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When I return home after being away for a while, I always have two requests of my husband: clean sheets and a big pot of spaghetti sauce bubbling away on the stove. This past Saturday, the boy as usual came through superbly. The apartment was even vacuumed, a bonus, although the dining room table was littered with unopened mail. For six weeks, he didn’t touch a single envelope. Yikes.
This particular trip, however, was unlike others I’ve taken, with a month spent writing at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire (see November 10 post), and not one but two visits to the new grandbaby in Washington, DC. So I am particularly disoriented, and re-entry to real life is particularly elusive. I slept all day Sunday. Ate all day Monday. Woke up yesterday at 3:00 a.m. — it’s the time difference. Since meeting up with the grandson was impossible, I spent hours trying to recreate my cottage at MacDowell in the living room. Conclusion: it can’t be done. Because there is life in this house, and not only mine. My husband loves me, but his existence can’t revolve around my creative whimsies and creature comforts. We live in L.A., not the northeastern woods. There is a profound lack of silence here. Everything is stimulating, aggravating, fascinating, disruptive. Plus, there is the job. I was off the internet for most of November and the expected arrival of new assignments is unexpectedly shocking.
I did good work at MacDowell and am worried now about how to keep the energy going. After yesterday’s festival of furniture-rearrangement, I realize it isn’t a question of where the window is and what it looks out at, or how many feet of table space I have to spread out in. One thing I learned in New Hampshire was that it takes much longer to write something decent than I thought; ironically, that lesson allowed me to be more productive in a month than I’ve been in the last year. In L.A., it’s easy to forget that frustration is part of the process. There’s so much going on all around you, you have to make room for internal weather. Inside one’s head, seasons last months or seconds. Leaves are green, then gold, and then they fall. The sun burns, then hides behind clouds. Water turns to ice. The wind scrapes your cheeks and lifts your hair like a sail. Crocuses follow snow, and the trees again put on their green weight. So: Think, type, print, edit. Rinse and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Eat a popover or a banana, drink a cup of coffee. Walk in the woods (the streets!). It’ll come, if not now, then later.
In our neighborhood, we mark the seasons by changes in the window display at Trashy Lingerie, which is on La Cienega Boulevard, one block from our apartment. Apparently, it’s “holiday” time here, the mannequins dolled up in their Santa undies, or not (apologies for the bare boobs). But inside, where the writing happens, it could be any and every season, any and everywhere.