looking inside / by Christina Rosalie

It is starting to be long john weather here. The red line on the thermometer never crept past 30 degees today, and the air bites at exposed cheeks. The light at dusk strikes the buildings with sharpness. There is no depth to it like in the summer, or even in the autumn when the rays seem to fall in long angles. Now, the light is filterless and bright; shadows spilling onto the streets in dark contrast. Winter has a way of making me look at my life starkly, as though I were seeing my soul in series of x-rays. Like the fields of corn stalks tilled into frozen soil or the rocky hilltops exposed below the silhouettes of trunks and branches, when I look in on myself I see mostly skeletons. I go back over the writing I have done in years past, and am stunned at my own depth, yet feel incapable of duplicating it. The voice of my shadow that always whispers “failure,” harps louder now.

I have new canvasses and the longing to paint, but a terror to pick up the brush. Everything I make might be ugly. Words stalk me at indecent times when I have no notebook, no means of record. But when I sit at the computer with an hour of quiet stolen from other tasks, nothing comes except mouthfuls of hesitation.

Natalie Goldberg says it doesn’t matter. She says “One of the main aims in writing practice is to learn to trust your own mind and body; to grow patient and nonaggressive.” I try to come back to this. To simply write. To get out my paints and follow the movement of my hand. To trust that I will once again feel the divine moving through the branches of my soul like wind.

But like the flock of startled crows I saw today, whirling black specks against the grey sky above the rooftops, I become easily scattered. I know this is to be expected in this time: this collision of moments when we are making choices about our future happen now. Buying this house isn’t just buying a house for me. It’s about fulfilling a dream that has been a part of my mental geography for as long as I can remember.

I am like that. When I loose myself in my thoughts, I am lost in a specific geography. I have always been someone who has felt closely tied to the land. I have worked on farms, milked cows, grown gardens, and I know that these things provide a rich soil for my creative life. I long to put down roots in this place. Keep bees, learn to ride horses.

So I am here in the midst of making something I’ve always imagined a reality, and it feels awkward like I’m trying to help hatch a baby bird. They are so fragile and ugly and gawky when they first peck their way out of the shell they’ve lived inside for weeks. Then they just sit there in the nest, all beak, squawking.

It’s cold out. The mud is frozen solid and our apartment is too small. I can’t help squawking, doubting that flight will ever be possible. The pessimist in me chokes at the stir-crazy feeling I know I’ll have we finally close the deal after the new year and start to rip down walls. It will take months of effort before anything resembles anything I imagine. This process should be familiar. It is the one I face every day when I come to the blank screen or the empty canvass and struggle with a mess of words or lines. I should know. The good stuff only happens when I’m patient.