Time is getting away from me. A week ago I was enjoying the last morsels of summer, the popular version anyway, that ends with Labor Day. We are still a week away from the autumnal equinox, and temperatures where I live will climb close to 90 this week. I don’t feel like I have much, if anything, to show for the past week, which was mainly spent catching up at my day job and getting back to a normal sleep/writing schedule. Last Thursday I found a five-week old feral kitten, whose one-night stay in our bathroom caused utter chaos and sleeplessness in our household (my loyal chow chow mix spent the night pacing and loudly, repeatedly announcing the presence of the intruder). So any ground gained in reestablishing the routine up to that point was lost, and this past weekend was largely a blur of napping on the screened porch, copious amounts of caffeine, and gratuitous carbo-loading.
I’m still refining my writing schedule into something workable. I remain attached to early morning, because there is something magical, even spiritual, about getting up before the birds. There aren’t a lot of activities that would win out over sleep at that time of day, but writing is one of them. It feels a little bit like cheating death to get up so early.
As I write this, I’m reminded that not all birds are sleeping. The call of a barred owl ghosts down the the chimney like an echo through a canyon. I step out into the cool, clear darkness to have an unfiltered listen. Overhead, Orion and faithful Sirius track the maiden moon that has already disappeared over the western horizon. A second owl responds, nearer than the first. Hoots and trills ricochet through the houses, and I can’t make out whether there are three owls now, or if those two are on the move. I go back inside when my dog starts barking. The nearer owl’s song is so amplified by the chimney, it sounds as if she’s sitting atop it.
I spotted one other human while I was outside, a runner. I’m not much of a runner myself, but I appreciate the lonely beauty of it, and my favorite attempts at running were those undertaken on brisk winter evenings, when the skies were clear and constellations sparkled overhead. On winter evenings you can run without fear of stepping on bugs or toads or snakes, specifically poisonous copperheads, who seem to find my suburban neighborhood especially habitable. It will be a few more weeks before the cold becomes entrenched enough to send the serpents to their long winter’s sleep. Until then, nighttime dog walks remain an exercise in hypervigilance, me sweeping the path in front of us with my headlamp as if scanning for land mines.
From that perspective–the perspective of waiting for snakes to hibernate–autumn seems to be taking her sweet time. And yet my life is full of urgency. Urgency to make the most of my time with my son during the brief tenure of childhood. Urgency to complete at least one draft of a novel before the present placid equilibrium of my life is punctuated by some upheaval or loss. Urgency to finish a blog post before too much time passes and it becomes another abandoned creative project.
I used to welcome the darkening days of autumn as a time of enhanced creativity, loved leaving work by owl light to begin my second shift as a writer. As I grew older and more beset with responsibility, the days just seemed shorter. But age also brings keener awareness: even as time slips away, I feel I apprehend it better. I put it into neat bundles: writing, work, family, home. Now I rise on the other side of that owl light, in the still owl-filled hours before dawn, to write in solitude and relative silence.
Apprehending time means also understanding its limits. In the first three weeks of Thoughts Like Birds, I wrote during every “free” moment, ignoring my family, forgoing chores, neglecting my nestling novel. My predawn writing time bled into my pre-work/school getting ready time, resulting in our rolling up to the curb just moments before my son’s school bell rang. Now I know I need to stop at 7. I also know that spending all of my free moments working on blog posts leaves no time for other writing projects. So my ambitious goal of three to four posts per week has dwindled to two. Some weeks, maybe only one, but I do plan to honor my original intention of blogging as a means of working out. Here’s hoping the writing workout routine sticks better than the physical workout routine.