A few weeks ago, I took a notebook and a camping chair down to the dock and parked myself there for 45 minutes while my daughter was at her violin lesson. My goal was to observe and note what I was observing in my new journal. I’d filled the old one, the one that I’d started when I got laid off nearly three years ago, a few days before and was having trouble putting pen to paper in the new [and very blank] one. I mean, a lot of stuff happened in that old journal, and I processed some big life issues on its pages. So I said to myself, “Listen. You don’t have to write anything profound or deeply moving or even interesting. All you have to do is pay attention and jot down the details.” Okay, I thought. That’s fine. Sit. Notice. Tell about it. What Mary Oliver advises. (Fitting.)
I’m sitting on the end of the dock, lily pads stretching out before me like a carpet unraveling into open water. A bald eagle soars overhead, high above the trees. Five crows perch at the top of a dead basswood, observing the still water below. They take flight as a breeze from the north picks up. Though the air is sticky and warm, signs of autumn are everywhere. Foliage on the far side of the lake is newly yellow, and the shoreline blazes with a glow only possible a few months of the year. Reflections of the tawny hues bounce off utterly calm water – it looks like a painter has just smeared all of his happy little trees into an autumn rainbow. Sitting between the cattails that tower over my head, I feel like part of the landscape. Bees are buzzing, flitting between lily pads. To my right is a tiny patch of yellow flowers growing out of a muddy tangle of old roots and decomposing reeds. There’s a distant hum of a lawnmower, and the beaver lodge’s plant covering has died off, now brown and crispy, preparing for frost. Cold will come one of these days. But not yet. Today summer is holding on to its glory, breeze warm enough to invite open windows and this stationary perch on a dock. Under the water’s surface, plants are breaking down, readying themselves for stillness and decay. But on top the lily pads flaunt full blooms, as if they are telling me that though a shift is coming, it’s not time to wish for it. It’s time to savor the season that is.
So anyway, I sat on my dock those three weeks ago and filled in some journal pages with my observations. Then I did it again the following Monday, and I just did it again this evening. (I’ll spare you the thrilling details of these two sessions.) It seems like a good trend to continue, because having a creative practice is generally a good idea when you call yourself a writer. I’ve never been one to do the “morning pages” as recommended by the book The Artist’s Way, but this seems manageable. 6:15pm, Monday evenings. Journal, pen. Noticing what is. Observing, describing. A bit of practice.
What does your creative practice look like these days?