River Muse

Lessons from the lockdown

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 9/2/20

Routine is a gift of this lockdown. Without the desirable distractions of art shows, theater and film and parties, we have made a routine of gardening by day, a quick dip in the pool in the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
River Muse

Lessons from the lockdown

Posted

Routine is a gift of this lockdown. Without the desirable distractions of art shows, theater and film and parties, we have made a routine of gardening by day, a quick dip in the pool in the afternoon, followed by a cocktail and dinner. We are fortunate to be of a certain age without young children or jobs that require daily attention.

It is a less harried existence, but still, I procrastinate. This, I think, is a product of perfectionism. A perfectionism that rarely produces perfection. It is what happens when the anxiety of not doing becomes greater than the anxiety of doing. Then, the concept of perfection can be excused (in the mind of the perfectionist) because it is being done on the fly. Who could expect it to be any good? This is where I find myself too often.

A monthly meeting of poets has me scrambling for a half-hour of solitude the day before the meeting. Before the half-hour is over, a dog escapes the backyard fence and propels me to my bicycle. I circle the neighborhood, calling for him until I am too dry to whistle. Procrastination makes no allowance for such events. The dog returned safely. The poem was not perfect.

Describing my experience to the group later, a poet who knows me too well exclaims, “You always do that!” She’s right but still I say “Why is that!?” shaking my head as if the answer were lodged inside and might shake loose.

My husband consoles me, calling this my “creative process.” He is right that I use the time between assignments to think, tossing ideas in my mind until, almost fully formed, they tumble onto the page. Often, I surprise myself. I know no other way, although I often wish I did.

Although the lockdown borne of COVID-19 has not produced a book of poems, it has provided much in the way of dinner. Beautiful fat stout cherry tomatoes, an Italian heirloom variety grown from Willow Wisp Farm seedlings, grace our dinner salad, as do fresh basil and thyme. The basil has been prolific, giving us batches of fragrant pesto. A bounty of muskmelon is growing fat and juicy in a raised bed, along with fennel and red peppers. Green beans grow long under the shade of their heart-shaped leaves, providing just enough for the two of us every few days. I have been grateful for the routine of gardening this summer. Without our usual summer bounty of entertainment, the garden attracts our attention and thrives because of it.

Maybe that’s what my creative process needs—more attention. Just as the garden needs its water, food and sunlight, the writer needs time, solitude and thought. Maybe that’s what winter is for, when the garden goes to sleep.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment