It rained steadily all night. My neighbour from the valley came up to park beside me so he didn’t get stuck in the mud. It was a good move. Although mucky here too, it’s not “get-stuck” mud. Just squeeze-between-your-toes, mucky-muck. The kind a person can gently sink into, but safely get out of.
During a very short break in the downpour, I venture outside and make one seriously strong cup of coffee. I wash the mud from between my toes, re-enter my office, don my blanket and allow Pips to reclaim her spot under the covers.
I stare at the empty page. The tapping of the rain on the roof stirs a desire to tap with it, but no words come at first. I’ve learned they don’t always come right away. I have to soften my eyes and relax my mind. I have to sink into the discomfort first.
I’m sure my ache to be creative began at birth. Mr. Dress-up, one of my favourite childhood parents, could create an entire world and all its inhabitants out of a toilet paper roll. I’m pretty sure he had a “tickle trunk” but I could be mixing him up with the Friendly Giant.
It doesn’t matter, one of my childhood parents had a tickle trunk, and inside was everything you could possibly need to create your own reality. If I remember right, there wasn’t much inside that trunk but a pair of scissors, 12 crayons, a bottle of white glue and all the leftovers from an increasingly “packaged” society. Mr. Dress-up knew how to make something out of nothing. I call on him as my Muse today, as I stare at a blinking curser.
I had a tickle trunk but over the years, the material going into it far outweighed any of the creative projects coming out. In fact, I rarely opened it and my crayons remained perfectly sharp. I was increasingly irritated by my stuck-ness. My creative ache became palpable pain, which often mirrored how I felt about many of the circumstances of my young life.
By some form of grace, I stopped filling the tickle trunk and turned to writing, which became my primary creative tickle. I discovered that stringing words together relieved the irritation. I learned to put down the hammer, and pick up the feather.
The trunk is now my empty head.
Funny, that the place where creativity was storied was called a tickle trunk. Mostly because the urge to create is often preceded by a feeling of discomfort, much like a tickle. Sort of nice, sort of sometimes not nice. Like a tickle in your throat; the sensation proceeding the cough that forces something up and out.
That first peek into my thoughts each day often leaves me in a state of panic; the apparent emptiness is frightening; the only emerging thoughts are often: I don’t think I did much, think much or matter much. How will I possibly write about anything worth reading?
I am aware that being “held” in my van provides a potent antidote to skimming over the perceived ordinariness of my days or beating myself up with words that hurt. Being in the van, especially in the rain, helps me sink deeper.
I watch the clouds pass Picketpost mountain, and imagine my own thoughts as a weather system passing over me. As the puddles fill; I am held. I throw a rope around my thoughts and pull them toward me. I often look at my photos from the day, and allow them to gently take me below the surface. Tickle Tickle. Sink, Sink.
Then I write.
I spend an hour on the phone with a friend who is joining me at the farm in Cape Breton in the spring. We planned this rendezvous and our energetic catching up is timely. We, too, are creating something from nothing; a small community, a little farm, a safe place for women to take a rest from the road to be nurtured by one another amidst the trees, beside moving water.
I later join Sue, and we talk about the creative act of bringing dreams into fruition. How frustrating it can be, to attach a monetary value to a creative endeavour, and how powerful it can be when it isn’t required.
The day zooms by and I anticipate the arrival of my travel companion from Alamo Lake. We’ve decided to write another chapter together, before I set off to New Mexico. On the way to meet him, I make a stop at the Arboretum and pick up a little collection of van-size travel field guides about Arizona plants, animals and birds to share with him.
A quick look of the cacti guide, and I learn there are about 8 varieties of Prickly Pear in Arizona. To think my eyes have only been able to see one until now!
It seems we have some sinking to do as well and I look forward to a week of shared observations. No more skimming for us!