Sunday, November 16, 2014

Her Blankets Are Always Clean

Day Seven, 2014

There is a clarity that reveals itself when I am alone for an extended period of time. It's like shaking the sand out of a blanket after a day at the beach, so all that is left is the blanket itself.

I recently saw Marilynne Robinson interviewed. She spoke of editing and how she had little need for it. She rarely changes what she writes. She nails it on her first pass. I knew in that moment that my process had nothing in common with hers. Her blankets are always clean. And I don't think this is something that might change for me after years of practice. It's not just my writing, it's my entire life, unlike Marilynne Robinson, I never begin clean. All of my starts are covered in sand.
 
It's taken me ten days of being alone to remember what clarity feels like. My decisions are less hurried. Priorities seem to sort themselves. Nothing important is missed.

This was what it was like when I lived alone. I never understood why my boyfriend at the time had to keep such a tight to-do list (or why he was so specific about the way each piece of his clothing should be folded). I felt what needed to get done got done. It happened naturally. Why fret? Why feel that weight of the dreaded list? He lived alone too. Apparently, we were very different.

I've found living together often means carrying around a sandy blanket. I get distracted by the presence of another. Some of those distractions are pesky, but most are good distractions that add layers to my life. I see and do things I might have otherwise missed. It's messier, but my life gains dimension.

But this does not mean I should forgo the one solo trip I take each year. Every year I get attached to the way things are. I think, I don't really need to go anywhere by myself. I spend enough time alone writing. But I'm wrong and I'm thankful to share my life with someone who cares about what's best for me and tells me to go off on my own and uncover that true self, who isn't really so far away, and bring her back home.

29 comments:

  1. Finding our true self, however that needs to be done, is always worth while. What a beautiful spot to do it.

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  2. in a relationship that works, you get what you describe. it is a dream i am still longing to live, and i'm glad you confirm the existence of it.
    i like the sand on the blanket theory, and i also really love reading robinson. i saw on your reading list recently she has a new one out?
    n♥

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    1. Yes, Lila is her new book and I'm enjoying it. Cheers to longing to live.

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  3. It sounds as if you found exactly what you needed.

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  4. Beautiful, thoughtful words.

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  5. beautifully expressed. my man gets the solo thing too, in fact, we have found we both need it. so good that you do this.

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  6. It makes such a difference in a relationship to agree upon such things.

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  7. What a gift, to be able to pause and take your own temperature.

    xo J

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  8. I had tickets to see Marilynne Robinson's session at the Cambridge Literary Festival last week, and I got the dates muddled, and just forgot to go. Still utterly, completely annoyed with myself.
    Glad you enjoyed your annual solo trip. And you're right - sandy blankets do add layers and dimensions.

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    1. Maybe the visit with Marilynne Robinson just wasn't meant to be. My sandy blanket just got home last night and I'm so happy!

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  9. My husband travels so much that I have plenty of solo time to write. Still, dust and laundry run past and kick sand on my blanket.

    I suspect writers like Ms. Robinson are rare. Don't you think? She does write beautifully though...

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    1. Dust and laundry... Sigh. Writing without editing seems absolutely magical to me. I assume it is a rare gift.

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  10. Circumstances currently glue the sand to my own blanket but I'm happy to visualise you merrily shaking yours.

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    1. Hello! It's been so long. Happy to see you, sand and all.

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  11. Ah, doesn't this trip mean it's near your birthday? Happy day(s) to you, Denise.

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    1. Great memory, Shae. Yes, it is just around the corner...this week.

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  12. An Away Place for 10 days! That sounds fantastic and frightening. I want to try but it probably will be close to home and probably only one night. One must begin at the beginning, I suppose.

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    1. I was alone for ten days, but only away for seven. Chris was out of town on business for the last three. I've taken much shorter solo trips and simply traveled by bus or ferry. I've gone just an hour north of home... One time all I did was cross the bay. Even this trip was in-state. It does seem beginning at the beginning is required, but beginnings inherently hold excitement. Have fun, Rachael.

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  13. Such a lovely one, Denise. Enjoy the clarity.

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    1. Darn. I think I lost my clarity somewhere between the rain and the laundry...

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  14. I love all of your writings. You have never neglected the core even if it is too small and expressed in excellent context. I have read a book written by an Chinese philosopher. He says all things which people face are simple but they tend to make them complicated. True self is simple. I would therefore imagine clarity is simplicity. You get to the point.

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    1. Thank you. I always try to simplify and get to the point. Sometimes it is a challenge, but I try.

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  15. Hi Denise, Marilynne Robinson's process may be unique! I don't know of any writers who make that claim. I tend to be in agreement with this:
    "The best writing is rewriting." (EB White, as tweeted by Chris Parsons)
    On another note, three food blogging friends met me (our first time to meet in person) in the DC area last week for a signing event--Tracy, Nichole and Domenica. It was so nice to connect--and we all mentioned how fun a West Coast meet-up with you would be.

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    1. I do find rewriting quite necessary. It is difficult to imagine another way.

      A West Coast meet-up with you ladies would be a pleasure.

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