Today is Valentine’s Day. Thanks to a gift bag from Chris full of delicious items like Prosecco and orange juice, I started the day with mimosas. Otherwise, it’s a normal Sunday morning here: coffee, reading, writing, throwing breakfast together with what’s left in the fridge, watching CBS Sunday Morning and the SNL clips we missed last night because we don’t stay up that late anymore.
I rather enjoy my sleep even though I seem to need lots of it right now. It doesn’t matter if it’s the perimenopause or pandemic-related cabin fever or SAD; the weather always contributes. We’ve had a darker, snowier winter than normal, and mood-wise it’s the opposite of what I need.
My friend Sarah calls it “writing weather,” and while I’m not one for silver linings, this winter has been a writing winter for me. I set a bunch of poetry goals again this year, and so far I’ve been able to stay on track. In fact, I haven’t busted my ass this much for writing projects since I wrapped up my MFA in 2015 and reworked/submitted manuscripts based on that work for two intense years.
Those books didn’t get published but did make it to a couple of final rounds. The effort was exhausting, and I have nothing real to show for it. I’m not overly upset by that but admit that those failures are on my mind as I reboot and wonder if it’s “worth it” this time.
Do you weigh creative endeavors that way? I beat myself up a lot for those kinds of thoughts even though I know it’s not helpful. What would be helpful: for someone to create a YouTube channel called “Is It Worth It?” It would be along the lines of “Will It Blend?” and save us all lots of time and energy. But anyway, and in the meantime, I’m left to my own devices.
I don’t need any speeches of the it’s-the-journey-not-the-destination variety. I’m doing plenty along the way to make this manuscript work feel less like an obsession and more like an opportunity to play. I’m attending some great virtual readings and workshops. I’m publishing poetry prompts and sharing reading notes on poetry collections I’m enjoying. It helps it feel less like work, which is good because work feels enough like work.
I’m not just writing this winter. I’m also watching green things grow.
The UV light alone is cheering, but with the Aerogarden (I purchased one for salad greens and one for basil, sage, cilantro and rosemary), I’m also delighted by my ability to grow things.
Technically, I can’t take credit. The gardens are Carolee-proof. I don’t have anything resembling a green thumb. I managed to keep my kids alive because they tell me when they’re hungry, and the Aerogardens are kind of like that. Buttons flash when they need water and plant food; an umbrella of UV lights turns on and off automatically, giving the sprouts 15 hours of “daylight.”
I’d thrive, too, if I had that much sun.
Absent the arrival of Long Sunny Day July and the end of this cursed pandemic, I don’t have much choice but to contend with and get through “writing weather.” Some days, the only places I go other than bed is the red desk in the dining room, and if i want to mix it up, I go to the couch. Other days, the only places I go are the bed and the couch. On those days, if i want to mix it up, I sit at the red desk.
It’s hard to feel alive — hell, it’s hard to feel anything — in a pattern like that. As a palette, it’s fairly bland, and so I’m genuinely surprised when something cuts through. Often, it’s nothing I’d expect. Like recently, I felt deep satisfaction scrubbing the Mr. Coffee carafe with vinegar and turning it from brown and dingy to clear and shiny. Interesting what can be grounding. Another day, I wept uncontrollably while watching In & Of Itself on Hulu. I highly recommend it. The show, I mean. Though if a good cry is on your to-do list, In & Of Itself may do it. It moved me in a way I wasn’t sure I could still feel.
Music is helping, too, and I’m on a Willie Nelson kick. I’m not a country music fan, but that hasn’t stopped me from loving Willie over the years. Mostly, I’ve gravitated toward the hits and essentials (plus his work with Snoop and the Highwaymen), but the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing a deeper dive. If you want songs with heart and humility, hang out with Willie awhile.
There’s a lot of pressure to glean lessons from what we’re all going through right now. I reject that mostly. Ask me in 10 years. Perhaps I’ll have perspective then. In the meantime, I’m letting Willie be my guide. He’s always been good inspiration when I’ve needed to fire up my rebellious spirit and find some spunk. Like this:
I run up and down the road and makin’ music as I goWillie Nelson’s “Still Not Dead”
They say my pace would kill a normal man
But I’ve never been accused of bein’ normal anyway
And I woke up still not dead again today
Be grateful for your time. Spend it how you want.
Well, it’s all going to pot“It’s all going to pot,” Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
Whether we like it or not
The best I can tell
The world’s gone to hell
And we’re sure gonna miss it a lot
The world’s a mess, baby. The hell with anyone else’s ideas of health, love, justice and The Good Life. Make your own rules.
And also this:
The road was always rockyWillie Nelson’s “True Love”
Trouble waitin’ ’round every bend
I’ll go to hell believin’
True love, you’re still my friend
Fall in and out of love like it’s your purpose on Earth. Stay in it when you can. Let it go when you need to. Mourn it when it leaves you. Let it lift you up when it arrives.
I suppose those takeaways from Willie’s music also work as instructions for the writing life, and I’m glad I white-knuckle that far less than I used to. Weather, on the other hand, still impacts me dramatically. In 2020 and 2021, bad weather feels like an isolating factor on top of a big pile of isolating factors. For today and all its ice and gray and gloom, I’ll nurse mimosas and revise some poems. We’ll get takeout and celebrate love. Looking ahead, as soon as it’s back into the 30s, I’ll try to get back to daily walks. For now, the scenery is still just the bed, the couch and the red desk. The red desk, the couch and the bed. The bed. The couch. The red desk.
Thank God I had the balls to paint that desk bright red all those years ago.