9:30 p.m. in June. The night is only a pale likeness of winter's early and utter blackness. Up the hill a lone lamp post juts beaming against the still-distinguishable horizon. Below it stand three more like it, blank-eyed and blending into the slowly closing night.
Beautiful. But I haven't noticed it. Until now.
I sit back against the rough trunk of one of the half-dead willows. Three of them cluster here in the sort of natural nook no contractor could plan so perfectly. My curly hair merges with the trunk in the dimness, and the uncut grass surrounds me almost a foot tall.
My own desert isle in a sea of concrete, perfect landscaping, huge houses and dozens of cars as they shoot past, their headlights beaming and their back lights blazing red—a red too bright for a natural world sinking into its light summer sleep.
The world cannot see me tonight. It has no expectations of me at this moment. Right now only the willow, the grass and the tree bugs are aware of my presence.
Tonight I am not out there with it all.
I close my eyes. Not in sleep; not in preparation for another day. I close them just to close them. To close things out.
Tonight I am in here.
My ears kick into gear and hear it all: wind, car engines, subwoofers, teens, children in the house … the sharp slap of my brother's basketball as it dribbles mere feet away from me. Even that close, he has no idea I am here. I feel completely removed from the real world. And I take a deep, delicious breath.
My shoulder blades loosen, my breathing evens and slows itself as I sink further against the willow, fold my arms and watch the world zip by.
Tonight, I am perfectly content to let it be so.
No frenzied, hyper-blinking rush of life tonight. No people to see, please, be around, help, have fun with. No school, work, apps, texts, appointments or expectations. No standing still, looking around and wondering what more to do. Not for me.
Tonight there is none of that. Nothing. Except slow, deep breathing. Observing, listening to, the world rather than trying to take it by storm. Being Still.
How long has it been since I was last still?
Life is so busy. The real world...imagination just doesn't cut it there. A Vogon fact. And so, slowly, inadvertently—absolutely unintentionally—I cut it off. Crowded it out with productivity and people and task completion. Lived life, worked hard, interacted nonstop with others day in and day out, and in the evenings turned to tv or web surfing because my brain was too tired to create. I thought a lot. But it was more just that: thought. Worry, problem-solving, problem-making, problem-exacerbating, rather than reflection and creation.
So it's not natural, creative writing. Not anymore. Not like in childhood. More like trying to breathe through oatmeal.
At first I felt disillusionment at the fact. Isn’t talent and art supposed to be natural? An epiphany, an escape from the hum-drum workhorse human life can so often be? Might as well give up if it’s not natural anymore.
Then something else made me dig in my heels at that. Resolve not to lose this part of me to daily life.
It’s not natural. But it’s still something I love. Something I need. Something worth saving. It's something that will take work to resuscitate. Revive. Nurse back to health.
But—and yes—it is something worth working for.
Writing. Even if I, myself, am the only one who ever reads it.
So tonight I make the first small gesture of good faith in that process. The first drip in the IV. The first drop in the desert.
By stopping. Breathing. Looking around. Soaking in the stillness. As if I were a child again with that kind of time. And, thus, giving my imagination some room to breathe again too.
And waiting to see if something will return the gesture.
I open my eyes; pull my laptop out. (Even in June it is too dark to write on paper.) I open my story application and set it to full screen. No other distractions now. No Internet. No phone. No responsibility. Right now. Just a black screen with pale yellow words running across it in Didot font.
The cool night breeze soothes some of the day's sweat and tension from my face and neck. The grass is cool and long beneath me. The unfamiliar roughness of the bark digging into my back reminds me I'm alive, not just living.
I stare into the night for a few minutes more; watch the world, apart from it.
How refreshing it is sometimes to be an island.
I screw my eyebrows together and close my eyes again as the rusty gears creak, groan … move!
I look back down at the screen.
Start typing. No distraction. No excuses. No stopping.