Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Box

Quiet, 2010

She sat up in bed and stretched her arms wide. As always, the words began to flutter above her head in a neat circle, but today she did not write them down. She shooed them away. She had big plans.

It was dusk when she turned onto the small and unfamiliar dirt driveway and whispered I'm home.

The first box she unloaded held her treasured rosemary plant. She fumbled and almost dropped it while chasing a fly from atop her nose. The jostled needles released their strong scent into the air. She placed the plant in a small sunlit window, stepped back, and smiled. It was fine.

The next morning she noticed her rosemary had shed a few needles. She bit her bottom lip while picking up the fallen and tossing them out the door.

Her waiting was patient, but the words did not return. Not a single word fluttered. None this day. None the next.

She recalled the writer's trick of busying oneself with another task so the writing feels more like bunking off and less like work and began unpacking boxes.

Around lunchtime she sat down on her sofa and rested her feet beside the plant. More needles had fallen. She clenched her jaw as she swept the needles with one hand into the other and tossed them out the window, loosening her jaw once they were out of sight.

It's really quite simple she told herself. The words are confused. They just aren't used to this unfamiliar territory. They'll be back.

She went out for a walk to clear her head, down Main Street, alongside the creek, and then beside the pond for sunset. She and the air were still and quiet. They'll be back.

She awoke early the next morning. No words. Continuing her strolling and gazing and sighing, weeks passed. Everything was unpacked and in its place. Her energy waned. She began to grow tired earlier and earlier each day. She stopped reclining on her sofa and propping her feet up beside her rosemary. She avoided it. She couldn't bear the sight of the fallen needles and ignored them as they multiplied.

She dressed each day, but only sprawled out on her unmade bed, shoes and all, and stared at the ceiling.

Once in a while she'd check on the naked twigs, formerly her lush rosemary plant, hoping it would come back to life.

The walks through town with now familiar faces and sunsets were like wading through sludge, so those too ceased. No words. She was baffled. She'd left the urban noise and filth to set up her rural life, as a writer should. What had gone wrong?

Sitting up on the edge of her bed, her head heavy and body listless and slumped over, she smiled as she noticed the sun shining on her rosemary. But as she focused her sleepy eyes all she saw were sad dry twigs surrounded by a ridge of faded needles.

Feeling short of breath and a little dizzy, she unfastened the top button of her blouse, and then the next button, and the next, removed her bra, jeans, shoes, and socks.

She drew the curtains and pulled the box she'd used to transport her rosemary to the center of the living room and gently crawled inside. She crouched forward, her back forming a perfect curve, and lifted her right arm to close the box over her head.

Nestled in the small dark space, the flutter of words returned, but not above her head. They now formed a long silk-like string and began slowly and securely wrapping themselves around the curve of her body.


  1. beautiful and i love the whimsical/fantasy aspect of it too. beautiful write

  2. It feels as if the house was being shaken. That everything inside was a snow globe almost. In the end, she settled inside the box with the words that had been floating about.

  3. rethinking my deep affection for rosemary and my tumultuous history with words;)love this post, Denise. love it.

  4. I am new to your blog (came to it from the adorable Bee Drunken), and I am captivated. How I have felt words like that floating around, to be chosen, captured, or left alone... I will read more. Thank you.

  5. Such captivating beautiful writing.

  6. Beautifully written. And I think I've been in that place....

  7. Char, Thank you.

    Tracy, Such a great visual description.

    counting dandelions, I hope the rethinking is a positive experience... Thanks.

    Kristen, So glad to have you here.

    brit, Thanks.

    mosey, Thanks. You've been in that place... I'm intrigued. My photo? Or the box?

  8. I am fascinated by your mind labyrinth... your stream of consciouness is a good reminder that i should start putting my thoughts on paper more frequently but it takes courage...LOTS of it. Brava :)

  9. Amelia, No no...just a little courage and a pencil : )

  10. The place of waiting for words to return.... :)

  11. I know this place of creative stuckness all too well ... and that tendency to grow tired earlier each day as its hold becomes a bit stronger.

  12. yes, yes to a little courage and a pencil!
    the words do flutter about, and if shooed away, will go elsewhere to find their distributor.

    but they do return.....

  13. Jessica, happens.

    nancy, Your comment reminds me of the story Elizabeth Gilbert tells in her TED talk about the poet who had poems chase her across fields.

  14. Beautiful and evocative - as always. I loved reading your first oops 6th posts and about you started blogging :) Hope you're having a good week.

  15. Oh, Denise..! How beautiful. I love the magical surrealism to it... or whatever you'd call it.

    Although the topic is different, it reminded me a little bit of "Casa Tomada" by Julio Cortazar. Of course, now I want to read that story again, so I'm off in search of that book of short stories. I know I have it, somewhere.

    I loved this, Denise. Thank you.


  16. Elsa May, Thank you for reading The Box and for going back in time and exploring our early posts.

    Maria, Thank you! I really enjoyed this writing experience. It all began with the idea of this box. Perhaps it goes back to memories I have of Ruth Bernhard's photography. I'm not sure. Sometimes motivation is difficult to pinpoint. I haven't read any Julio Cortazar, but you are the second person to bring up his short stories to me. Now I'm even more curious. I've added Blow-Up: And Other Stories to my reading list. My research shows Casa Tomada (House Taken Over) is one of the stories in the book. Thank you for referencing Cortazar. You are such an interesting and diverse person.