Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Inside of a Dog"

Without thinking about it, I took a break from my beloved blog. No brain power to find anything interesting to say though I very much wanted to spin off of Elisabeth's recent comments (and will sometime) about order, discipline and corsets. 

Quite by accident, caught inside almost solidly for three days (I need to go out everyday! dreadfully), I kept working on a memoir I'd started (for the third time) seriously in 1994 and the devil got me to take a box of old papers down from the attic. And then got me to read some of it. Actually that was a very good thing because these diaries and unmailed letters relate to what I'd been editing and the addition of segments definitely enliven the text since I remember that time as a dull blur, biding time. 

A great deal of what I'm now working with was written when I was supposedly cataloguing maps in the Geology Library at Columbia. I was twenty-four. And not even given a guide to how to do my job. How crazy is that? I walked down a stairway to the map room, flat, gray, metal files, thousands of maps, a  couple of small windows and a little flat desk, a chair and plenty of time to write notes about myself on folded sheets of paper. To make matters worse, I'd been reading Camus! It's barely possible to figure out what I might have been trying to say -- about gossip -- sparked off an entry in his Notebooks II.  

There's a stack about an inch and a half high of these dense pencil writings and I'm determined to type out all of them so I make informed choices of what might be useful. Or maybe because I'm punishing my present self for whatever woes I might have by so fully dosing myself with who I once was! Or maybe this is what sensible writers do.

At first I was just skimming the pages, lighting here and there, plucking out a useful paragraph. That was pretty easy. Then that damn devil got me tricked into excessive transcribing. It takes an hour to rewrite three days of my map room musings, pages folded within pages, sometimes dated, sometimes numbered.

But yesterday I met with my poetry mentor. I'd been waiting for him to look over what I'd written about my mornings on the track this summer. He's enormously busy and the manuscript is long.... and it snowed, so one meeting was cancelled. But now I can start back on that, adding a bit more, trimming a bit, giving a bit more breathing space between sections and adding photographs. 

I'm working so hard that it makes me anxious. Or at least I think I'm anxious. It's hard to tell. I'm reminded of a story that my ex told me about a medical meeting he went to, hearing a doctor say that he'd just taken a valium, so he must be nervous. But that twenty-four-year-old was continually writing about how soon death would come, how withdrawn and isolated and invisible she felt, what would she have done except hide until the end. That certainly adds impetus to the present.

And I've been reading "Inside the Dog," a really interesting book about the umvelt of these domesticated animals. And I saw a hawk! Outside the bathroom window! I was so lucky to catch it there, on that tree branch, waiting for something. I was so excited that I ran downstairs and woke up Smith who I knew had to see it. I couldn't let him miss this rare event. This is, maybe, the third hawk I've seen that was relatively close. The last was just outside the window of my ex's house, when I was writing at my desk. I was just as excited now as I was then. 


  1. Hawks have made a big comeback. You're fast with your camera.

    The crazy jobs we've had. I once worked in a meat packing plant--not for long.

    Thanks for your musing!

  2. oh, Mim, meat packing...that sounds interesting...

  3. I'm glad you've found some inspiration to go on.

    Your uncanny sighting of the bird in the tree is an omen, I'd say to keep on cracking. I know the feeling of searching through those old treasures of past writing.

    They are treasures and it's okay to take time to transcribe. Don't let the devil get too much airplay. Whip him with a belt.

    You're writing beautifully here. It will all come to good soon,enough I'm sure, and well before death comes.

  4. How lucky to catch that gorgeous hawk with his feathers all puffed out on that perfectly besnowed branch.

    I admire your diligence; good luck with your writings.