It’s so quiet right now that I can hear the clock ticking over the kitchen sink. Outside, the haze of a humidity and summer bleaches the sky white behind the lime green leaves of the maple beyond the window. This feels so good.
I have just come through three days of wonderful time with people – talking, eating, listening to great music. The house was full of bodies, and I loved knowing they were there, sleeping beside me and below me. I got filled by that time.
Now in this silence, I am letting that experience wash over me and settle deep into the marrow of my spirit. It will be days or weeks or maybe even years before I realize fully the way these days have changed me. Just now, though, I’m steeped in it, exhausted and full.
Just now, I need this silence just as I needed those people. As a writer, I need immense amounts of time alone – most hours of many days just with me and my thoughts. I need hours to stare out the window at the stillness of the air and even more hours to feel that stillness run down my spine into language.
It’s easy, though, for me to get too far into that stillness, too simple for me to lose all perspective and become trapped inside my own fears or dreams. This, too, is an element of writing spirit. Too much introspection and the whole world becomes about me and what I have to say.
So as with all things I seek balance – three days of gloriously peopled activity, a few hours of staring and thinking while I munch on leftovers and ice cream, more people, more staring. Eventually, I come to a place where the equilibrium feels right . . . for a lovely afternoon like this one, where I feel at ease.
Writers (maybe artists in general) tend to be people of extremes. We speak in brightly colored tones about what it is to be what we are; we easily lose ourselves in the promises of alcohol; we sway on (and sometimes fall off) the thin edge of sanity. This passion, this intensity, this willingness to go “all in” is certainly what makes our art vibrate with energy. It can also be the end of us, too quickly, too soon.
So when I feel myself leaning too far over the ridgeline separating people and solitude, when it seems I might tumble head over feet into activity or down the other side into complete monomania, I am learning to take a minute, place my feet firmly on the earth, and see the view from both sides. A world full of beautiful, breathing people and the quiet that is the summer area.