Maybe it was the light, which by mid-February in these northern latitudes really starts to put in an appearance, but last week I had a sudden spurt of energy that convinced me that my life was about to undergo a radical change for the better. I wasn’t the only one feeling perky: the male finches at my feeder were putting on their mating regalia, and one sunny morning I heard an aria from a tiny singer up in a tree. Across from our cottage, a few bees came out of the hive and looked around. And there were sap buckets hanging from the sugar maples.
This being Vermont, that night there was a blizzard; nevertheless, things were on the move.
In my revved-up state, I had a revelation: I was spending way too much time reading. Of course reading is important for writers, not to mention being a source of endless pleasure and taking one’s mind off unpleasant things. But lately reading had turned into a kind of default state for me, sort of the way some people use TV. Reading, even if one is reading Henry James, is essentially a passive activity—when I read, I’m consuming someone else’s output. Now I felt the urge to do more outputting of my own. Wouldn’t I be happier, more satisfied, if I used some of that reading time to draw, doodle, experiment with other mediums, and maybe even play the recorder, which I had abandoned during the pandemic?
Needless to say, revitalizing my creative life would require some preparation. Before putting pencil to paper or recorder to lip, it was imperative that I rearrange my tiny study, a 10′ x 12′ space with a 2′ x 3′ recess in one wall. A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about my intention to get rid of most of my books. As a result, I had emptied an eight-foot bookcase, one of the two that, along with a single bed (a.k.a. the Inspiration Couch), a large writing table, and couple of other small furniture items, made it so that there was barely room to swing a cat.
With one bookcase out of the way, however, an infinite array of possibilities appeared before me. The first thing was to empty the remaining bookcase of all my art supplies. With my spouse’s help I moved it into the recess, where the Inspiration Couch used to be. Then I rearranged my drawing papers, pencils, pens, and assorted paints in what I hoped was a more logical and inviting order. With the bed and the bookcase in their new places and other odds and ends neatly tucked away, there was plenty space for the music stand, music books, and recorder paraphernalia.
All of a sudden the room appeared much brighter, as if someone had turned on a powerful overhead light. I thought this was an illusion brought on by my euphoric state, but in fact it was because the largest wall in the room, which had been hidden behind the two bookcases, was now revealed in its resplendent nakedness.
Meanwhile, Bisou was following me around, looking anxious. What was behind this commotion? Was I going on a trip? Why wasn’t I at the accustomed writing table, so she could lie in peace on the Inspiration Couch? Come to think of it, where was the Inspiration Couch? Was it the same as the single bed now pushed up against the bare white wall? The cat Telemann, who delights in chaos, was in his element, jumping into empty boxes, batting at jars of brushes, chasing dried out rubber bands, running under the Inspiration Couch and lunging out at Bisou, then galloping through the house, yowling at the top of his lungs.
And as I stood in that new bright and orderly space, a shining vision appeared in my mind of the creative life I was about to embark on—drawing and painting, writing and playing music, interspersed with restful, productive naps on the Inspiration Couch in the company of Bisou and Telemann. An existence filled with endless playful energy, where it would always be morning, creative blocks would be unheard of, and no negative thought would ever cloud the benign sun of inspiration.