I know nothing

This past Tuesday morning unfolded much as my Tuesday mornings have this fall: Engineer Hubby rises first, climbs into the  shower. I sit on the edge of the bed and do my ankle exercises (I managed an avulsion fracture on my left ankle, fairly impressive for a fall that involved zero alcohol, clutter or high heels), then put my tootsies into slippers and galumph my way through my morning wash-up and limp-trot downstairs in time to walk the dogs before driving carpool. All well-known activities; I could do them in my sleep. Except for the carpool part.


Rosie the little brown dog did her business, then we moseyed over to a patch of grass that seemed particularly green and lovely and she paused and sniffed. Sniff sniff sniff. Slight adjustment in her hindquarters, increased energy into the sniffing. Head cocked, ears pricked POUNCE with great vigor and immediately subsequent, panicked squeaking — from the small brown mouse Rosie had neatly secured in her suddenly-massive-seeming jaws.

This, a mouse plucked from the grass, was my clue that I know nothing. In fact, I am unaware of perhaps Most of Life. My State of Wonderment is dulled. How many other dozens or perhaps hundreds of heartbeats and nervous systems and eyeballs and twitching whiskers live in the field behind my house? In the woods? Probably in my slippers every morning? OK, scratch the wonderment about the slippers lest I remain in bed all day.

Re-working a short story this week after having let it marinate for the better part of a month, I discovered a water theme running through it; not only was there a literal lake, my verbs included buoy and sail and float and drown; my protagonist struggles in the “wake” of lovemaking; her mother “sets off from the shore of agreeable topics” — none of which I deliberately chose, but all of which smacked me in my editorial face when I entered the revision stage. 

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Julia Cameron speaks eloquently about this in The Right to Write, noting that while we blunder along capturing whatever we can, a gem is slowly forming within those bits and pieces.

I certainly didn’t set about creating this theme in the way that Rosie set about catching her wee mouse (which, dear reader, I forced her to drop). But it is only through patient listening-writing, with my not-so-great human ears, that I stumble upon the interesting stories, the living stories — the stories that will squeak or scream or holler or whimper.

This requires daily walks of my writerly self. And this week, when the page has loomed too large, too bare, too white, I have cocked my head and pricked my ears and written anyway and put the pages away and trusted that although I do not know what is in there, if I don’t set something down, I will never glimpse its whiskery face.

7 responses to “I know nothing

  1. “How many other dozens or perhaps hundreds of heartbeats and nervous systems and eyeballs and twitching whiskers live in the field behind my house?” – Great observation and analogy. It seems that our default setting is to walk past most of life unawares.

    • To be fair to the human animal: I think our brains would implode if we were wide-open, full-throttle all the time. That said, walking a dog is a great reminder of my very real limits — and of the myriad ways of knowing and being besides my in-the-head preferred MO.

  2. Well done Rosie, I dislike mice nearly as much as editing. Interesting post that leads efficiently from one neat topic to another. I did not hear of The right to write but will keep a look out for it.

    • Julia Cameron’s books are must-haves, IMO, for anyone with a creative bent. And have you seen Brenda Ueland’s classic “If You Want to Write”? Lovely language in that one 🙂

  3. Pingback: Do you hear what I hear? | the Art of Practice

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