I didn’t realize I’d missed it until I was standing at the window by the wood stove looking out over the hills that have shrugged off nearly all the amber and vermillion leaves of autumn, revealing the skeleton crowns of sugar maples and birches and alders, that I’d missed summer.
The tall wild grass in the fields bends over now, like praying nuns, each rustling frond keeping the secret prayer of burrowing beetles, ants, wasps. The fields have begun to turn brown. Wood smoke hangs in the air. The corn, late to ripen, has finally been cut.
And all the while that it was lush and green, I was indoors, with terrible posture and paint on my jeans, or in class, or traveling to and fro with one or the other boy in the car. Going, doing, going.
I didn’t realize how fast it the season was passing: The greening, the long days, the light, until now, with pumpkins on our window sill waiting for carving, I realize, it’s dark by five; and when we leave for school at 7:30, the sun is just barely climbing above the familiar cleft of the mountains in the East.
So. This is how a summer passes. This is how days pass, one after the next, with effort, with hunched shoulders, with focus, with forgetting. This is what it means to do the work of making; to create until you forget the locus of the present, and orbits inward, inward, toward the source.
There must have been evenings when I lingered with blush wine in a Ball jar in a lawn chair out the back door, but I cannot remember them. I only remember the way the mess in my studio rose and ebbed, drafts spread everywhere, or paint and snippets, and spilled sumi ink.
I look back and realize I had no idea what I was doing. I look forward and realize the same.
You can’t know the outcome.
There is no guarantee of anything. There is only the act of doing the work, becoming the work.
What I know now is that there are a hundred things I will do better next time (and this will be true for every book I’ll ever make, I’m certain.) I’ll have more clarity of scope, for one. I’ll ask for feedback sooner, instead of holding my drafts and art to my chest like some sort of secret too precious for the world to know.
But whatever way, the one thing that won’t change, that cannot change, is the way that close to the quick, nearing the end, the work consumed me. There is no other way.
And so summer slipped by, a lost season of fluttering grass and weeds that devoured the garden. We had a tomato blight. I barely noticed as the red fruit suddenly rotted on the vine. I accidentally planted some sort of gorgeous cousin to the sunflower: rambling, enormous, with fiery orange flowers that took over an entire bed and bloomed and bloomed. Even now, this late in the month, there are still some blooms left, and when I go to cut them in the early evening, I find bees dormant for the night on every single one. I stare at them and I stare at the flowers and I wonder where both came from. I stand with my sharp knife, and wonder briefly if the bees are dead.
lean in, and blow hot breath on their tiny, perfect bodies and watch as the warmth spreads threw them, and slowly they move antennae, abdomen, wings. They can only be here, in the midst of what they are doing: gathering the season’s last pollen, the promise of honey, and as the sun sets they grow torpid, in the midst of things. This is how it goes. Each day happening so fast, yet while I was in it, each day lasting forever into the hours of artificial light and pre-dawn blue. An eternity of repeated effort.
Not many of you answered my question in this post about doing the work that you love every day, but it’s a big question that I’m digging into in my own life and would like to explore here with you.
What happens between projects, when you feel your creativity ebbing, or your life becomes so full of other things (babies, work, whatever.) How do you make room then, for creativity? I’ve been working on a little project each day this week, exploring just that question that I’ll share tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts…