January sun on my seven month hens, photo by John Ewing. The green is chickweed, their winter vegetable.
More excerpts from Change of Life, Devon, September 1990.
September 6. The present is perhaps the greatest mystery of all, and if I’ve learned anything at all, it is, perhaps, how to live in the present.
There was a time when I tried to wrest meaning out of the present. I wanted to understand why I was suffering so much or why I was in love. I wanted the present to enlighten me about itself, but I desired this in vain. It wasn’t possible. I found an idea that helped in an astrological book by Dane Rudhyar. He said that often we must wait for some time to pass in order to understand what is happening to us in the present.
I also found an image in Esther Harding’s The Way of All Women that helped even more. She said that in situations full of conflict, one could only work one’s way forward like a plant finds its way through a wall toward the light on the other side. Trust one’s intuition each day. Do one’s best with each stage forward. And one would look back and marvel at one’s cleverness.
I’ve seen this work. I’ve now been in countless difficult, “impossible” situations, and unable to see my way forward, nor to understand what was happening, what it meant. Yet I’ve trusted to the deepest impulses of my heart and kept moving.
This got me here. I have lengthened the time I give to my writing and to my time off from my regular work. I need a way to get completely out of one kind of life with all its activities, schemes, and worries, and into another.
When I left North Carolina mid-July, I still had a list of the bills the press needed to pay, and the various moneys we could expect to receive, in my head. I was waking up early worrying about money. This was intensified when I discovered that I had made a mistake in arithmetic in my own checking account, and instead of having $1000 in it, I had $0. I had just bought $1500 in travelers’ checks and thought I might have to trade some of them back in. By working on the bank book carefully, planning smaller amounts on some of my monthly bills, asking Carolina Wren to pay some of my loan back earlier, and also receiving over $300 Saturday night before we left, from the group of people I was leaving behind in charge of Carolina Wren Press, I was able to work through that crisis, which had given me a leaden feeling in my stomach.
Then there was my friend E., to whom Carolina Wren owed money. We were late paying her, and I had to call her and say it might be still later. She was not patient. She was angry and let me know.
Then my youngest child decided to break up with her boyfriend the day before we left and wanted to come home. Before I could leave to go get her, she had called back to say they had made up. Perhaps she needed to know she could stay in my house and use my car in my absence. In any case, I told her she could, if they did, in fact, break up.
Many of these things would have kept someone else from going. They might have kept me from going if I hadn’t been following an inner directive. It is easier though for me now to see in my own mind the legitimacy of taking time off than it was ten years ago. I had even borrowed money from my mother again. I didn’t like to ask, but I had this urgent something inside me saying to go, partly because of M., whom I felt I must meet. He had done his part and sent the official invitation–I must now get there! But also because I was at a crossroads with my writing.
I must put my full weight on it for awhile, even if, when I got back, the various money problems again descended on me. They will. Other people are working on it in my absence, but even if Carolina Wren is doing okay, I’ve got the rent to pay when I get back. Some work is lined up, but I’ll have to find more. Most people wouldn’t do that either. I’ve gotten good at calculated risks in the past nineteen years. I can get some kind of job, if worst comes to worst. I have friends and a friendly landlord. I won’t starve. I’ll pay the rent. I have a class lined up to teach. And Carolina Wren still owes me $500.
Third installment next week!