A grumpy old guy at a bar, who was familiar to me, but I could not place. In one of those morning dreams where you incorporate the noise of the day into the dream, and Mr. Sweetcakes’ snoring became the beat to techno-pop that roused customers to dance – in this dream, this guy I almost knew was drilling my tablemates on what they wanted to do with their lives. As if we were sixteen year-olds, waiting to take on the world. But it was present day, and we are more than old enough to have sixteen-year-old children. And some of us do.
And when he got to me, he insulted me. Called me a boy. Put me on edge, then started drilling me: do I want to be a mathematician, an engineer? When I told him I had a book of poems, and one of stories ready to be published, he ignored me, kept rattling off a his list of science professions. I said it louder. My friends repeated it, too. He just looked at me, scoffed and said, “What, you think you’ll be famous?”
When you wake with that sort of question pulled fresh from dreamland, it seems obvious that you need to answer it, though it’s an easy answer (eh, it’s not the goal) and, not, I don’t think, the point of the dream.
Yesterday, I read a Facebook post from Elizabeth Gilbert, asking the question: what are you willing to give up to follow your dream? That’s the question. That’s the why for having had this dream. That bitty nugget has been carpet tackling me for months.
All through the spring and summer when I worked on these poems about science (astronomy) and the journey from my childhood with two religions to finding my way for a good while as an agnostic, and now, being happy to hold firmly a belief in the lack of any higher being, all through this book, I have struggled with finding the time despite the other priorities that call me. It’s constant and sometimes it overwhelms me. It makes me angry and sad, and resentful. And it makes me feel petty, too. Because I have a lovely life, filled with an amazing family, a good marriage, an interesting and challenging career. I am, to borrow the word back from the benevolent world that I no longer claim, blessed.
But the question hangs, always here, pressing at me. Its force is strong.
And it’s not the first time this question has asked me to dance. Though it’s never a nice waltz when we do. It’s torrid, and aggressive. It’s flemenco dancing with a bear.
And this morning, I find a quote from St. Catherine of Seina, and within it, a possible title for what comes next (a novel). “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”
And just now, a character is talking to me, needing her say. So I know: the world answers loudly, just as loudly, and obnoxiously as the crabby guy in my dream.
Time to put on my best dress, dance this brutal dance with the angry ursine. And be crazily, blissfully happy that I can. Because of, in spite of, everything else calling me today.
- I’m writing a book of poems. Of 88 poems, about a specific set of things. (Constellations) It’s as ambitious as a novel, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- I started this collection in grad school, back when Bush the second was busy invading Iraq and spending our children’s future on a (wrong) hunch about nuclear capabilities.
- At that time I wrote about 25 poems. And then…I let it linger.
- I picked it up a year ago. After trimming out poems that no longer interested me, I had 13 poems left. Plus two prologue poems, which to this day, remind me exactly why I started the effort in the first place.
- In the past year I have written about 55 more constellations.
- That means I have focused. I used to believe that creativity spread wildly magnified itself. But I have few fully completed projects to show for it. And no book publication. I have rebelieved.
- I have only 20 constellations left to poem.
- That’s the back quarter, the last slip of the moon’s worth.
- To get there, here’s what I haven’t done.
- I haven’t organized my office.
- No carpet cleaning has happened in this time period.
- My office is still tangerine- and creamcicle-walled. Lovely colors, but not for me. Not for poem-ing about constellations. For that you need blue.
- I have given up paper crafts (I love handmade paper, but it had to go.) Also, jewelry making.
- I have given up baking. Although, I gave that up too, to save calories.
- Not that it helped in that regard.
- I jettisoned (love that word) washing my car every month.
- I forgot to get pedicures. (That’s a first world problem, but one of my true loves.)
- I avoided freelance work.I joined no committees. I haven’t had many people over.
- I let the garden overrun itself.
- Wow. That’s a lot.
- I have run out of ideas, and ran into them again. I became overwhelmed at the vastness of the universe, universes, galaxy, galaxies.
- I came through that black hole.
- And kept sitting down to tackle just one more.
- And one more.
- And one more.
- It takes that much. I always knew I had it.
- I’m almost there.
- I have so far to go.
I'm fairly certain that I live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. The mountains, the hiking, the camping, the skiing, the terrifyingly lovely red desert. It calls to me. It sustains me. It is me.
But a girl likes to wander. Take on new places. Northern California is one place I'd like to try. I'm here for a business trip, and have no time to wander about, but I've long been drawn to the Bay area, since my dear friends moved to Sonoma Country in the late eighties. I think I'm past my prime time for living in New York (I'm also past prime time for trying roller blading, but that's another blog post). But Paris will call to me all of my life. I'd like to live there for a year or two, too.
And Portland. Of course, Spain. And New Zealand. And.
I try not to be a collector, although my office is the best sort of cozy, my it's-mine-and-only-mine space at Chez Sweetcakes, where my things sit en masse. Of everything I own, my books are most beloved. I wouldn't grab them in case of fire, for that, I have my laptop (where the books-I'm-writing-in-progress and the digital photos of my lovelies live), and my hiking boots. (My purse and phone are in the same room with me at all times, in case I have to run from Zombies.)
This is where I read. I love that I'm surrounded by the bookshelves when I sit in this chair. It's velvet, very modern, with a matching ottoman. The shelf on the left holds recent acquisitions, as well as a mix of fiction and poetry. The bookshelf on the right holds reference books, how-to-write books, and there's also a shelf of magazines and anthologies that house my work, and/or that of my friends'. And old journals.
Same shelf. The doublestacking has begun. Most of the books at the top of the bookshelf are ones that I have yet to read. The funky bungalow has no more room for books, so I'm treading lightly lately on purchases. Buying some in e-book form is helping, although I still love to have a hardcover novel to hold.
This bookshelf if primarily fiction, with a few cookbooks and travel books on the bottom shelf. Plus my favorite hat. Plus some stars and cherubs. And a yoga video or two.
Love this idea - courtesy of the ladies at Sundress Publications. Now share - show us your bookshelves, Tasters.
By Way of Apology for Our Long Absence, We Give You a Treat! Poet, Professor and Fitness Guru: Stephanie Kartalopoulos