Thursday, May 17, 2012

starship oak table

I haven’t yet adapted to story revision in my new place—it’s been a year, with my tiny wooden school desk in the corner near the spiral staircase, and I am still figuring out how I do this, here.

In the three-room condo, I understood exactly what to do. First, everyone would need to clear out of the house for hours, so a schoolday offered a perfect opening. Next, I’d need to shake off the trauma and mess of their leaving process by clearing the dishes, stashing the unfolded laundry, making the beds. Then I’d wash the oval dining table and shove it into the living room, lengthwise against the bay window, where the table formed the wings of my biplane, or the console of the Starship Enterprise. I propped the laptop up, grabbed my three-legged stool and spread pages of essays across the expanse of oak. A candle, maybe, would restore some sanity, if there was time. I might add the geranium from the window above the sink. But the extras didn’t really matter: once the table was in place, the pen was running.

I worked, circling and underlining with my 8-color pencil. I could wander to the bathroom, throw on a little makeup while still mulling a sentence or a storyline. I could sweep the kitchen, unload the dishwasher, pace for a moment and then return to my console at the center of the world. If I was smart, I set the alarm for 1:30, giving me time to get dressed, grab cashews and a water bottle, shove the table back into its normal location, and leave to pick up children, still working, still half-gone to the world.  

Oh, the days I flew! The hours, soaring! Whatever the results, the work felt symphonic and magnificent, right up to the mommy-mommy-mommy’s in the school playground. If I could only get them to go to the park, I could extend the hum of editing and revision for another hour, and get some sun and fresh air, too.

My house, now—my desk suffers an embarrassing problem: it’s too damn beautiful, here. The clam-diggers are busy at every low tide, mocking me with their productivity. The wind turbine, too, creates energy all day. Really Loud Birdsong, something I never considered as a problem. I need to be careful about sleepwalking while my head is still in a story—the spiral staircase is lethal. I can’t shove the dining table to my window, and the kitchen does not lend itself to a meditative mindset. Coffee shops are too loud and the music is unpredictable: I really do need to be home, to work, and I really need solitude. I know of many basement-writers, but I can’t do windowless spaces.

While the revision space has not worked out, yet, this gorgeous upper room is so rich in beauty, and in that way it’s good for my soul, through and through. I wake with the sun, slowly and happily, and the birdsong is a dream. Parenting teenagers, too—mostly, they leave me alone in the afternoons while they do their homework. It’s possible to work a little, even with them home!

I’m trying, now, to revise in my reading chair. I shove it toward the biggest set of windows, and I bring my lap desk with me. Often I arrange stacks of working papers on the end of the bed, behind me but within reach. It’s not perfect. I’ll keep trying.

One story sent to The Sun. (Done!) One blogpost-in-progress, two sent. (Two-thirds done!) One essay dropped off with two friends, awaiting comments, and then I will send it off, too. One essay deep in revision. Two summer classes secured (more-or-less: I am hired, now waiting for enrollment).

I need to keep combing through the files on my computer, remembering the stories I’ve abandoned someplace in mid-revision. I need to cull some posts from this blog and connect it to my website, and connect the website to Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, I’ll watch that shower of maple helicopter-seeds, and the hummingbirds in that flowering bush. I’ll get back to revision, tomorrow.

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