scheduling time

I adore this portrait of May Sarton. I used it in a blog post on August 8, 2009. I also used some of the same quotes, but I had a very different reaction to them two years ago. 

Polly Thayer's portrait of May Sarton owned by the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University

There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour–put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.

As the last days of summer float by, I feel like I’m swimming upstream against them, periodically climbing onto the river bank to put out the next fire. I don’t really think that’s what May Sarton meant by going “ahead with life moment by moment.” And, unfortunately, I’m not even in the same universe with putting out birdseed and tidying rooms. How can I have so much to do?

I’ve been printing blank weekly calendars from the internet and making lists, thinking about the best way to shape the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. On one of my lists from yesterday was “schedule time for reading.” You’ve got to be kidding, I say to my list. It’s come to this?

“That was what I was after–a daily rhythm, a kind of fugue of poetry, gardening, sleeping and waking in the house.”

I like fugue for its sense of interweaving of parts, for its writerly rhythm.

But at the moment I’m not sure fugue is going to get it done. In fact, what I need is a general to command the troops, to whip all these to-dos into shape. And less sleep. Maybe if I get up an hour earlier…

Just so you know, Eleanor Marie Sarton was born in Belgium in 1912. All of her quotes in this post can be found in  Journal of a Solitude, published in 1973.

How about the rest of you–how are your summers going?

send in the elves

My desk this morning, instead of being covered with books and manuscript pages, is covered with Christmas lists. I want to write, but it’s hard to draw my mind away from the unanswered questions and undone errands on my list–with the clock ticking.

I wondered how other writers managed to focus at this time of the year. So I reached for May Sarton‘s Journal of a Solitude, written from September to September–1970 to 1971, I think. And guess what? As far as December, there’s an entry for the 2nd and then nothing until January.

It’s like falling into a black hole. In December, most of all, it’s a struggle to claw through the must-do’s, the should-do’s, and the do-nows to find something real. In December, it definitely takes both hands to catch a day. So I’m going to aim for a minute here and there. Maybe an hour. I’m not going to give in. I’m going to take a deep breath. Read a few words. Write a sentence.

In her January 2nd entry, May Sarton writes,

“Iimg_1190 can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become even for those, like me, without children. Everyone must feel revolt as I do about the middle of December when I am buried under the necessity of finding presents, the immense effort of wrapping and sending, and the never-ended guilt about unsent cards…”

In an attempt at a real thought for today, I leave you with this. In her last entry in the book, she suggests that writing is a “messenger of growth,” that from where we are, “we write toward what we will become…”

[Something about my desk this morning felt familiar, hence this re-post from December 19, 2008.]

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a kind of fugue

Polly Thayer's portrait of May Sarton owned by the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University

“There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour–put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me.” May Sarton.

As the last days of summer float by, I’m thinking about reclaiming control of my days. I want to read more and write more, lose fewer hours to Twitter and Facebook, the internet in general.

Social networking does have a place. It helps me stay current with the latest articles on writing and books. It helps me feel connected to the writing community. And it’s a way to let others know what I’m doing. As Lori A. May pointed out in a recent post I discovered on Twitter, “For a writer, it’s not only about writing.”

“I am in a limbo that needs to be patterned from within….this problem of ordering a day that has no pattern imposed on it from without.” Again May Sarton.

Last week a friend and I were brainstorming about how to order our days. First we made a list of deadlines and everything we wanted and needed to do. Then we made daily, less-than-daily-and-more-than-weekly, and weekly lists. Finally we talked about what shape we wanted the mornings, afternoons, and evenings to take.

“That was what I was after–a daily rhythm, a kind of fugue of poetry, gardening, sleeping and waking in the house.” Yes, May Sarton.

Lori May eschews the word schedule as antithetical to writing. She refers, instead, to a plan of attack. I like that. I also like fugue for its sense of interweaving of parts, for its writerly rhythm. So yes, I am working on a plan of attack, in order to create my daily rhythm–a kind of fugue of reading, writing, blogging, connecting, and living.

Eleanor Marie Sarton was born in Belgium in 1912. All of her quotes in this post can be found in  Journal of a Solitude, published in 1973.

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from rome

img_17031img_17041

“Travel brings out my need for order.”  Picturing the Wreck by Dani Shapiro

Boarding passes, passports, confirmations.  

Scarves, coats, coffees, carry-ons. 

Phones, laptops, ipods, kindles.

Chargers, adapters, converters.

And then there are the liquids separated from the case that usually holds them, that holds the rest of their little friends.  img_1610The brusqueness of the plastic ziplock bag. 

“Yesterday was a strange, hurried, uncentered day.”  Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton

The time to be at the airport, the time to board, the time the plane pulls back.

And finally, the time to go home.

 

send in the elves

img_1194My desk this morning, instead of being covered with books and manuscript pages, is covered with Christmas lists.  I wanted to make a post.  But it was hard to draw my mind away from the unanswered questions and undone errands on my list–with the clock ticking.  Six days, six days, six…

I wondered how other writers managed to focus at this time of the year.  So I reached for May Sarton‘s Journal of a Solitude, written from September to September, from 1970 to 1971, I think.  And guess what?  As far as December, there’s an entry for the 2nd and then nothing until January. 

It’s like falling into a black hole.  In December, most of all, it’s a struggle to claw through the must-do’s, the should-do’s, and the do-nows to find something real.  In December, it definitely takes both hands to catch a day.  So I’m going to aim for a minute here and there.  Maybe an hour.  I’m not going to give in.  I’m going to take a deep breath.  Read a few words.  Write a sentence. 

In her January 2nd entry, May Sarton writes, “I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainoimg_1190us effort Christmas has become even for those, like me, without children.  Everyone must feel revolt as I do about the middle of December when I am buried under the necessity of finding presents, the immense effort of wrapping and sending, and the never-ended guilt about unsent cards…”

In an attempt at a real thought for today, I leave you with this.  In her last entry in the book, she suggests that writing is a “messenger of growth,” that from where we are, “we  write toward what we will become…”

first day of fall

September 22, 2008–the autumnal equinox–fall at last.  My favorite season. 

And it felt like fall this morning.  Canada geese flying over.  The first leaves changing color.

It’s no surprise that in two of my all-time favorite books, the authors write of fall.

In Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton wrote of a September day, “The sun is out.  I woke to lovely mists, dew on spider webs everywhere, although the asters look beaten down after the rain and the cosmos pretty well battered.  But these days one begins to look up at the flowering of color in the leaves, so it is easier to bear that the garden flowers are going one by one.”

In Light Years, James Salter wrote, “In the morning the light came in silence.  The house slept.  The air overhead, glittering, infinite, the moist earth beneath–one could taste this earth, its richness, its density, bathe in the air like a stream.  Not a sound….Autumn morning.  The horses in nearby fields are standing motionless.  The pony already has a heavier coat; it seems too soon.”

And then there’s Edith Wharton in The House of Mirth:  “The afternoon was perfect.  A deeper stillness possessed the air, and the glitter of the American autumn was tempered by a haze which diffused the brightness without dulling it.  In the woody hollows of the park there was already a faint chill…” 

That’s what we had in Columbus this morning, a faint chill, presaging the lovely fall days ahead.  Only one hundred days left in the year.  Here they come and there they go.  Catch as many as you can.