I’ll admit straight up that I’m not inclined to write or sit in front of a computer once winter leaves us. If you’ve read my work for a while, you already know this about me.
But here I am, sitting at my kitchen counter (great lighting, plants nearby, jazz on the radio), wringing words from my laptop, fingers hitting the keys with determination. This is what daily practice looks like.
All of us have something that we practice: exercise, hygiene, caring for someone else, managing a career or searching for one, spiritual expression, art, or the very basic getting out of bed on time. We have to practice whether we have motivation or not, not counting planned breaks. We all know we can’t just stop most of these things (like hygiene), but careers and art come and go.
Every so often, I wonder if writing is still the main path for me. It’s one way I make sense of the world, but it’s not always the one that makes me most happy. On warm days, I’m most happy outside, away from lots of people, with a camera in my hand and hiking shoes on my feet. If someone in my family is hiking with me it’s a bonus. If I can’t hear traffic noise, it’s another bonus. It’s been a long, long winter and I’m restless. This past week, that restlessness has hit a fever pitch. Sitting in a chair in front of a screen is excruciating. Still too cold to hang around outside while I drink my morning coffee, I’m thinking of trails to walk, places my partner Mick and I haven’t been to yet, watching which trails are flooded now that the snow has melted into the lakes and rivers. I pace around the house trying to figure out what to do with myself because all my usual indoor pursuits do not hold my attention.
These are the sorts of days that make me want to pack a bag and shut down my blog and all social media for an undetermined length of time.
A rainy day. I’ve been cleaning my tiny art studio that is crammed into a space in our laundry room. I have a stainless-steel table on wheels right in front of a window that is cracked open for ventilation while I type. I just got done coating four tiny paint pours with varnish. Three of them are from a series I did last spring and the fourth is my favorite from this spring’s series. All of them were done for consideration as covers for Gyroscope Review at the invitation of my friend Connie. Connie and I started Gyroscope Review together in 2014, with our first digital issue in 2015. Since then, the quarterly poetry journal has taken off, made a name for itself. I’m really proud of the work I did there, especially being part of launching the now-annual fall crone issue.
I rotated off the staff in 2020, just as everything shut down because of COVID-19. Had the shutdown happened six months earlier when I was thinking about whether to leave, I would have stayed. I think. After five years of editorial work, I was restless. I wanted very much to turn my attention to other things. A pandemic is a tough time to make career changes, but editorial work is a hard thing for me to pair with the fluid time schedule I want for creative exploration and travel.
This restlessness is a pattern that I recognize in myself. I have about a three-to-five-year attention span for big projects and full-time jobs. I can point to past job changes and see that pattern quite clearly. Once I get bored and restless, I can’t stop myself from casting around for something new. There is very little that the old job/project might reveal that will hold my attention.
I think about all that now as I work through this antsy feeling that keeps me from sitting still. Bringing my laptop down to my art table has helped today, a change of place that shakes up how I write. I love this weird little space with my swivel stool from the automotive department at Menard’s; the collection of empty Ball jars and old yogurt containers that holds brushes, popsicle sticks, scissors, an X-acto knife, toothpicks, straws; the ball of kitchen twine by my right elbow; kitchen cooling racks repurposed to hold paintings while they dry; silicone pouring cups that were a gift from my son. I feel better in a space that does not look like an office.
How many of us like being defined as some specific thing – editor, writer, parent, grandparent? There are so many things to be, to do. Does being defined as one or another close off possibilities? It shouldn’t, but it sometimes does.
The older I get, the more I want to expand my possibilities. I’m not done yet and I’m annoyed with anyone who thinks I am. There is so much that hasn’t flowed through me yet.
Even on a rainy day, I have a space outside where I can be without getting soaked. I took an overgrown African violet to that spot today, set it on the old baker’s rack up against the back of our garage. The baker’s rack, which used to live in my friend Suzannah’s kitchen before she moved to San Francisco, makes a great repotting station for our plants. I shook out the roots and broke the violet apart into three pieces. The oldest piece is now back in the original pot with new dirt and some fertilizer specific to African violets. Its two babies are each in a pot of their own. All of them are in the north-facing window in the laundry room/art studio. I’m crossing my fingers that my propagation skills work.
Working with plants is as much of a balm as mucking around in my art space. Something green, something alive that I am responsible for forces me to pay attention. While I repotted everything, the birds in our back yard called to each other. It was a cacophony. It won’t be too long now until Mick and I can be outside to plant new dogwoods where our sick spruce was taken down, install a new native plant garden in the front yard, turn compost that formed over the winter.
I like the idea of turning compost as a metaphor. I’m turning myself over this spring, over and over come to think of it, and finding what changed over the last several months. What works now? What doesn’t? What has broken down into rich dirt for new growth?
It’s time to recognize those new shoots and give them some love. Growth is the best antidote for restlessness that I can imagine.
cover image courtesy of Prasenjit Haldar at Pixabay.com
8 thoughts on “Diary From A Restless Spring”
Maybe it’s an aging thing, this restlessness, this shifting of perspectives and what’s important and what isn’t. The urgency perhaps to do new things as the days pass because time is passing. I really enjoyed this insightful post, as always, and hope you never stop writing.
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Thank you, Audrey. I agree about the urgency that comes with passing time.
I’m feeling the restlessness.
These words of yours resonated with me. “How many of us like being defined as some specific thing – editor, writer, parent, grandparent? There are so many things to be, to do. Does being defined as one or another close off possibilities? It shouldn’t, but it sometimes does. The older I get, the more I want to expand my possibilities. I’m not done yet and I’m annoyed with anyone who thinks I am.”
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I’m glad you connected.
I hear you on the restless mind and the call of the outdoors. My writing restlessness (caused or exacerbated by ADHD) has frustrated me for decades. Half-written books doomed by procrastination litter my backstory. I started writing poetry to give my restless mind somewhere to go when I couldn’t focus on editing jobs and now, working on my fourth poetry collection, I can see my sideways procrastination has led me to unexpected places. I have a big to-do editing list today, but that won’t stop me from zooming outside for big rejuvenating breaths of nature. Amen to our growth-inspiring restlessness!
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I love meandering into those unexpected place! And “sideways procrastination” is a great title for something….
Sometimes, I wonder about writing and need to take short brakes. The older I get, the more I love to be outdoors. I love to take photos, but only have my camera phone. And spring is still struggling to arrive in northern Wisconsin where I live.
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I think we’re experiencing similar feelings. I care a lot more about getting outside daily than when I was younger. When time feels shorter, it feels more urgent to connect to nature somehow. Thanks for sharing.