Sunday, January 20, 2008

Meanderings - Austin

Years ago, I set out in a small wilderness area that I had never explored. Enclosed by a frozen river and two intersecting roads, there was almost no possibility of getting lost. It was one of these wonderful winter days, overcast, yet strangely bright. At times it snowed gently. The cloud cover seemed to glow, but the sun’s position could not be seen.

I had no great skill with cross-country skies, but it was an almost magical day and I was in good shape. Still, the time came to head back to the car for the short drive home. An hour later I found myself staring at tracks I was quite sure I had made – about the time I started back. A little bit sheepish, I started out again. The sun remained hidden and snow fell softly. Just a little of the magic had gone out of the day.

You guessed it – an hour later I once again stared at tracks the fresh snow has softened. The area couldn’t have been much larger than one square mile. Two roads and a river formed boundaries. My pride said it was impossible. My logic said it was impossible. My sense of direction said it was impossible. Lost is too strong a word, but I made that circle three times. One road was in sight and the noise from a small down-hill ski-slope reached me each time as I started out. Yet somehow the “shortcut” through the bush brought me back each time to my starting point.

Pride doesn’t surrender easily, but even someone as stubborn as me can be worn down. I followed the road the next time and without another long meander, was soon home.

I’ve caught myself thinking about that day as I have watched the snow and sunshine play some whimsical game with each other. If I could measure my writing efforts in miles (or kilometers if I come back to this century) how much meandering has there been on this path? My pride wants to believe I’m going the right direction. My logic looks at some books being published and insists I’m writing better than that. My sense of direction is convinced that if I just keep going, I’ll get there eventually – wherever there is. And if a bit of the magic has gone out of the effort, there is still that glow behind the clouds. There is still a wonderland of words that can transform a little patch of wilderness into a place I can get lost in. There is still the magic of a poem emerging when I’m trying to write a letter, the challenge of some obstruction that looms unexpectedly as I’m rushing through virgin territory, pounding out words as fast as I can type. There is the wonder too, of those long slow hours wrestling with a couple of paragraphs that just aren’t right, the knowledge that maybe I’ll never get it quite perfect, but the beauty of language and the joy of the journey. And there are the aha moments when I’ve let something rest awhile and the right word sneaks into my consciousness – like the sun peaking through the clouds just long enough to give a sense of direction once again.

A good life this – on skies or at the keyboard, though the passage of three decades since that day has shortened my meanders in the snow.

2 comments:

Linda Wegner said...

Thanks, Brian. This encourages me (and perhaps others) who are prone to meander. Three articles currently on the go come to mind and I look forward to "coming home" on them.

I appreciate your sharing this

Linda

The Koala Bear Writer said...

I like the story and the allusion to writing. Sometimes there's more material for writing/thinking in the getting lost than if we'd stayed on track!

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