jan_can_too (jan_can_too) wrote,


When I am sick, I tend to focus on the small and low-level tasks, like smoothing the sheets on the bed, making lunch, washing sweats. There is an immediate payoff: no more wrinkles under my skin, a full belly, a fresh feeling. I do something and have something to show for it, however briefly. It is soothing to clean things, to make them orderly and peaceful, as if ordering the chaos outside myself I can somehow order the chaos within. Knitting, I turn a pile of yarn into a sweater! Quilting, I turn scraps into warmth!

Then there is writing. While I was sicker than I am now, I went more than a week without writing anything more than a grocery list, an email or two. What has that changed?

Not much on the surface. I am a week further behind on my Christmas projects. I am a week rusty in my brain.

I learned when Syd was a baby to stash books all over the place, lightweight ones that I could hold in one hand and read while nursing. I also found it best to have books like Poor Richard’s Almanac or Wallace Stevens’s poems because they were incremental—I didn’t have to remember where I left off and gather all the shards of plot together into some kind of pot to continue. The habit persists. In the kitchen, I read The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo (thanks to my friend HAT, who recommended it!). What I read this morning over my soft boiled eggs and toast concerned questions people asked him about the “real world” versus the academic world and how poets get along. He wrote that after he worked for eight hours in the airplane factory, he felt that he had done something and it was then difficult to feel that he needed to go home and write. Exactly. At the end of the day, I often wonder what I have accomplished, if anything.

And then I hope there is something transcendent somewhere. And that it likes organic peaches, which I happen to have on hand.

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