Trying To Spin Straw Into Gold

That’s what Rumplestiltskin did in the fairy tale.  That’s what most writers on lockdown are trying to do.  I finally got the page proofs of my new poetry book ON THE WAY OUT, TURN OFF THE LIGHT done yesterday and sent off to a Knopf assistant in New York City and my editor Ann Close in South Carolina who’s with her family, to ride out the pandemic with presumably less danger and certainly less isolation. So afterward I sat down and began a new poem. How many poems is it reasonable to write about being in isolation?  And what else besides the Pandemic is actually happening? 

I can walk out onto my land if the weather permits.  After a very early spring, it has been quite chilly and often fiercely windy.  Hundred of flowers are in brilliant bloom – daffodils, hyacinths, anemones in pale blue, the Cornelian cherry so-called – actually a big bushy yellow dogwood – periwinkle, late crocuses and of course my gorgeous potted azalea in deep orange that lives outside my office window. But the leeks, Swiss chard and parsnips have not yet germinated although they were planted some days ago.  The lettuce from seed is actually sprouting but very s l o w l y.  the spinach is up and so are the arugula, radishes, and garden cress. 

My order of perennials from Bluestone came and I managed to plant them all – agastache,  monarda, columbines, heurchera, Japanese white anemones that bloom in the fall – not to be mistaken for the small ones that are blooming now in pale blue. I started calla lilies and dahlias in the greenhouse. 

Happy cats/bored people.  When the weather permits planting, I’m good.  Getting outside helps, but I overdid it one day last week – a cold windy day—and I ached all over so painfully, that night I couldn’t sleep. I have to be careful, but I get involved and excited. Tonight I’m making Algerian lamb shank with couscous and Brussels sprouts. I hope I can finish the damned poem I started yesterday, maybe write another.  It’s weird to feel creatively empty – strange for me.  I’m used to having more ideas than I can get to.  I find myself proceeding ever more slowly through my days like the seeds that don’t feel like germinating. Sometimes I find myself staring out the window or at the screen or a book and then realizing I’ve been sitting there staring blankly for twenty minutes. 

Every day, I make lists of all I intend to do – after all, when we went into isolation two  years ago [I think], I had many plans of all I was going to use that extra time to accomplish. But everything takes longer.  I have furloughed my assistant so I seem to spend hours filing. Of course, I’m dealing with over 200 emails daily–– people I haven’t heard from in twenty years now email me every other day.  People who participated in one of my workshops over the last fifty years write me.  Yesterday, I had an email from a woman who attended a reading I gave 39 years ago in North Dakota, imagining I would somehow remember her. There are times I don’t remember what I made for supper yesterday.  I find days blur.  I sometimes have trouble remembering whether I did something yesterday or the day before that – it’s all one long tunnel of being cooped up.

As I wrote above, I make lists every day – but now how much of what’s on a list do I accomplish? Truthfully, not much. People keep wanting me to make videos of my poems or join some group on ZOOM.  Occasionally I do.  But if I made all the videos people ask for, I wouldn’t even get done the little I’m managing to. I do pay bills, balance checkbooks, and I proofread the page proofs – but it took me an entire month.  In my previous life [BI – before isolation] I’d have finished in three days.

I now longer watch Trumps’ wandering boastful dangerous briefings.  Sometimes I watch with muted; mostly I just turn off the TV.  I am amused by the lengths some channels are going to content.  I like to watch horse racing, but 95% of the time it was only and always on TVG – except for big races like the KY Derby.  But now I have a choice.  I can watch races on NBCSN or sometimes on Fox sports as well as faithful  TVG.  I’m nor a gambler  but I love races.And certainly for me that’s better than watching a rerun of a 2015 football game.

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