It rained steady in the night, and this morning the stream was full and fast. I listened to the churn of the water as I milked, and was soothed despite that restless, rushing motion. I’d been gone for 36 hours, and in that brief span of time the leaves on the poplars emerged, and now lie in a wash of green at the height of the land across the shallow valley to the north. It’s a relief, honestly, just that little bit of color.
During my time away (which is itself maybe another story for another day) I had conversations with other writers. The occasion of my trip had nothing to do with writing (or at least no more to do with writing than anything has to do with writing, which is to say that perhaps it had everything to do with writing), but those of us thus afflicted generally don’t have much trouble finding one another in a crowd. It’s almost like you can smell it on a person, that particular curse of curiosity and then – even worse – the anguish of how best to unpack it, like turning a many-sided stone over in the hand, trying to determine its most interesting aspect. There. Then turn again. No, there. And so on.
I won’t bore you with the details of my personal angst regarding this work, except to note that, with a handful of exceptions, it has of late been difficult for me to maintain my enthusiasm for the craft. Partly, I think it’s a condition of simple habit, the inevitable atrophying of an unworked muscle, until it is no longer able to carry weight that once seemed inconsequential, and so turning over that many-sided stone begins to feel like too great a task. I’ve never been a particularly disciplined or driven writer, always easily distracted by more pressing needs. And lately, pretty much everything feels more pressing.
Still, it was nice to talk with others about their work, about what matters to them and even what doesn’t, about how it fits into their life and even how it doesn’t. It can be pretty lonely stuff, this ceaseless stone turning, and a little company comes in handy.
Furthermore, it often seems to me that everything that really needs saying has already been said, and that what we really need more of are the stories that lie beyond the range of human language. The movement of the stream this morning. The weight of the air, still spitting out rain. The curl of the calf’s tongue around the bottle nipple, and the beaded foam of milk along its surface. Such a funny little detail. I watch it every day, so I don’t know why it still surprises me.