much in its rough-hewn state, with the exception of a few revisions of clarity, and completing a few thoughts that, upon review, were hastily left incomplete at first.  

I feel like this is the best description I have come up with so far of what happens when I sit down to write each morning.

Six months ago, on one of the longest days of the year, I started thunderstrokes with a post called “Perch.”  The Perch is my name for the place where I do the vast majority of my writing, especially my early-morning writing.  It consists of a computer on a wooden Ikea desk in the living room of our house right up against the window that looks out over the front yard and our little eddy of a neighborhood.

Now, in early January, we’re in amongst the shortest days of the year.  Today, right now it’s 7:30, and the sun is still somewhere below the trees and roofs of the homes southeast of ours.   

I call it the perch, because I feel like a bird when I’m sitting here, looking out over the corner of our street, but just as much over the lands and unexplored places in my mind and imagination.  From this place, I swoop down each day to one little spot and light there, pecking around and almost always discovering something unusual or interesting to bring back with me.  Most mornings I know where I’m going; I am returning to a specific location to continue working at something I already started, but didn’t have time to finish yesterday. I love these days, because I have a direction, an immediate purpose, something concrete to focus on. 
Sometimes, while pulling at the bits and pieces of one thing, I discover a string leading to a whole new thing in the ground, something that had previously gone wholly unnoticed, even though it was there all along.  Some of these new things I soon realize are superior to what I had been working on, and so I abandon the first, and start right in on the new one.

Note:  In fact, this post is an example of that very phenomenon.  I sat down this morning to continue working on my Forward Path year-end wrap-up post, and this idea just started spinning out.

Some don’t pan out, and after some initial probing, I turn back to the original task.  Some I just document in my journal with directions so I can find them again later.  I’ll explore those more when I can, if I still want to, or if I find I need to.

In my mind, I usually have a list of places I want to go next, two or three or four places that I want to investigate more closely because in passing over the ground, I felt the promise of something valuable buried there.  My list creates consistency and urgency, the feeling that I need to keep pushing, working without rushing so I can finish and move on to the next potential shiny thing.  I love that feeling too, of abundance, of having more to do than I possibly have time for, although that feeling brings with it at times an acute sense of frustration.  I should be working around the clock, not two hours here and an hour there.  It forces me to make tough decisions about where to go next, and what has to wait. 

It’s 7:45 now, and the sun is just about to rise.  I can see the top of its blaring head peeking over our neighbor’s roof three houses down, and now the first blast of sunrise, that golden orange light, is slanting sideways through the window into my eyes.  I’ll have to close the blinds soon, because the angle the sunlight takes this time of year interferes with my ability to see the screen.  I don’t like to close the blinds.  I leave them open until it’s past the point of being merely annoying, until I really can’t take it anymore.  I lean to my left, using the DSL modem on top of the desk as well as a few other small items to put myself into shade.  But it’s only a momentary respite.  I have to decide if I’m done writing for the time, or if it’s worth it to close those blinds to the sun and continue with a blank wall in front of me.  It should be easier to concentrate, but it’s not.  I don’t understand why, but even when it’s dark outside, the blackness feels different than having a flat wall of closed blinds in front of me.  I want to finish this post.  The sun’s moving beyond the reach of the little objects.  The sun’s face is glaring into mine.  I’m squinting to see the screen.  I wonder if I look like Clint Eastwood now, writing at my desk.  My eyelashes catch the beams and turn a few of them into a line of little spectroscopic circles, like a strand of blurry Christmas lights, just above where my focus rests on the screen. I can see my own nose reflecting sunlight below my eyes, and even a few of my burning, wiry, whiskers.  I am losing concentration because of the effects of the sun.  I can’t see much outside the window now because every speck of dust, and every water mark on the glass is flaring yellow, smearing away what lay beyond.  The heat of the sun is distractingly warm on my forehead and eyelids, too far out of balance with the rest of my body.  At 8:05, I finally reach over the desk and pull the cord to close the blinds. 

I think of stopping here, but I want to finish this piece in real time.  I don’t know why.  It probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I realize that I’m capturing a moment as much as an idea, and I want to keep that moment pure, and real. I reread what I’ve written so far, make a few cursory edits and decide I like it.  I just have one more thing to say. It’s 8:12, and the sky is gone.

As much as I love the days where I know where I’m going that morning, or where I want to go next, I also love just as much the days when I have no idea what to do, or where I’m going next.  Those are the days when you don’t know where you’re going to find your food, your sustenance, the thing that’s going to allow you to keep moving forward.  Those can be scary days.  The chance that maybe you’re done, that there is nothing else, that you’ve exhausted your land, and no direction looks promising.  I’ve faced those mornings, too, although I have to say that they’ve been far less frequent than I could have possibly dreamed (I’m knocking on my wooden Ikea desk right now), what with my journal and maps of potential finds and all.  But I’ve had mornings when, after perusing a list of dozens of ideas, none of them were things I wanted to write about that day.  And that’s when I set off from the perch, and just fly for awhile.  I survey the boundaries of my interior world, just gazing, soaring, with an empty mind looking, to all possibilities open.  I am surprised all over again by the richness of the terrain and the extensiveness of my kingdom.  In fact, in moments like this, I realize that I don’t really know where my boundaries are.  I keep seeing more and more land, more and more places, more and more stuff I believe might belong to me.  I start to feel like maybe the whole world is mine.  I think I love those mornings most of all.

Eventually, I’ll glide down to some far-flung spot, and start digging.  The most miraculous thing to me about the last six months is that whenever I’ve left the perch, I haven’t come back empty-handed (or is that empty beaked?) yet.  One last knock on the desk. 
It’s 8:30, and I’m done.

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