The scrambling and the catch up


January came with the beginning of classes and then February came with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference and reading Storyknife submissions. And then February closed out with the congested rattle of the cold to end all colds, and then March came with the scrambling and the catch up.

Then one day, the day Spring Break starts for your students, you find you have time to contemplate your own writing. It is sunny but cold, and you realize that you have forgotten everything that you espoused about approaching your own life as if it is a poem. You feel like a hypocrite, and a failure, and you slink off to do laundry, because sorting the clothes is easier than sorting your own time, and how much did you want to be a poet anyway?

You think. No, I think. I think that I must start back at the very beginning and where was that?

For now I take out my notebook and copy the following excerpt from “Staying Alive” in Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver:

And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.

I don’t mean it’s easy or assured; there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet. But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within the work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe — that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.

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