"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

January 13, 2011

'The Submerged Truth'

Meryl Streep as the isolated and brooding farmwife Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County

I have always been a daydreamer, observer and prone to brooding and I'm learning to not feel so guilty about it, either. I saw this quote today from writer Joyce Carol Oates and realized that it affirms the kind of 'work' that most writers and artists do. In order to create, you have to think about your creation. Or what you are planning to create or, in my case, write about.
'I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities...entire mornings can slip by, in a blissful daze of preoccupation.'
––Joyce Carol Oates
I have many books in my head––not word for word, but scene to scene or chapter scenarios and outlines. Most of my ideas come to me like an unseen breeze across the ridge and, if I don't capture them on paper or for a span of time in my mind, then they are gone again.
'Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.'
––Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Image by Russell Lee, 1938, Corbis® Images.
Much of the 'three activities' of 'the so-called imaginative life' are accomplished while sitting alone, or resting, or, when I'm especially blessed, while doing something strange like organizing a shelf. I can be thinking about the items I'm putting away, or finding a place to put something, and then it comes to me. An idea or a thought that I must write down. I've learned to carry a notepad with me wherever I go––even if it is a small notepad in my apron pocket.

Emily Dickinson did the very same thing. One of my first blog posts at In the Pantry mentioned the discovery of her way of jotting things down on slips of paper in her kitchen, while she was kneading bread or doing another domestic task. I do the same thing. Her cousin Louisa remembered:
'I know that Emily Dickinson wrote most emphatic things in the pantry, so cool and quiet, while she skimmed the milk; because I sat on the footstool behind the door, in delight, as she read them to me.'
––as quoted in Woman's Journal, 1904
Sometimes it is a mere task or domestic chore that drives the creative spark. Other times it is when we allow the quiet or the moment to become more introspective. I have written amazing things upon waking or just as I fall off to sleep––I tell myself, I will remember. But I don't. So I need to count on the waking dream state to capture those sparks and ignite them into something that flickers and burns and takes hold. A good crackling fire of creation.

Marjorie Main as the cook in one of my favorite movies (and a total weepfest), Meet Me In St. Louis [thank you to HookedOnHouses.Net for the image]

In readying the cottage, setting up pantries and cupboards and my new office, I am having many flickers. It is exciting this settling in and the readying for new creation. I feel like an expectant mother preparing her nursery. I have rarely been so giddy!

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for todays musings. I tend to do the same and convinced myself it is getting in my readiness stage. For some reason I felt I should feel guilty, you know the idle hands thingy. But if it were not for these times of wandering, I would do nothing at all, probably out of fear. I know myself too well and would enter into my other complex of impulsivenss. GEEEZe will I ever win?? A little title I gave myself years ago, (13yrs, I think) in an attempt to push myself in a direction of not being guilty of every decision I made was "Free To Be Me". I used to sign email and such with it, and you know I still strive daily to live up to those 4 words. It was not meant to be a get out of jail free card to run amuck with. I chuckle at how hard it is still to be me, but I do know better who I am. Thanks again, I have really enjoyed your blog. Blessings, Marla

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  2. Oh my...how I relate to your post today. I am the same way concerning a creative thought. Out of the blue something just pours through my mind, then vanishes into blackness if I don't take the time to write it down immediately. I share in your excitement as you ready your cottage. This last April, we sold our large primary home and moved into our small, cozy vacation cottage. While I love living in the cottage, I so miss my little place to be alone and create. I envy your cottage. Pictures please! I am currently working on a little cottage/outbuilding to serve as my creative get-a-way.

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  3. I will post pictures soon as things take better shape! A bit topsy-turvy now, especially as we just sold a small house up the road where many things were stored. OH my--we've downsized our house, now why not the stuff? At least I will have the contents of an antique shop if I ever want to go that route.

    Yes, we have to give ourselves permission to think and create, just as we have to tend to the necessities in life. The trick, for me, is finding that balance!

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