At my desk this morning. About 7:00 when I got up this morning, I heard the smallest sound of raindrops tapping on the roof. I was delighted. I know, I know, rain can be dreary and made you feel blue. But for me, the sound of rain is one of the most pleasant sounds on Earth. What is is about the tap-tap-tap sound that makes me feel so delighted? I think it’s the feeling of being enclosed, enveloped, surrounded by a natural curtain of rain. It’s like being in one of those old-fashioned four-poster beds from the 1800s, those Dickensian beds, where you draw the curtains all ’round (to keep in the heat, I suppose?). Cozy. Snuggly. Hearing the sound of rain is like that for me.
I am enjoying the poem by Margaret Atwood, “February.” It starts like this:
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead. . . .
What is it about winter that makes us crave comfort food? Pewter mornings, those are what we get here in Seattle in winter. Like the cat in Atwood’s poem, my own cat, Pickles, black with green eyes, jumps on the bed every morning, yowling her greeting. February is the month of Valentines, it’s the month of Groundhog Day, it’s Black History Month, it’s Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday month. Here’s another poetic take on it, and excerpt from “February,” by Bill Christophersen:
The cold grows colder, even as the days
grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light
buffing but not defrosting the bone-white
ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot.
. . . hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun.
“Hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun.” Nice line!
If you haven’t already done so, you should consider subscribing to Poetry Foundation’s “Poem of the Day” emails. I’m a neophyte poet, but just getting exposure to all kinds of poems and poets, noticing what I like and what I’m less moved by, hearing the lyrical and musical and strident and flowing words that come from a poet’s mind, just reading a poem a day has made me a better writer. Try it!
This month in my “Eleven Stories” writing course we’ve graduated from 55-word stories to 101-word stories; still lots of attempts, still lots of different viewpoints, still a journey. Here is one story that stood out this month:
Photograph, by Theresa Barker
There was something about the soldier that made me cry. You don’t think your own son will die so early. The soldier’s eyes are behind sunglasses, on his head a military helmet made for the desert. You hear that soldiers, these boys of our hearts, come home from the battlefront broken. Broken in the mind, broken in their hearts. What is it that makes us send out young men to war? What is it that makes them want to go? There is a primordial sense of belonging in a group of men who go off to war. But the mothers, we wait. We hold them in our eyes, and we sing them to sleep at night from afar.
Books I’m reading
A friend recommended The Phoenix Dance, by Dia Calhoun. In this young adult fantasy novel, the heroine is an apprentice shoemaker who wants to become the Royal Shoemaker for the twelve dancing princesses of the kingdom. It’s an updated take on the fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” in which a king has twelve beautiful daughters who mysteriously dance holes in their shoes every night. The most intriguing aspect of this book is that the heroine, called Phoenix Dance, has an affliction, bipolar disorder, and the author describes how Phoenix experiences and struggles with this disorder, eventually saving the day and defeating the enchantment of the princesses.
Sometimes I find it hard to sit down and write, actually write, in my home office. Everything seems dull at my desk at times. Yesterday I had to be downtown for an appointment, and I had about 20 minutes of time before the appointment started. I stopped into a little tea-and-coffee place (confession: they specialize in custom-made cupcakes and macarons) called The Yellow Leaf. I was good – only bought a cup of loose-leaf English Breakfast black tea and a small macaron cookie – and when I sat down at one of their tiny tables (they are very small inside), suddenly I felt like writing. I wrote two very short flash fictions, no more than exercises, but still, I liked them when I got done, and when I got up to leave a few minutes later I felt delighted and refreshed.
So if sometimes you feel like I do, ugh, sitting at my desk seems so boring! – consider going out, stopping into a place that feels right and cozy and comfortable, and pull out your pad and pen and write. – It may be a coffee house, but it might also be a park bench, a diner, a bar (!), or a neighbor’s front porch. Enjoy!