Friday, December 4, 2009

Finding My Bearings



Because what is galling me is that I have been working for (how sad to say) years to streamline Everything Else and squeeze out a substantial block of time to Just Write.  And now that I've gotten here, I feel guilty.

Ridiculous. 

Especially as I don't believe in guilt. 

Compunction, yes.  First of all it has more syllables.  More importantly, no one carries around a load of compunction.  Compunction is momentary.  Compunction tells you you've misstepped, overstepped, stepped on - it's a course correctional tool.  Fix it, get on with it. 

Guilt is more a dead end.

So away with it.

The Grandmothers-of-the-Mind came whispering in the early hours of the morning, saying, "So dear, would you feel better about this writing if you set bounds and aims?  Now think, isn't  it better to go on now that you've started.  You do like it.  And what is useful anyway, hmm?"

(You do have Grandmothers like these, don't you?   I think they may be universal.   Because I remember the pleasant shudder with which  I recognized, very young, the Lady in George MacDonald's Princess and the Goblin.  Years before I would read the whole book, when I had just learned to read on my own, I found that single chapter lying in my lap one afternoon, as I curled up in the little room under the stairs at my grandmother's house.  I shiver and laugh still at the memory of reading how Irene climbs the stairs, loses her way, finds her father's mother's father's mother - and I knew Her - and there it was all written down on the thick, slick pages, so beautifully bordered, so intricately line-drawn, between the tall, heavy, bittersweet orange, pebble-bound covers of the ChildCraft anthology.)

Not that I listened to the Grandmothers-of-the-Mind this morning, their voices are so murmurous and easy to ignore.  Instead I woke my dear Fritz to ask what he thought about nursing school.

He had no opinion.

Which was unfeeling of him.   I stomped off to write - and gave over trying to be useful for the day.  Later he called, "So how's the writing going?"  (And no, I wouldn't want to live with me, either)

As for being useful, he said, "Have you thought about welding?"

" - uh.  No? - " gasping for breath after sudden laughter, "That - would be Useful."

"Hey, I'm just trying to offer you something orthogonal."

" - - ! I don't know what that means."

"Something totally different.  It's like - perpendicular.  You haven't thought of welding before have you?"

But now, my dears, I have.

And  . . . welding does have its possibilities . . . that summer I spent, between college and grad school, infatuated with the fresh-faced sweetly shy welder in the  next bay over from the paint-line where I hung parts that would become medical tables.  Watching him through the net curtain . . . thinking how like a modern knight . . . as he took up his tools, dropping the dark visor over his face, and the sparks flying against his breastplate, while the curtain billowed. 

In fact, it was the intensity of that whole summer, working ten hours in the factory - the squeal of the rolling metal doors opening, waiting workers backlit with early light, personalities, jockeyings for power, recaps of wild nights and then stories people told me quietly of deep struggles, smell of cigarettes and patch of green grass at our breaks (where I also read Henry James' Portrait of a Lady for the first time),  the final buzzing bell when all work STOPPED - and then a shower and three hours as a copy editor for an advertizer paper late into the evening - much quieter, much sadder and more silent struggles - that made me fear less the alienation of labor and more the alienation of a bodiless life of the mind.

And now I want them both - body and mind.  And the work that unites them.

3 comments:

Mrs. Organic said...

I LOVE the way you write!

Filigree said...

Wow, that is my new favourite bicycle poster!
I am the red haired girl who is closer to the front : )
Thanks for posting this, so cool!

I don't believe in guilt either; I try to make myself immune to it but it does not always work. My cats try to help me learn.

And I like your welder story.

Emma J said...

Isn't that poster great? I love the old designs.

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