Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Apologies to Carl Jung for stealing his title. I am in a spell of dryness and trying to discover how to come out of the desert. This piece will perambulate, but I promise to eventually go ahead and define the boundaries of my inspection.

I’ve had words my whole life. As a baby I used to sit in the back of the car and recite every word I knew. I put myself to sleep with words. I loved how they rolled off my tongue and made beautiful patterns against the roof of my mouth. I loved how saying them into the air could cause a reaction from my mother and father - especially when I named my rocking horse a dreadful word that rhymes with Buck, and no one - not even my beloved grandmother - could dissuade me. As I grew older I began to see words as story – how words could swirl around and become a circuit – the same way electricity forms a perfect arc. I would spend hours preparing scripts for my friends to use with our Barbies as we acted out my stories, circling the theme – will Ken bring home the right car? Can Barbie ever have children of her own? Will Skipper be able to save her sick pony? - We tried out alternate stories, different arcs, until we discovered what felt like the happiest ending.

Words were lush – the way they could just fall into my mouth, ripe and velvety. I knew more words than anyone I knew. I read the dictionary for the sheer joy of discovering a word that was rife with possibility. Perambulate, for instance, which rose just now into my fingers and was perfect – better than explore, better than walk, better than circle. Do I ever use a word like perambulate in every day conversation? No. But there it was, shimmering in a pool – ready to rise up.

I discovered Jung in college and became instantly devoted to his archetypes. Mostly because I could understand them. Horses pounding hooves next to a castle – the flight or fight animation of the night mare. The giant that lives next to the bridge – fear of crossing into newness. His was a landscape that made sense to me. Words are the manifestation of image, after all. And image is the child of myth and symbol. I could cross into French Deconstructionism and ponder if a table would really be a table if we couldn’t call it that, but I never much liked unbundling words from objects.

In Jung I discovered an image that abides with me always. Creativity is a giant river and it runs cool, deep and ever-replenishing through our subconscious, dumping finally into a lake where we can plumb the depths and, like pirates, hide our ideas until we need them. We have only to learn to make a bucket. To pull up what we want from the cool water of creative thought. What I’ve pulled up are buckets mostly filled with words, but I’ve also pulled up houses, dresses, the perfect paint color, children, a piece of mosaic, and the random new way of doing something. But during this tumultuous time in life I have been discarding my bucket more than I carry it. The river has receded for me and I’ve been in fear that shortly I’ll need to craft a divining rod to ever find it again. For the past six months I have not been able to find time to write. The words are drying pebbles – muted and plain in the air; the river slows to a trickle. The lake it feeds into has sandy edges now and the reeds poke up into the air from the shallowing middle.

The hard thing is that I never stop hearing the water, even as I have had to turn my attention to other things, it’s still there, with all the annoyance of a dripping faucet and the companionable guilt of waste.

But then just last week I was walking on a track at Agnes Scott College while my kids were in camp. Agnes Scott is a women’s college. Lush and manicured – always an inducement to finding water. I walked hard, in despair, certain that I wouldn’t ever again have time for the words, when beneath my feet I felt it. Water. Six months is a long time to be parched, a long time to not be able to use words, an eternity of desperate thirst.

I came home that day and did something I hate to do. I put my children in front of the television and locked myself in my room. I spread out the next four months before me on my bed and I hunted for space where I could wade, space where I could swim, space where I could float. I found those spaces – I found where water could sweep in around the boundaries and edges of a life that is too full of obligation. Looking at all those squares now colored blue I remembered something an old plumber once told me:

Water will always find a way to run.


Sandy Elzie said...

I know your life has bern... busy (there must be a better word than "busy") but it's good to have you back. We've missed your words.

Very thought-provoking piece that painted a picture that is beautiful, yet speaks the truth.
Even when the water doesn't seem to be running, it's still there, waiting to be used. Loved the post.


Linsey Lanier said...


I agree with Sandy. I'm so glad you're here today. We have poets and philosophers among our PFHT sisters. I have tears in my eyes as I write this.

It may have been earlier, but I remember falling in love with words when I read Dickens in my late teens: circumlocution, sagacious, perspicacity. And yes, perambulate. I love them all to the day.

We all experience this dryness. You are not alone. And even if it feels like a desert at times, the tides will rise again. They will suddenly flood you when you least expect it. The water is within you.

Your post is proof of that. To me, it was a window to a timeless world I wish I could stay in. But I must run off to the electronic, mathematical world of my job, where excellent word choice and even subject verb agreement is often ignored.

Thank you for an inspiring start to my day.


Debbie Kaufman said...

I think that all that early play with words is like what Julianne discussed yesterday in her post on the rule of 10,000. You've already put in most of the hours towards being a master with the use of words. Now, of course, you have to find the time to hammer them out.
Great post!

Marilyn Baron said...

Beautiful post. It sounds to me like the drought is over.

Marilyn Baron

CiCi Barnes said...

How deep! Just like the water flowing under you, ready to rise. Put on your life jacket, girl. I think there's about to be a flood.


Susan May said...

Excellent post. We also have times in our lives where the river floods and we can do little more than keep our heads above water. I'm glad your back to calm waters. I look forward to reading one of your stories.

Carol Burnside said...

Great post, beautiful imagery. The water is flowing. Go along for the ride!

Michelle said...

Thank you everyone. I couldn't sleep last night I had so many ideas for the next writing session I'm going to have. Like Julianne, I also read Outliers and it was really illuminating. You just have to keep on keeping on. I wish I could lock myself in a room for a weekend - I swear the whole book would just churn right out of me. :)

Darcy Crowder said...

Eloguent post, Michelle. So glad the dam has broken, so to speak. Good luck with the fresh waters...looking forward to hearing more from you.

Pamela Varnado said...

Happy to hear you're back writing. We all experience times when nothing seems to flow. But the love of words eventually pulls us out of the winding river and settles our tired spirits on the banks. A place where we can rest and find renewal.

Tami Brothers said...

Ditto!!! You always stress about your bests and I always LOVE them! As you can see from the other posts, so did a lot of other people.

I can definitely relate to the dry spell. I'm glad you see that light at the end of the tunnel and I hope I can catch a ride on the train with you!

Keep on keeping on....grin...


Tami Brothers said...

I meant to say posts!!! I really need to read these three or four MORE times before hitting send!

You always stress about your posts but there is really no need to.

Okay, back to my Excel final...bleh....

Ana Aragón said...


How introspective and yet, it speaks to each and every one of us. I, too, love words and authors who make me think and make me feel.

You did that with your post, dear. Now just package up what you've gotten from this piece and move on. We're waiting.