Countdown to Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Counting down the dark. I always do this, forgetting it's like moving--there is all that unpacking on the other end, just as difficult as the initial packing. January will be dark as well.
But today is sunny. I've been watching it through my window all morning. The fig tree has almost lost all her leaves. It was cold last night, but cozy and sweet under the covers with C. How did I ever live without this? I remember previous winters, winters of trauma and break-ups, numb, slow recoveries from grief. Also: contra dancing like crazy, folk music festivals up in the Santa Cruz mountains, steaming hot tubs under skies full of stars, singing all night. This has been variously the hardest and sometimes the most joyous time of year.
Last night G came over and the three of us watched a pretty bad movie about Beethoven: Copying Beethoven, which I had bought because it was only 4 dollars and it had Ed Harris in it. He was great of course, and the young woman who plays his copyist was also very good, and it was fun to hear and watch a recreation of the first time his Ninth Symphony was played in Vienna, startling and moving people. The scriptwriter was criminally horrible, prone to dropping such bombs as "You must listen to the silence within and only then will you know music."
I'd swum half a mile--for the first time since I got back from Malawi I think--and was feeling good. That wonderful, delicious warm, endorphin hum of a well-worked body. Sitting there, wedged on the sofa between two of my favorite guys, sipping wine, blankets over knees, making fun of the ridiculous dialogue, I felt incredibly rich and blessed and lucky.
I've been using the artificial deadline of the Solstice as a spur to squirrel-like industry (although it often, too easily devolves into squirrel like distraction.) Time to plant plant plant my little seeds. This morning, I revised and re-sent out the Listening essay. I made a little more progress in writing the long essay about Alan, my ex-husband, which is a fraught emotional minefield for me, loaded with grief and guilt and (hopefully) some buried treasure. That will take more doing, but I have four pages now, hard-won.
I finished the third or fourth revision of the hot tub play and sent it out; I heard some good things back from initial readers, and am waiting for my busy dramaturg friends to get to it. Patience is not my strong suit, but I try to ride out the waves of excitement, anticipation, and despair by getting busy with something else constructive. God knows there's enough to do. I still have to work the musical, the Paris Hilton play, and the grocery store play That Greeny Flower, whose first draft I wrote fourteen months ago.
I sent out the latest version of the poetry ms., now called Sustain, to seven different contests.
I sent out two children's stories to five different presses, some large, some smaller.
It's hard to do all this work, invisibly. Everyone else is at some kind of job, earning real money and being seen gossipping at the water cooler with colleagues. I don't envy C who has to go out in the chill dawn and deal with beaurocracies all day, but I do envy him that he gets to touch the lives of troubled kids and make a difference to them. (Of course there are many instances--most--when he can't actually see the difference he is making and has to take it on faith. His job contains moments of almost unbearable poignancy. Yesterday, for example, a girl who is in Juvenile Hall on a murder conviction, finally graduated from high school--a victory in a bell jar. He took pictures of the cap and gown.)
It's almost noon today and I don't have my bra or my shoes on yet. New College is in so much financial trouble with low enrollments and other problems, that my Memoir class has been cancelled for this semester. The wolf is not at the door--I have plenty of financial back-up--but still, I sometimes question the wisdom of this free-lance lifestyle. Something wonderful happens--I win a contest, or a piece gets accepted, or the play gets produced somewhere--and it's joy in the morning, and a big fat check in the mail. That lasts for a few days, or weeks. Then it's back to vigilling at the computer, no bra, hair a mess, coffee getting cold at my elbow, wondering where I can send this stuff I keep banging out.
C and I had a wonderful discussion about Beethoven last night, after the movie. How he changed the landscape of classical music at the time, how he was a bridge to the Romantic period, how his personal failings and his deafness both fed his music and blighted his life. Some of his works, like The Grosee Fugue, were not understood in their own time. An artist's job is just to keep going. Some essence of our wonderful conversation found its way into the essay-writing work of this morning. That is the supreme privilege of this very privileged life.
At the same time, I don't think it would be a bad idea--after the New Year, and the play production in January-- for me to start looking into other sources of work. These are not the most mental-health-inducing conditions for me to be in my room half the day, dicking around inside my own mind. Today, I would have dearly loved to have given that opportunity to C, who needs the time to play piano, compose, paint, pet his cat, and keep nesting.
Finding balance, that's the illusive and elusive quest. While I've got this time I'm trying to make the best use of it that I can, not always succeeding. I know another time will roll around again, when I'll be frantic and pressed with outer demands--that always happens. Dancing between inner and outer worlds, now the weight is on one foot, now the other...I know this is the time of year in which to go inward. I'm both embracing and resisting the descent.