Since setting up this blog, I've found myself drafting posts in my mind as I take walks, drive to work, even while folding laundry. I've taken and edited countless photos. In my mind's eye I can see the posts, right down to which photos will be entered where.
So far, those mental drafts haven't made it here. I was starting to feel a bit bad about that, and then I read Anna Maria Horner's post about imaginary blog entries and realized I'm in very good company. Her post got me thinking about a statement I'd read months ago, that 85% of writing happens in the writer's mind before pen ever touches paper. It sounded like something Bruce Ballenger or Anne Lamott might have said.
I never did find it, but I found something even better. In The Craft of Revision Donald Murray explains that from the time he puts down his pen one day, to the time he picks it up the next " I rehearse what I may write, trying out lines, hooking fragments of information together, seeing patterns of meaning in my head... I silently--and sometimes out loud to my wife's surprise--talk to myself about what I may write.".
So there we have it. Whatever it may have looked like, I was actually taking the advice of a master. I was rehearsing.
Back in October when the darkening days were getting to me, my doctor said that the best thing I could do for myself was to take a walk first thing every morning. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to stick to it. Beyond the fact that I've never been especially successful at creating new habits on purpose, there was the fact that he said the walks needed to be as early as possible. The ideal time would be around 6:30 as the sun became high enough to shine down through the trees and reach my sunlight deprived brain. I was not a morning person. I had never been a morning person. I saw a lot of problems with carrying out this prescription.
The next morning my alarm clock went off at 6:15 and I hit the snooze button repeatedly until I opened my eyes enough to read 7:07 on the clock. I jumped up, put a knit cap over my unruly hair and traded my pj bottoms for sweats. A jacket and shoes later I was out the door.
Aside from a couple camping trips, the last time I had been outside that early in the morning was high school. The morning air seemed cleaner, fresher, making everything look shiny and new. The birds were singing like a Broadway chorus and I had to admit I was excited. The words to a Nina Simone song came to mind and I tried to hum it as I walked my neighborhood, nodding politely as I passed seniors leaving their tai chi session at the community center on my street. How early had they gotten up?
The next day with the first bleat of the alarm clock, my feet were out of bed. Soon I was waking up before the clock even had a chance to break the morning silence. There were the occasional wet mornings where I had to remind myself that I would feel better after my walk, even if that did mean coming home in pants so wet they stuck to my skin. All in all, I was surprised at how quickly going to bed earlier, so I could wake up earlier and start walking became a way of life.
That all changed about three weeks ago when the whole world seemed to bloom at once. When I started walking daily, I thought the winter weather would be tough. It did take some planning ahead, but it was doable. The spring pollen attack can not be mitigated by wearing long johns or my really uncomfortable, but warm, wool socks. Unlike cold weather, I can't tell myself "It'll get better once I start moving". I was reminded of this recently when I went out for my morning walk, and by the end of my street I had to turn around because I could barely see for all the eye rubbing and sneezing I was doing.
Allergies have always been a part of my life. I know the drill. I take the meds, I drink extra water, I sleep with the windows closed and I know better than to spend time outside in the morning when the pollen counts are highest. I know this, but I don't want it to be true.
I'm surprised at just how lost I feel in the morning without my walking routine. I wake up, eat breakfast and look around wondering what I can do that will create that same eagerness to take on the day that walking does. At a friend's suggestion I tried meditation. It lacked the physical satisfaction of feeling my body awaken and respond to my needs (such as sprinting across morning commute traffic). Even more importantly, I suspect meditation is a lot like whistling. Once you know how to do it, you can't imagine how you ever couldn't. But until that point it's incredibly frustrating.
I've tried reading, doing the crossword, quilting, even crossing chores off my to do list, all of which I usually enjoy, or at least find satisfying. None of them fills the void. And so I wait for a sign that it's safe to walk once again in the moring, for the pollen counts to move down from severe to manageable, or for my car to look black rather than an unearthly shade of yellow. I know it will happen. And when it does I will reestablish my routine, only this time with a greater appreciation for each life affirming step.