Marginal Truth

I can feel it, though it is only marginally true, that the days grow longer. It is 6:45 and already the sky is brightening even through screens of clotted clouds stumbling eastward in a stiff wind like sodden branches tugged by a sluggish stream. The trees sway and jerk in uncoordinated individual response to its pull, a modern dance of individual idiosyncrasy that unites not through mimicry and repetition but through harmonized particularities driven by a shared purpose, an irresistible impetus. The songbirds scatter predictably yet randomly in apparent response to a sound or a shift in light or air or sense of security.

As usual, I have been beside this window watching for more than an hour, awakened by some tiny noise or, like a tiny bird, startled by a minor change in light. I must burst from bed the moment awake to avoid a sick headache and the lassitude that clings throughout any dat hat I lie abed and rise slowly. As I gaze into the growing light and sip my coffee, I consider the film I watched last night about Freud and Jung and their shared female student/patient. It was, in many ways, a work of exceptional craftsmanship. Yet it failed to be more than a collection of scenes assembled to provide the illusion of a meaningful whole while offering no true subject, or message, or meaning. Empty beauty offering momentary pleasure but little insight or truth.

I rarely see so clearly through the veneer of people or art. Perhaps all the fumbling work I am doing writing and revising, discarding and starting again to write and revise my book has actually developed my sense of what makes a truly good piece of writing. Perhaps the continuing hard work of reading and real study and practice o writing may lead to something more than a collection of random black marks on a page.

I have not been so much frustrated in my writing of late as I have been flailing for direction as I have watched myself craft arc-less artful jewels of prose that neither clearly show nor tell nor say anything of substance. Mere words. I have not yet found my subject, I see now. The story line is the immigrant experience, of course. But the subject, what that story is truly about, continues to elude me. It is close to the melancholy of success or the loss held deeply and inevitably inside every gain, the failure enclosed and hidden beneath the win. I am getting closer. I feel it.

As the coming day pushes aside the night, I feel more enthusiastic about my writing and teaching than I have been for some time. The energy of renewal, the promise of the as-yet-far-off spring rises with the light and I dream of a series of terraced gardens with flowers that spill down the stone walls toward a small orchard. The trick will be to plan it all so carefully that it appears organic and natural, a feint of gardening, and a faint shadow of truth.

Photo by Elwin de Witte on Unsplash

Jan. 5, 2012

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