"So much has been written about the loneliness of the writer's lot that it feels like heresy to report the truth as I know it: in my experience, not writing is a lonely business."- Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
not writing: it feels not like loneliness but like yearning. and in that way, it feels familiar. i've written about yearning many times over. how could i not? it is as much of my biochemistry as is water. i yearn. for grownup things, like place: typified by walls in sets of four, adorned with photos and art and thrift-store oddities; a porch swing that speaks of content even when mostly empty; and a garden that will give birth over and over despite my amateur midwifery. grownup things ... a car that gets from here to there; kisses, the kind not complicated by bedrooms; paychecks not soiled by a timeclock. i yearn like a child too: for holidays and cupcakes and pizza dates, and puppy-dog hugs, and silly-song singing, and for being right here, right now.
i am like julia cameron and i am not. writing is not lonely. not yet. maybe it will come. stealthily, i imagine. writing is, however, about being alone. about feeling alone. like with my hands, as if i were blind and trying to name the object without seeing it. i name alone, and then rename it, over and over. it doesn't make me sad. what does? loss.
yesterday loss came at me, suddenly, in a rush much like the fatigue i have felt for the past two years. i had gone to the garage to find a bag of my spring clothes. my past has taken over the garage: piles of bags, stacks of boxes, scattered decor, and deconstructed furniture. drawers once filled with daily-life things are now filled with evidence of that life deferred: a sock drawer with the files from my old desk; underwear drawer with photos and nicknacks; t-shirt drawer with one pale gray newsboy cap—my grandfather's; i tried to wear it but the fit wasn't quite right (and that has always felt quite wrong). on one shelf sat my vintage train case, next to a yellow metal jujyfruits case that a boyfriend picked out for me at goodwill in morgantown a decade ago. i used it as a purse. i'm not quite that funky now. or perhaps my funk has evolved. yeah, i like that better.
among the jumble was the old wooden ladder—hunted down for me in memphis by a carpenter named terrance—that i used as a book shelf. it was propped against a vintage cafe table; my first furniture purchase in my new hometown. in a particularly disorderly pile stood, upside down, my sewing dummy. she was never much help because her waist and hips were bigger than mine. there was the vintage travel bag given to me by my great aunt phylomena. the tags with her name and address still dangle from its zipper. i didn't go to her funeral nearly a decade ago because i went on a weekend trip with friends. i now cringe at the selfishness of that choice.
in the garage, i walked among my things for a while. remembering. smiling. sighing. wondering. i came across a bag full of my son's infant things. through the stretched-to-capacity white plastic i could see his earliest toy, a classical-music machine decorated with sea creatures. it hung above a play mat where he would lie on his back for the better part of an hour, cooing and kicking and eventually rolling over for the first time. i tore open the bag and pushed the red crab button, hoping the batteries weren't dead. mozart played. i stood and listened. there was in instant juxtaposition of what i had gained against what i had lost.
exiting the garage on my way back to the house, i glanced through the chain-link fence and down the hill at the grave site of my dogs, who had both left me in two short years. before the ache could take hold—as it so quickly does every time i remember kaiser and phaedra, whose existence compelled this often-solitary girl to know unconditional love—there came joker, meekly seeking my affection as he is prone to do. and i thought, of my third dog, he's easy to love but difficult to manage. and i thought about the sea creatures and my darling boy, and how that garage full of my foregone life was nothing compared to him. i thought about that last patch of snow melting slowly into the grass in the yard and how soon the dandelions will grow from it.
and i thought about how loss can only live if you feed it.