For the past few months, I’ve been in a creative writing group led by poet, fiction writer, and memoirist Doug Anderson. He emails out an assignment, we write our poetry or prose and upload it to a Google drive folder for other group members to read, and then meet on Zoom to read our work aloud and respond to each other. The assignments have always been interesting and have often pushed me out of my writing comfort zone, which is a good thing. The most recent assignment said to write something that veers off from its starting point but always stays connected in some way to where it began.
I wrote something in my head, sitting here in my favorite chair, listening to the rain. I thought about how this assignment reminded me of my meditation process, how I start with my breath or with listening to the world around me or I count to ten over and over but my mind spins out and I pull it back and it spins out again and I gently tug it back and repeat and repeat. I imagined myself meditating and wondered what thoughts would float through then opened the computer and made a quick note—meditation, mind drifting, last night’s dream about being in a crowd, article I just read about joy coming from contact with others, wondering when group joy turns to mob mentality. I left the note to percolate while I washed the dishes, talked to a friend. I didn’t return to writing that day or the next but the writing task hovered in my mind.
Sunday was a quiet day; I read and daydreamed and went for a walk before the rain moved in again. I walked the loop around the stadium at the university. On Saturday all the sunlit playing fields had been filled with teens and families taking part in a lacrosse tournament but Sunday the area was empty except for red-winged blackbirds, a few chipmunks and squirrels, an occasional dog walker, a runner, and an elegantly dressed woman—pristine white pants, colorful scarf at her neck—pushing a walker along the track. As I strode along in jeans and t-shirt, hiking pole in my left hand clicking on the gravel surface, I admired her tenacity as she slowly maneuvered the walker through the grass at the side of the track. We nodded to each other, two women in motion. The damp air was thick, palpable; walking, even on level ground, took effort. Later, at home, rain falling outside, I stretched out on my bed to meditate, guided by Tara Brach’s voice cuing me to listen deeply and I listened and drifted and dozed. I didn’t write on Sunday.
Yesterday I opened the computer and reconsidered the note I’d made on Friday. But those tendrils of thought didn’t entice me. Instead the upright purple hosta blooms that stand so proudly along the front walk, called to me. I wanted to march off with them saying rain and sodden air be damned; I wanted to bend in the rain and rise up again, catch the drops in my upturned palms like the leaves of the rhododendrons then fling them into the air, watch them scatter and fall, I wanted to gather all the wet headed phlox, the hot pink and rose and white, the sweet scented flowers, taste the rain, feel my hair plastered to my head. And so I closed the computer and went for a quick walk near the pond. The Mill River was gushing and roaring, disgorging with force into the pond and over the falls. I entered this wet, gray, green world, walked kindly and softly within it, and knew this was a good thing, a way to step more easily though my life. And when I got home, I wrote these words.