Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Apologies to Carl Jung for stealing his title. I am in a spell of dryness and trying to discover how to come out of the desert. This piece will perambulate, but I promise to eventually go ahead and define the boundaries of my inspection.

I’ve had words my whole life. As a baby I used to sit in the back of the car and recite every word I knew. I put myself to sleep with words. I loved how they rolled off my tongue and made beautiful patterns against the roof of my mouth. I loved how saying them into the air could cause a reaction from my mother and father - especially when I named my rocking horse a dreadful word that rhymes with Buck, and no one - not even my beloved grandmother - could dissuade me. As I grew older I began to see words as story – how words could swirl around and become a circuit – the same way electricity forms a perfect arc. I would spend hours preparing scripts for my friends to use with our Barbies as we acted out my stories, circling the theme – will Ken bring home the right car? Can Barbie ever have children of her own? Will Skipper be able to save her sick pony? - We tried out alternate stories, different arcs, until we discovered what felt like the happiest ending.

Words were lush – the way they could just fall into my mouth, ripe and velvety. I knew more words than anyone I knew. I read the dictionary for the sheer joy of discovering a word that was just perfect. Perambulate, for instance, which rose just now into my fingers and was perfect – better than explore, better than walk, better than circle. Do I ever use a word like perambulate in every day conversation? No. But there it was, shimmering in a pool – ready to rise up I discovered Jung in college and became instantly devoted to his archetypes. Mostly because I could understand them. Horses pounding hooves next to a castle – the flight or fight animation of the night mare. The giant that lives next to the bridge – fear of crossing into newness. His was a landscape that made sense to me. Words are the manifestation of image, after all. And image is the child of myth and symbol. I could cross into French Deconstructionism and ponder if a table would really be a table if we couldn’t call it that, but I never much liked unbundling words from objects.

In Jung I discovered an image that abides with me always. Creativity is a giant river and it runs cool, deep and ever-replenishing through our subconscious, dumping finally into a lake where we can plumb the depths and, like pirates, hide our ideas until we need them. We have only to learn to make a bucket. To pull up what we want from the cool water of creative thought. What I’ve pulled up are buckets mostly filled with words, but I’ve also pulled up houses, dresses, the perfect paint color, children, a piece of mosaic, and the random new way of doing something.

But during this tumultuous time in life I have been discarding my bucket more than I carry it. The river has receded for me and I’ve been in fear that shortly I’ll need to craft a divining rod to ever find it again. For the past six months I have not been able to find time to write. The words are drying pebbles – muted and plain in the air; the river slows to a trickle. The lake it feeds into has sandy edges now and the reeds poke up into the air from the shallowing middle.

The hard thing is that I never stop hearing the water, even as I have had to turn my attention to other things, it’s still there, with all the annoyance of a dripping faucet and the companionable guilt of waste.

But then just last week I was walking on a track at Agnes Scott College while my kids were in camp. Agnes Scott is a women’s college. Lush and manicured – always an inducement to finding water. I walked hard, in despair, certain that I wouldn’t ever again have time for the words, when beneath my feet I felt it. Water. Six months is a long time to be parched, a long time to not be able to use words, an eternity of desperate thirst.

I came home that day and did something I hate to do. I put my children in front of the television and locked myself in my room. I spread out the next four months before me on my bed and I hunted for space where I could wade; space where I could swim; space where I could float. I found those spaces – I found where water could sweep in around the boundaries and edges of a life that is too full of obligation. Looking at all those squares now colored blue I remembered something an old plumber once told me:

Water will always find a way to run.