I sit here at my desk. It is autumn. Soon I will leave my desk and go up to the bare-armed, thinly-leafed woods, to my little van hut, to write. I look at the leaves outside, quivering from the poplars, listen to the wind blowing them, and try to quiet my mind.
I wonder sometimes how there can possibly be so much noise in my head, so much noise in the world. I long for silence. For an absence of people. For no job. No worries. No dread of too much to do that sits on my head and makes it hard to smile and look forward to a day. No big weighty dreams and goals and responsibilities and things I care about.
Just. Me. And silence and a big cavernous maroon well of thought.
It would be terrible, of course. Lonely and empty and awful. Still, when there is so much noise in my head, I wish for it.
I once wrote, when I was young and wise, about my home. My true home, I wrote, I carry inside myself. That is where I write, where I think, where I pray.
Now that I am older and not so wise, I remember what I wrote. I wonder at it, now that every leaf on every tree, instead of quivering, pulsing, resonating with a Thing ephemeral and mysterious, only hangs from its respective twig stolid and too-bright, like the forced-cheerful print of a card painting.
I am always away from my true home, it seems. Always out and never in.
For a long moment, I look. And my soul stills and wonders and my phone does not ring.
Then Mom calls up the stairs, asks if I want dinner, and the world is noisy and busy again. A train calls from across the field. Desperate, maybe? Or just lonely? For certain, it is moving. A train has no time to stop and think except through long cold nights in a railroad yard, breathless already with the thought of tomorrow, busy with graffiti painted big across its sides.
I wrote a book recently. I like the book.
But I am tired of talking about the book. I feel that is all I ever talk about, and I want only to be quiet for a while.
There are experiences I could tell you about, colorful chips of memory. The bear I heard growling in the woods when I went out to my cabin, the movement I saw. I ran for my car as fast as I could go.
The old man with stooped shoulders at a recent book festival who asked me to autograph my own business card and stepped away without asking what I wrote or why I was there. The book people at that same festival, with their pale intellectual faces, slightly stooped shoulders, colorful hair and jewelry in odd places, a certain gentleness and doubt that defined them. Book people. I am one of them, and I wonder if I look like that, if people can tell, just by looking, that I am a book person.
My friend who came to visit me, black and vibrant. Her skin–dark brown really–deep and warm like damp earth, represents to me the richness and aliveness of her nature. The graceful fingers like small plants reaching; the tall straight of her body; the laughter ringing out. The swear words which she says she should stop. I never swear myself, so it is perhaps a strange thing that some of my favorite people in the world do. I read a study once that said people who use swear words tend to be more honest in general, and maybe that is why I like them–not the swear words but the honesty.
But…I won’t tell you more about any of that, or any of the things going on in my life right now. Instead, I will tell you the thing that makes noise in my mind, the thing that makes me desperate for silence.
I want to write another book. Well, not another book actually, but the book I was writing before. Turtle Heart, I call it. The story of a lonely old Indian woman and a shy little Mennonite girl. I need to rework it, know it again, send it out. And I can’t find the quiet to do it.
Sitting here, formulating the words for this post, I have found quiet. I have been home. Now, in an effort to keep that quiet, I will close my door. At least, as much as it is practical to close a door when I have friends and responsibilities important to me. There are some things I want and need to do, but I will try to stay mostly in this quiet home of mine for a week, or maybe two, to work on Turtle Heart.
I will post again in November, but don’t expect to hear from me until then.