Revision, Again and Again – Or, Happiness

One of my first introductions to my daughter’s elementary school was the all-school hike, all 51 kids on an extended walk through the woods behind the 100-year-old schoolhouse. Of all the school activities, this is one of my very favorite, a relaxed easy hike through a lovely woods. On the way, I had a conversation with another adult about that same theme I keep circling back to, over and over: happiness. Even so many years ago, as an undergraduate, that theme of pleasure versus happiness wound all through my philosophy classes, my writing, and my own life. Here again: present as a handful of soil in my hand.

Pleasure may lie in a well-brewed cup of espresso. But happiness…. what holds the whole of a contented life? All my life I’ve had a dislike of stasis, of suburban dullness, of a two-dimensional life, and I’ve never lived that kind of life. Deep into motherhood, though, I seesaw between feeding the wild dragon of creativity and struggling to keep an even modicum of domesticity. Here’s one line from that conversation: Allow yourself to think differently. Or, as a former grad school teacher insisted, You must revise your life.

When I was an elementary school student like my own daughter now, I believed revise was a punishment, a word written in red pen across my book report. Now, revision in my own work is a near-daily activity. Revise, re-envision, recreate: weave writing practices into life, spread the domestic cloth wider.

The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

– Rebecca Solnit

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my kitchen window, September