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June 2011

The Threshold Time

My little black familiar

Anam Cara by John O'Donohue

Following on from yesterday's discussion: Another thing that I love about notebooks is that they're so simple and so portable -- compared to lugging a laptop around, with its limited battery life. That's essential  for a writer like me, whose best ideas tend to come at dawn -- and who can often be found at that potent hour  in the woods behind the studio with a cup of coffee, a book, a pen, and a notebook (or two, or three).

Woodland's edge

"The dawn," notes John O'Donohue (in Anam Cara), "is a time of possibility and promise. All the elements of nature: stones, fields, rivers and animals are suddenly there anew in the fresh dawn light. Just as darkness brings rest and release, so the dawn brings awakening and renewal. In our mediocrity and distraction, we forget that we are privileged to live in a wondrous universe. Each day the dawn unveils the mystery of this universe. Dawn is the ultimate surprise: it awakens us to the immense 'thereness' of nature."

Sun rising through the trees

O'Donohue decribes dawn as a "threshold" time, with a touch of magic, even holiness, in the mysterious daily movement from dark to light. He then laments that "the urbanization of modern life has succeeded in exiling us from this fecund kinship with mother earth. We need to remain in rhythm with our inner clay voice and longing. Yet this voice is no longer audible in the modern world."

Morning sky  New York City

He's right that it's harder to hear our "clay voice" in cities...but it's not impossible, for the rhythms of nature, of seasons and moons and tides, move through urban life too.  Dawn was a potent, creative time for me all through my city years, and I had my sunrise-places and morning rituals there as well.

In New York, I favored particular cafes with good strong coffee, quiet music and a view of the sky -- notebooks and manuscripts spread on the table as the streets slowly lightened around me. In Boston, I'd be by the docks of Boston Harbor in my North End neighborhood, sometimes sitting on the rocks of Pilot House Park with cold bay water slapping below my feet, sometimes perched on the concrete rim of the outdoor seal pen at the old Aquarium (coffee in hand, books and notebooks weighting down my knapsack), sharing the first quiet hour of my day with the seals (who came to know me well), just as today I share it with Tilly.

Magic, of course is everywhere, just as nature itself is everywhere; and daybreak is a time of enchantment wherever we are. The threshold time.

North End harbour, Boston

Seal friend

Paper and Ink


In response to the comments on my last post, the photograph above shows the working notebooks I have on the go right now,  eighteen of them in all -- the number, of course, fluctuating with whatever I am working on in any given season. The cheap, tattered notebooks stacked on the desk above are for various editorial projects (anthologies, etc.), and I don't tend to save them when the projects are done. The nicer hardback notebooks (on the shelf in the photo above, and scattered across the table in the photo below) are for various writing and art projects, and those I do save.

Notebooks-on-the-go 2

Computers, I admit, are incredibly useful things -- but to my mind nothing beats paper and ink for jotting down ideas, roughing out a plot, or capturing stray wisps of inspiration. Now, my husband is a write-it-on-a-scrap-of-paper-and-then-lose-it kind of guy. He trusts in memory, and luck. Me, I'm a hoarder of words and stories, and I like them bound and labeled, where I can find them. We lose too much in life as it is: Memories. Places and people we've loved. The selves we once were, or wanted to be. Dazzling ideas that burned brightly for a time and then just faded away: the books never written, the paintings never painted, stories lost in the winds of time.

So yes, I'm a hoarder of words, of notebooks, of sentence fragments salvaged from the restless winds. Muse willing, those stories will reach completion. Muse willing, someday I'll pass them on to you.

So simple. So true.

Writing desk

"Every work of literature has both a situation and a story. The situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has to say."   -- Vivian Gornick, The Situation and
the Story

Tune for a Monday Afternoon

Howard just showed me a clip of the awesome Janelle Monáe performing here in the UK at the Glastonbury Festival this past weekend...and since I haven't got the patience to wait until next Monday to share it, here's a second "Monday Tune" for you today:

The previously posted song, Rise Against's "Make it Stop," fit the mood of a grey Devon morning with rain drumming down on the tin of the studio roof. But now the storm has passed, the sun peeks through the clouds, and the afternoon air is sparkling and fresh. So here's a dazzling perfomance to kick the work-week into high gear, with energy and joy....Lordy, don't they look like they're having fun?

Tune for a Monday Morning

And now for something a little different from the folk, roots, and world music I usually post here of a Monday morning: Rise Against's "Make It Stop (September's Children)" (via Patty Templeton). I love this anti-bullying video (particularly the peering-into-the-future end sequences), and wish it had been around when I was a teen. There's an interesting piece about the creation of the song and video here, on the band's website.

On a related subject: Congratulations, New York State, for finally doing the right thing and legalizing gay marriage. One more piece of light in the world....