Last Import - 07

A long string of cold rainy days have ended, and for the first time since I moved to Oregon in November it’s warm and dry enough to work outdoors. As a native New Englander, the ability to spend any time outside at all in January feels like a luxury, but after four years in California I’m spoiled on blue skies, and at the first sign of a break in the clouds, I dragged a rocking chair and my laptop out onto the patio to enjoy the sun for as long as it lasts.

The dark days have a strange effect on time. In California, it felt like I never had time to read, but afternoons feel infinitely long here, pulling me into a slow pace that is able to sustain deep attention. Recently, I read two books in tandem. The first, The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural by Wendell Berry, is a collection of essays and articles written in the late 70s and early 80s. The other, The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch by Julia Cameron is a desert book about the seasons of the creative process.

Though they seemed at first to have nothing in common they called back and forth to each other like bird song:

“And so energy is not just fuel. It is a powerful social and cultural influence. The kind and quantity of the energy we use determine the kind and quality of the life we live.” -Wendell Berry

“Creativity is energy. Energy can be safely grounded, asked to flow within our lives and within the boundaries we have set for it. Creativity can be as marvelous as electricity, illuminating the darkness around us.” -Julia Cameron

“The old solar agriculture, moreover, was time oriented. Timeliness was its virtue. One took time in having the knowledge to do things at the right time. Industrial agriculture is space oriented. Its virtue is speed. One takes pride in being first. The right time, by contrast, could be late as well as early; the proof of the work was in its quality.” -Wendell Berry

“We are out to accomplish a body of work, not merely one piece. This means we must take the long view. Just as a marathon runner considers his running career as a whole, training and pacing himself accordingly, so we must approach our art at a temperate rate...Just as the inhabitants of Taos Valley are charged with husbanding the land in their care, so, too, we are charged with husbanding our lives.” -Julia Cameron

Last Import - 17

I am not a fast writer, and so I am forced to either take the long view with my work or not work at all, trusting that 500 words or less  a day will eventually add up to a book, but I find patience easier here, and I wonder about the influence of environment.

My neighbors have an active bird feeder, and as I write this my neighborhood which is usually quiet on dark days is filled with bird song. The screaming starlings are impossible to ignore, but I notice them more than I normally would because I’ve been editing an article for Elizabeth C. Creely’s City Noise column about bird watching in San Francisco that will go up on Paper Tape on Tuesday. It is a profile piece about Dominick Mosur, an excellent bird watcher, who is actually more of a bird listener since many birds that call San Francisco home are small and good at staying out of sight. In a noisy urban environment, even with a trained ear and the ability to pay attention, hearing birds at all is a challenge.

In Oregon, a neighbor revs up a leaf blower, and the birds vanish. Even here it seems silence, like the sun, is a luxury we take whenever we can.

Last Import - 01