With writing, and everything else in life, you need to find your place in order to flourish. The nook suited to your temperament, your mission control. I carefully considered the atmosphere I needed to write well and discovered that silence was the key to my success, pin-drop silence. My ears process sound like an amplifier, and I am easily distracted. If my husband tries to talk to me, I flap my hands like a hatchling, cover my ears and say, “I love you, don’t speak.”
Our backyard is my favorite place to prepare my mind for writing, especially when the sun is rising. Your troubles dissolve and drain away. I could write about my backyard forever. Every day is entertaining. I hear the busy life of birds and insects. All the motion makes you feel a little lazy. I watch the sun travel across the yard. It moves through the shrubs like a child playing hide and seek. One minute it’s fixed on a spot and suddenly it’s not. Trees shake their leaves like a dog spraying water from his back in slow motion. There are bits of amazement too like the birth of a new plant from a seed, the way the stem is bent when it sprouts like a loop with two infant leafs waiting for the signal to stand up.
When you’re listening in a quiet place outdoors for a time, you fall in love. You can’t help it. Your eyes are drawn to everything around you. The rest seeps in. Then your heart settles on a few special things. I am in love with a massive pine tree living by the side of our house. If it dies, it will be a death in the family. I am so close to this tree that it feels like an uncle. At dawn, it’s a breathtaking shadow puppet, a huge ebony cutout against a pale grey sky. In the afternoon, it rests as the sun filters through sprays of pine needles. The light feels mystical. A huge hawk’s nest rests on a sturdy lower branch, One image of grandeur mirroring another.
The quiet, the listening, falling in love with inanimate things. This the nature of my writing life, and it can lead to a kind of pain I’ve never experienced before. Last week I saw hundreds of cut pines lined up in rows at Lowe’s, ready for Christmas. It looked like a mass murder. I turned to my husband and said someone had committed a huge crime and that we needed a fake tree. I never thought I’d want an artificial tree. This is what writing can do to you, but it’s worth the pain.