Sunday, October 23, 2011

Early Morning Maintenance Tasks

Despite the rain both of the big dogs were anxious to leave the house the other morning. Usually they are eager only to make brief forays into the wild if the weather is wet, but I was happy to let them out together while I pulled on my boots. Once outside, I understood their eagerness.

 Sixty feet from the garages, across the driveway, is the building that houses our furnace and at least some of the things we can’t figure out what to do with, if you know what I mean. Attached to the side of the building is a plastic bin, designed to hold and protect two garbage cans. Designed to, but hardly up to the task. That’s why the dogs were eager to go out: they knew the bear had been there (and gone). Left me a mess to clean up, strewn down the hillside and distributed among the trees and a bench nearby. While they won’t tell me in the middle of the night when the bear is feeding, they will eagerly romp among the leavings and ripped-off doors.

 So my early morning maintenance for that day was to clean up after the bear. The dogs helped of course, snuffling out the chicken bones the bear left behind, and further distributing orange peals and plastic detritus farther down the hillside where it will eventually be covered by the oak leaves and pine needles and wild grass. We didn’t walk. Soon after returning to the house I turned to another maintenance task: my daily journal.

 As often happens, being out with the older dogs (Max and Teddy) will start me on a path relating real life to writing. If we throw things away, things like the stories we live, there is no way to share them with others. If, on the other hand, we secure the stuff of our internal lives, the thoughts and ideas and reactions we experience every day, and if we also get rid of the things we don’t need and will never use again, then we have something to look at, to guide us, whether we are writing about life, or just living it.

 Everything I have experienced colors and informs my stories and essays. Writing, for me, is a way of remembering, a way of examining my life. That is a good thing, because it helps me remember where I have been, and see where I am going. Writing helps me keep direction in my life. It is where I find my compass.

"If we don’t change direction soon," a wise elder once said, "we’ll end up where we’re headed." Writing helps keep me oriented to the star I should be following. On this day it was Ursa Minor.

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