The weather within...
Writing in blood

Morning

The Kuerner Farmhouse, where Andrew Wyeth painted

An excerpt from "How I Get to Write" by Roxanna Robinson :

"In the morning, I don’t talk to anyone, nor do I think about certain things.

"I try to stay within certain confines. I imagine this as a narrow, shadowy corridor with dim bare walls. I’m moving down this corridor, getting to the place where I can write.

"I brush my teeth, get dressed, make the bed. I avoid conversation, as my husband knows. I am not yet in the world, and there is a certain risk involved in talking: the night spins a fine membrane, like the film inside an eggshell. It seals you off from the world, but it’s fragile, easily pierced.

"....The reason the morning is so important is that I’ve spent the night somewhere else. This is nowhere I can describe exactly, only that it’s mysterious and limitless, a place where the mind expands. Deep, slow currents, far below the surface, shift me in ways I needn’t understand. There is no sound, no scrutiny. Waking, I’m still close to that silent, preconscious, penumbral state, still focussed inward. I’m still in that deep, noiseless place, listening to its voices, very different from those of the outside world."

(The full article is here.)

Snow Flurries by Andrew Wyeth

I read Robinson's piece (on The New Yorker blog) thinking, "Oh my gracious yes, that's it exactly!" -- for I too like to be up and out to the studio before anyone else in the house is awake, climbing the hill from house to studio by the light of the stars. I don't want to speak or be spoken to; I don't want to be jogged from this liminal state; I want to rest on the delicate threshold between the Night World and the Day World just as long as I can.

At this moment as I write, the sky is still dark, the studio hushed with pre-dawn enchantment; the only sounds are the ticking of the clock, water rushing in the stream outside, and a single owl calling from the woods. I compose these morning posts as I drink my coffee, waking (as Agatha Christie's Poirot would say) the "little grey cells" up. But I musn't be too awake, not yet, in order to slide gently into the writing day before the "fragile membrane of the night" has been pierced.

Tilly snuggles up beside me, yawning, dozing, waiting for our morning walk out in the woods. The tap-tap-tap of the computer keys is a familiar, comforting sound to her. She is waiting for the sun, and the click of the laptop closing, and the words: Okay, girl, let's go.

Master Bedroom by Andrew Wyeth

“Outside, there was that predawn kind of clarity, where the momentum of living has not quite captured the day. The air was not filled with conversation or thought bubbles or laughter or sidelong glances. Everyone was sleeping, all of their ideas and hopes and hidden agendas entangled in the dream world, leaving this world clear and crisp and cold as a bottle of milk in the fridge. ”
- Reif Larsen (from The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet)

The paintings above are by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). The photograph at the top of the post is of the Kuerner Farmhouse in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he often painted.

Comments

Loved this, intensely, immensely.
Thank you.

What I love more then the subjects of quotes you post in here -which I follow with passion- is that part in between, when you reflect on a moment in your day that is both parallel and relevant to the subject of your quote.

A Fine Membrane

“(T)he night spins a fine membrane. . .”
--"How I Get to Write" by Roxanna Robinson


Living alone has this advantage:
I rise each morning unentangled
by the warmth of your breath,
your hand still between my thighs,
hairs on my body slightly raised
by the closeness of you,
that soft anchor, that silken
bondage, that used to keep me
in our shared moment.
I do not have to choose between
you in the bed, the words in my head.
Now I rise, a fish to the lure,
breaking through silver sky
into the brighter above.
I rise without and within,
night’s fine membrane a surround.
Wrapped in solipsistic embrace,
full of half dreams, the drowse
of memory, leak of stories
through membrane’s pores,
I rise out of and into my poems
without hesitation, only regret.

©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Sad and beautiful.

Jane - WOW. May I have your permission to print that one off and stick it on my wall?

Terri - I feel the same about the morning, although I tend to run or walk before I write as otherwise I've too much energy to settle down. And as I'm walking or running through the dark, still not properly awake, the ideas, the thoughts, the plot resolutions, the key dialogue, the solution to a dreaded problem, resolve themselves with just sufficient clarity for me to start the writing day with a gently suppressed sense of excitement, which I find a great help.

How fortunate we are, we who can enjoy the luxury of these silent hours in a dedicated space, made to our choosing. How I am filled with admiration for those writers who write despite an environment of noise and chaos, turmoil and overwhelming stress, even in snatched moments, exhausted and feeling uninspired. And yet they write. I'm humbled by them and deeply grateful for my own privilege.

Lovely photos - always such lovely photos!

A.

Oh dear, I really must be the most awful lout. I wake up in the morning, fall over one or other of the cats, tell said cat (Jack or Monster) what I think of them for sleeping in such a stupid place; stagger down to the kitchen where I put on the kettle and stand scratching, yawning and blinking my way into a new day. As for not talking for fear of disturbing the delicate membrane of the early hour, usually I hare back up the stairs after I've heard the news to loudly tell my partner, Clare, exactly what I think of whichever politician, who's said whatever stupid thing in the hope of furthering their bloated career.

