After months and months of writing to deadlines, playing hard and fast and fun with words, the ideas zipping from my heart and brain to the page, my creative drive simply stopped dead one recent week. Oh, I wrote in my journal, wrote some emails, and even wrote a snail mail letter. But beyond those commonplace communications, I couldn't find words.
I told myself that my lassitude was due to having driving to Arkansas the week before with my husband to visit his family. We did nearly 2,000 miles in six days, so that's a pretty good excuse. By the end of the second day, when I still couldn't drum up my usual writing Jones, I knew it was something deeper. I live to write. Writing usually clears the fog and gives me energy.
When the words left me, I felt like the ruined picnic shelter in this photo, a relict of a whole host of planned "recreation facilities" built along the shore of what was to be a large reservoir, except that the lake never filled. Eventually the whole complex was abandoned and the facilities destroyed.
We camped there on our way to Arkansas, winding in on asphalt roads shrunk to one lane as the prairie reclaimed them, threading past restrooms with windows smashed and doors swinging open, parking lots knee-high in autumn-colored prairie grasses, light posts tilting every which way, electrical boxes with wires ripped out, and picnic shelters with tables gone and bases smashed. It was eerie and desolate, like a post-apocalyptic world.
I've spent the last couple of years keeping up a work schedule so insane, that it's been the rare weekend when I didn't have to write straight through to keep up. And then last February, my husband, Richard, began to pee blood. Not just dribbles, streams as dark as a good pinot noir, full of clots and chunks.
In April he was diagnosed with bladder cancer and in July he went through his first surgery. He's been through a second surgery now and his surgeon thinks they got the entire tumor. I should be relieved; I should be dancing with joy. Instead I feel empty, worn out, exhausted. Hence this dry spell, and my fear that the words – and my passion for changing the world with them – won't return.
That night by the reservoir that isn't, we ate our picnic dinner as the sun set. When the stars appeared, littering the black sky with pinpricks of light, we crawled into our tent, snuggled close, and watched the level Panhandle horizon for a silver glow. It grew brighter and brighter until the dazzling rim of an October moon edged up. Immediately, a pack of coyotes nearby tuned up, yipping and barking and howling, lifting their voices in song to that huge, round orb of light.
The wind howled that night too, flapping our tent and whooshing through the branches of the nearby grove of trees. When dawn's light edged the rim where black sky met darker land and the silver moonlight gave way to pastel day, even the destroyed picnic shelter looked beautiful.
As I sit in front of my keyboard waiting for words to come, I see that moon rise in my minds' eye, and hear the wild coyote chorus rising over the stark landscape – and see again the dawn light, pearly and soft, heralding a new day. And I know that dry spell or not, I have a story to write. Tapping away at the computer keys, I realize that the words are always there, if I am open to them. I just need the patience of those coyotes, waiting for the silvery orb of the moon to signal their singing, and then the stars swimming across the sky until they gutter out in the quiet beauty of the dawn