Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block




I must write something today.

Some days commence with that feeling, as if words are waiting–noisily–in the wings, eager to make an appearance, to be woven into sentences and paragraphs. They are wearing their costumes–What feathers! Sequins, even!–and mouthing their lines while peering past the curtains stage left.

No matter that the sun is out for the first time since March; that the oak trees finally have their leaves; that the brook trout will finally be feeding at the surface of McCaslin Brook above the beaver dam, as mayflies hatch; that breezes on the harbor augur good sailing–or just pleasant foraging for pottery shards, shells, rocks, and driftwood on the backshore.

Surely it’s a better day for a picnic in the field under Arthur Wardwell’s oak tree by Hatch Cove, or for playing hooky from words and climbing Blue Hill where the lupine are exploding into bloom and the islands of Penobscot Bay will look like floating porcupines moored in the lustrous, blueberry-dark sea.

Never mind that the vegetable garden needs planting, or that our new raspberry plants have been languishing in their pots from the nursery while patiently waiting for just such a day as this to be snuggled into soil. Already sending out new suckers, the plants have blossomed and are swelling with emerging berries. In a month they could be ready for picking! Yes, today would be a great day to start our very own berry patch.

Or a pumpkin patch. Last year’s pumpkins in our new garden were pitiful and stunted, but, with the “spring dressing,” cover crop, and organic matter carefully folded into the field this month, we hope to be raising some true jack-o-lanterns by Halloween. Perhaps some of Fred Cole’s magic seeds from his blue ribbon pumpkins at the fair–they were the size of an air stream trailer!–would flourish this summer, if we planted now.

Yes, it’s a summer day, finally. Such days work a charm on my friend Sam, who lives in Manhattan, and would say: “This is a good day to cross water and walk on grass.” By which bridge? Brooklyn, George Washington, Williamsburg, Tri-borough, Queensboro? Or Deer Isle?

The bridge to Deer Isle stretches like an inverted hammock across Eggemoggin Reach. It leads to the granite ledges around Sunshine–good swimming in August–and Eaton’s lobster pound, or the harbor in Stonington. This would be a good day to sketch the lobster boats at the dock, or the fishermen’s cottages on Water street.

But that’ll have to be a road not taken–there are words insistantly waiting for their chance to be heard.

Is “hammocking” a word? It should be. Hammocking between two of our hackmatack trees is the best spot from which to binocular birds. Binocular should be a verb. Hammocked in stillness, I never fail to spot unusual, stealthy birds flitting across the pine canopy. Last week, an over flight of three great blue herons was my reward for patience, and a marsh hawk perched atop a broken fir tree planning his next hunting sortie. It has been a good bird week, starting with the three osprey I spotted fishing near Flye Point yesterday morning. Later, a bald eagle sailed up the field by my office, at roof level, his shadow no doubt terrorizing the rabbits and mice foraging in the meadow grass below.

I imagine poems must arrive on similar wings, casting their sharp eye on the field of paper, pondering whether to swoop to earth on extended wings or alight on a brittle branch. Perhaps it was a day like this when Ted Hughes was visited by “The Thought Fox,” which came “about its own business,” and left the poet’s page mysteriously, delicately printed. Or perhaps a poem arrives as a fish peering through its glassy ceiling, wondering at a world of all air, even while swaying in mid-current–and feeding, eating even as it avoids being eaten by another…thought.

Words must have been waiting in the wings to talk about themselves in Elinor Wylie’s imagination when she said “I love smooth words, like gold-enameled fish/Which circle slowly with a silken swish.”

Just so, words are waiting in the wings, circling slowly in my thoughts. I feel I really must write something today, if only to mention that certain slant of dawn light by the back porch hummingbird feeder, or last night’s firefly quasars hovering over the clover outside this window.

 —Todd R. Nelson

Words: 739







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