The writing comes when I switch on the computer and begin the wrestling match that is my working day. Plot lines are thrashed out in the car with Clare while we drive along arguing loudly and eating enormous amounts of chocolate.

The esoteric rarely seems to bother me....I'm not sure why.

Stuart Hill

I love this description of your morning, Stuart! (The bit about politicians made me laugh, because it reminds me of my husband.)

I know plenty of other writers who start their day this way too...as well as writers whose " work day" doesn't really begin until the sun has set.

And what about the rest of you here? Morning people? Night people? Something in-between?

Usually I read this blog around 4 or 5 am in Texas. My husband gets up and heads to the studio to paint and I sit in my writing rookery and read and write-these are precious hours-especially when you have a chubby legged two year old who like to wake up around 6:30!

Austin, oh how I envy your energy! I can't even imagine having enough that I'd have to run it off. That sounds glorious. For me, productive mornings are a necessity. As the day progresses, my energy fades and fades like a wind-up toy slowing coming to a stop.

And yes, we are fortunate indeed. xx

Thanks for the reply Terri. I'm thinking of starting a discussion group for grumpy authors called something like 'Ink and Spit'. Imagine the fun we'd have solving the world's problems!

Yes, "waking... I'm still focused inward." And because I get up long after the sunrise (around 9 o'clock), I cannot bear the energy of the others, including radio and news or chatting on TV... I need some time just to "come to myself" and start My day quietly and positevely (of course this does not concern the mornings when we get up very early to go on a tour with our puppet shows!) I'm "an owl" and I'm really sorry that I miss the beauty of the quiet mornings when the day is being born! But my favourite time of the day is the late evening and the night - then I'm productive, full of ideas, energetic. I adore the silence of the house and the magic of the night... Then I feel completely free and call my other "me".

Am honored, Austin, thanks.

J.

Me, always thought I was a morning writer until I went to live in Scotland every summer and wrote until 10 at night. And I realized that I am a writer in the Light. When dark comes, I cocoon, blank mind, waiting for dawn, the dawn chorus, and light to illuminate my thoughts.

Jane

Rossichka, are you still in Africa or back home in Bulgaria? I hope all is well with you and your work!

What a lovely way to wake up here in inner city Sydney on a very still hot night at 2am with my first cup of coffee... these beautiful words, responses and the paintings of Andrew Wyeth for inspiration, time for another cup of coffee then it's time to get back to the drawing board!

I gave my sister a print of Wyeth's dog on the bed as a wedding present, and I'm happy to say she has it hanging over her bed still. I love that painting, and would be happy to have it in my house as well, but the walls are all occupied by science fiction and fantasy artwork.

Gorgeous. Tears are welling in my eyes.

I prefer to write in the morning. And on those rare days that I can just slip from the bed to the desk with nobody interjecting reality along the way, I produce my best work. But, I'm a mother of three, who has a job, blah blah blah, so it doesn't always work out that way. Most of the time I don't get to the computer until I've packed lunches, dropped various people off in various places and then I return home and all but run to my office.
Thanks for this fantastic post!

Thank you, Terri! I came back home a month ago. I have several posts about my stay in Kenya and this evening I'm gathering to write a new post about the Festival, so you could see the feast of colours and smiles!:)

Even though I'm an early riser (and thus early bedder), some of my favorite writing times are at night, in bed, with the cat curled against my hip and the light of an LED tea candle.

You know, so I don't set myself on fire.

That's a vivid and human tale you tell of your start to the day!

It encourages me to confess that the 'gently suppressed sense of excitement' with which I do frequently begin the day equally frequently dissolves into puddles of ineffectual gloop or explodes into storms of narrative confusion even before lunch. The afternoon is then just slog, slog, slog.

The business is just getting it done, come what may, isn't it?

A.

The surfeit of energy is by no means always a blessing,Terri.

In the past it has, as you know, led me to drink in an attempt to 'bring myself down'and sometimes the mind races too fast for the keyboard to earth and it all flashes away unformed and wasted.

It gets easier as I get older and my 'psychic metabolism' slows down.

We each do what we can with what we've got.

If your achievements and mine were stones, then you would have built a lofty tower up at which I could only gaze in wonder from the ill-constructed doorway of my crumbling hovel.*

xx A.

*I mean that.

Thanks, Jane.

It's on the wall. TNR, 12pt. double-spaced out of habit!

A

Stuart, that made me smile—my husband and I have those discussions some mornings as well. He is very chatty in the morning when I'm trying to get out the door, and then in the evening when *I* feel like chatting, he is monosyllabic. :)

That is a lovely Robinson quote and I know what she is referring to, but I don't often wake up in that state or it is very short-lived. I live across the street from a medical center and the cars of its employees stream past our bedroom window for a good hour between 6-7am, so that "pierces the delicate membrane" in a most un-poetic fashion.

