On the most perfect spring morning, I’m driving along route 107, a stretch of highway I’ve always loved that curves along the river. I’m listening to a This American Life story about two boys (and if you listen, listen all the way to the end, please), when the revision path for my novel abruptly unfolds before me, like a Jacob’s Ladder toy.
I’m in somewhat familiar territory, and so I pull over and scrawl down a few sentences. The day is suffused with dandelions and violets. I get a little lost to where I’m going, but not too lost. Later, I take a different road home, up route 100 along the White River Valley. Last year’s corn stubble patterns black fields that stretch to mountains where leaves freshen the gray with new green. The fruit trees are blossoming. I stop and finish the remains of my sandwich —pickles and sprouts and a coarse sharp mustard — keeping company with pink petals and pollinators.
My lunch companion remarked how a forest will do what a forest will. As I eat, I remember how poet David Budbill railed against writers taking themselves too seriously. He wrote, wrote hard, wrote productively, and revered the mystery of the imagination, the murkiness of creativity. His advice to writers, “Don’t think. Listen.”
On my way home, I listen to another This American Life story about a bird who sang to itself. I’m not making this up.