The Writer’s Mating Dance

There is a kind of inner nature documentary going on in my head right now. I’m sitting here with pages of notes, outlines and brainstorms, juggling a dozen or more tabs in my web browser open to various resources and references. Any moment, I’m going to start writing. Any moment…

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Between research and writing, there is a lacuna in which almost anything can happen. The hush is nearly unbearable. In my mental landscape, ideas rustle and nudge towards one another through the tall prairie grasses, their haunches twitching with tension, ready to flee. Eros is thick in the air. Ecology rubs up against ritual theory, playing with the hem of her skirt. Bruce Lincoln is making eyes at Lewis Hyde. Somewhere on the edge of the meadow, a magnolia tree languishes in bloom as if to flaunt the full sensuality of spring, while elsewhere it is autumn, the alders and willow trees leaning in towards each other over the cold, clear waters of the creek. The deer of my dreams raise their heads to listen hard for the hunter. The salmon of wisdom are working their way home.

My inner David Attenborough shushes me to stillness. The voice-over cautions patience and silence. This is a rare moment to witness in the life of an idea, it whispers in measured awe. The careful dance of attention and attraction that draws ideas together from among the countless fleeting thoughts that roam these wilds. Even the slightest distraction can disrupt the process. Even the smallest noise might scare them off…

With my mind’s eye, I watch the salmon of wisdom circle, sleek discolored forms among the rippling waters. They are battered and half-dead by now, much of their energy spent by the journey home against the currents of the mainstream. With the last of her strength, the female has cleared her nest of silt and loose gravel, making great sweeps with her tail, her whole body contracting as a single, powerful muscle bracing against the rushing world. Now the nest waits, as ready and empty as the blank page.

Between the busyness of research and the contemplative act of writing, there is a hush as thick as autumn mist. There are days when it is simply too much to push my way into that silence. I sit on the edge of the meadow, watching what vague shadows of dream or memory move just beyond my vision. I sit beside the rising waters of the creek, listening to the rain that patterns the surface and obscures whatever strange acts of beauty lie beneath.

There’s nothing for it but to sit in silence, and wait.

Alison Leigh Lilly
Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.

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