I tend to let the day's cumulative feeling/images build up in me and then distill it all toward evening. I may start writing a blog post around dinnertime, then work on it a while. Or else jot down some ideas and sleep on it for a few nights, letting associations and connections accrete to the kernel idea. I have the luxury of a leisurely inner exploration since I don't post every day. Though it is wonderful to come to this blog every day and find something new, so thank you for your dedication.

After twenty years of working a swing shift, 3 PM to 11PM at a posh Nob Hill hotel I am still getting up
at 10AM to noon. I have the politest cat in the world, who solemnly waits until I wake up. I have NEVER
been a morning person. Feed cat, sort of wake up sorting out emails and than, Myth & Moor! Which helps me all day long; that kindness, beauty and magic exist.My best time for writing is the early afternoon, when my cat naps and I am up in my fourth floor aery over Isadora Duncan Alley.

Me too.......

Nonsense. Puppet shows may be more ephemeral than books, but you've created real magic for many children (and adults too) that will stay part of them their entire lives. And you make magic with your writing too.

I love what Roxanna Robinson says ".... the night spins a fine membrane..." and that she was somewhere else in the night. I read this post in class yesterday, with not much time to take it in. I was so inspired by the post and comments and realized I needed to sit with morning and see what is is for me. It helped me understand why I resist and dislike the days when the alarm goes off and I must rush around and leave quickly for my long commute to school. I think I might have been secretly judging myself as lazy all these years, when suddenly this morning I realize that it is not laziness that slows me in the mornings, but a desire to live and breathe in the afterglow of the dreaming.

I need a slow and contemplative easing into the day, one with beautiful music or birdsong or just the quite crackle of the mornig fire. Eventually, when the threads of dreams have woven themselves into the warp of the new day, I can set out to accomplish things, knowing I take the dreaming with me. When the light begins to fade, it is time to stop work and begin the transition from my evening into the dreaming night. I need to shift from doing to receiving so that I don't miss anything the mystery might whipser to me.

Thanks Terri, you are very kind.

I don't negate my small achievements or their value. If you think I'm being overly modest, perhaps. It's not for me to say. And I am, after all, an Englishman. We are not known, as a race, for our trumpet blowing abilities, are we? But enough, or it'll start to look as if I'm fishing for compliments, which I'm really not!

Love. A.

"We are not known, as a race, for our trumpet blowing abilities, are we?"

Boy, ain't that the truth! I know that we Americans can seem very brash by comparison, and a drop of modesty in one's make-up is good for the soul, but I often think that, as a culture, it's taken much too far here. I know way too many insanely talented people who are almost crippled by their lack of self-confidence...which all of us have from time to time, of course; but there is a distinctively English brand of it that takes it to an extreme (in my humble American opinion) and that seems endemic. Raising kids (especially girls) to have self-confidence here is an extremely uphill battle.

And because it such a strong thread in the culture, it's also contagious. My old friend Ellen Kushner, who has known me since I was 20, has often remarked on how life in England has undermined by own confidence to some degree. I need regular excursions back to the States to top it up again...


This post rings out for me today, along with all the comments. To be honest, I've always thought of myself as more of a night owl. I like to 'lie in', especially if it is cold, and in the long years between childhood and now, I've mostly resented having to get up early. It's usually to get to work, get kids to school, get things done that have to be done. And so I crawl out of bed feeling more tired than when I got into it, feeling grumpy and absolutely hating anything like the TV or the radio blaring out. Like Valerianna, I've always judged myself as lazy because of this. Consequently, nights have become the time when I finally find some time to be alone, when it's quiet and peaceful and everyone is asleep. The time when I can work.

But lately I've begun to wonder. I actually wake early, I almost always have, but street noises and planes going over destroy any peace that might linger. There are no beautiful places to walk here, early in the dawn light. And if I do get up, it is impossible to quietly make myself a cuppa without waking one or both of my girls. So I don't get up. Instead I lie in bed, thinking and daydreaming, turning ideas round, trying to ignore traffic sounds. Sometimes the muse forces me out of bed. A song, lyrics going around in my head, needing to be written down. But there are times, when I'm in the countryside, staying at my parents-in-laws' house perhaps, when I'm woken early by the rooster next door, and I watch the dawn light changing as it floods in the window. And I get up, early, before anyone else, make myself that quiet cup of tea, and sit on the balcony listening to the glorious sounds of trees whispering in the wind, birds singing, watch the sun come up and ease myself quietly and gently into the day, let the night dreams slowly subside, leaving their magic. And I feel like this is the true ME.

And I wonder if I'm actually a morning person, who just needs that quiet place in the country, those lovely places to walk, a studio to go to where I can make that pot of tea...and start to work while that 'fine membrane' still holds onto the night dreams and that magic 'otherworld' is just a breath away.

Love how you've put that, Christina. I seem to be arriving at the same conclusion about myself. After years of being an urban night-owl, I've had a few occasions recently when I've been out of the city and have found myself waking early and have reveled in that strange magic of early morning.

(Could also be I'm simply a night owl who's starting to get too old to stay up late.)

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