Driving to Stowe this morning, my ten-year-old daughter pointed at Mt. Mansfield and said with utter joy, I’m going up in those mountains today.
She did. With her companion and the child’s mother, they skied higher than she ever had, returning at the day’s end with cheeks sweaty red, her braids tumbled. On the way home, as she told me about her day, I realized she had made a mental map of her journey, laying winter skiing over her summer hiking.
While she skied, I sat in a sun-filled room with strangers and climbed my own mystical creative mountain, traversing the terrain of novel writing through rock and streams, dusty back roads and the variated sky bent over a village. My villagers (like the people I know) sleep and dream, wake and eat, their hearts filled with desire and lust, with unhappiness and the unrequited past, with daily pleasures, like eating salad and enchiladas with a child and listening to her story.
How I admire this child and her fearless joy, her unalloyed pleasure in sun and snow, in steep mountains, and the wind over her face. As creative adults, shouldn’t we aim for that confidence in hard places, that dusting away of doubt that so frequently plagues us?
More to the heart, perhaps, like a child, we should savor unfettered happiness in our hours.
And then, of course, the novel-writing itself affects the novelist, because novel-writing is a transformative act.
Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
Photo by Molly S./Woodbury, Vermont