I wait, cup in hand, for the shiny coins of inspiration — that small change. I sit on the bench at the edge of the spruce grove, watching the sun rise red above the layers of cloud and mountain. Bumblebees are flying overhead, a steady stream of them, heading for the spruce trees and their inconspicuous male flowers. The evening before, when Eva and I were stringing up the tarp we used for a tent, the whole grove had been abuzz, even as the wood thrushes were tuning up. But with nightfall came the more miscellaneous sounds, the kind that invite breathless speculation: the snap of a twig, a high-pitched chittering, an explosive snort.
On Monday, my mother discovered that she’d lost her little pocket notebook: two months of journal notes, which she hadn’t yet typed up. Yesterday, she and Eva retraced their steps from Sunday’s walk, but to no avail. As the day wore on, Mom became increasingly despondent. But this morning, when we get back to the house from our camping adventure, she’s in high spirits. Last night, she says, Mark — Eva’s dad — had called, and while she listened to him talk, she suddenly remembered ironing some clothes on Sunday, right before she missed the notebook. As soon as she hung up the phone, she went down to the basement, and sure enough, there was the notebook on the shelf above the ironing board. The impending arrival of visitors on Sunday afternoon had been enough of a distraction to make her misplace the notebook, so it makes sense that she would need another disruption of routine — Mark’s call — to return to the mental state she’d been in when it went missing.
You may have noticed the small midden of pocket notebooks surrounding my computer monitor in yesterday’s self-portrait. For me, however, these notebooks serve as much more temporary repositories of information and fragments of thoughts; the computer screen is my primary tablet now. This is a big change from my pre-blogging days, when I still used scrap paper for at least the first several drafts of a poem or essay. All that tree flesh — one drawer of my file cabinet is so full, I can barely get it open. I should haul its contents into the recycling center, but its physical presence is somehow comforting. It’s a kind of ballast, I think.
These days I don’t save anything but the final draft, and maybe that’s a mistake. It seems a little like our jerry-rigged tent last night: all roof. Imagine a ship that’s nothing but a sail, or an airplane that’s little more than wing. It might get you where you wanted to go, but with little room for comfort.
Mosquitoes sang me to sleep — a private concert in my ear. When I wake at 5:30, they’re still singing the same tune. We had hoped for coyotes or at least a whippoorwill, though getting to hear wood thrushes from just a few feet away did repay me for my aching hips and shoulders, I guess. But it’s the thin, dogmatic theme of the mosquito that keeps replaying in my head as I sit looking sideways at the sun, an array of copper-colored spots forming on my retina. One always hears about pennies from heaven, as if Providence never trades in anything larger. But perhaps the point is to fine-tune our sense of gratitude, I think, as I drain the last of my coffee and Eva joins me, sleepy-eyed, on the bench.