Karen Rivers

the abscission of the leaves & other metaphors.

Karen Rivers

First there is this  Bukowski poem which made me nod and think, "Yes, this."  

And then I thought, "Well, that's a bit smug, isn't it?  Because some days ARE work.  They just are.  And no one sits down and has the story just burst out of them, 24/7, in time to meet their deadline."  

Then I thought, "Maybe it works differently for poetry."

Then I thought some more, and yes, there is always a story waiting to be written, but real life comes with deadlines and priorities and then you have to re-write a thing before you can write the thing that is inside you, waiting to be said. I thought, "I should give this to my students, next time I do a workshop."

Then I thought, "I shouldn't give this to my students.  They'll feel inadequate and daunted."

Then I thought maybe that was the point. 

All that thinking takes a lot of time away from what I should be doing.

Just like all the blogging that writers do about writing is to remind them that they are writers and that they should be writing.  (I imagine that Bukowski was reminding himself of the same thing.)

So write already.

Reading my blog can wait.  And so can Facebook.

Some people write all the time and never stop and can produce five or seven books per year.   I don't know any of these people, I don't think.  I write in the messiest possible way:  nothing for weeks and then everything at once.  I'll never write a writing advice book for that reason.   It would mostly be untrue, or it would be such a sprawling heap that my editor would tear out her hair and take to eating cheesecake for dinner or drinking wine for breakfast. 

I wonder if people really just blog about how they write a-thousand-words-a-day-without-fail in order to remind themselves that if they actually just wrote a thousand words a day, they wouldn't be still awake at 4 a.m., writing their 4000th word of the day.

Why do we pretend it's tidier than it is?

I read about writing on other people's blogs and it sounds very glamorous, like something I'd very much like to do.  

Every day, I take the dog for a walk at the same time.  

Every day, I stop what I'm doing (which varies widely from blogging to staring at FB to googling "ladies quilted jackets" to putting together classroom orders for Scholastic to, yes, actually writing books) and I think, "Ugh, it looks cold outside, I don't want to go for a walk, I should get the dog a treadmill!  Then I should get my own treadmill! And we can just stay in here, in front of the fire, and walk! Wouldn't that be better?  I could write books at my treadmill desk!  The dog would get exercise!"  

Then the dog comes over and whacks me repeatedly in my arm with her nose.  (She was early today, which is why I mention it at all, sitting beside me, whacking me unceremoniously.)

Every day, I go for a walk regardless of the fact that I feel like I don't want to do it.  And every day, once I've started walking, I want to keep going.  (This is a universal truth about a lot of things.)

Every day, the woods are more beautiful (if I pretend that I'm not slightly worried about the Twelve hiding behind the trees) and I listen to music (yes, sometimes Radiohead even though I pretend to hate it) and I walk for usually two hours and I find I don't want to stop.   The walk is my favourite part of the day.

It's the same with writing:  Once I finally start, I don't much want to stop.

Everything is a metaphor for writing.

Writing is my favourite part of the day.

Every day.

Look at all the metaphors!  

Falling from the trees like leaves that have been dead for ages, just remaining attached long enough to find the perfect wind to drift down on.  There's a word for what happens when the leaves break off.  The word is abscise.


The word abscise makes me think about things I'd prefer to not think about, like death or sickness or about how, even years later, the girl who slept with your husband can still get under your skin and make you want to crawl out of it, only now the crawling-out-of-your-skin has to do more with her relationship with your children than her relationship with your husband.

You really are over that part.

The other part is much harder.  


I found a snakeskin in the garden last week.  It was so fragile, it broke when I picked it up.  But before I reached for it, it lay in the dirt, crumpled like an abandoned stocking on the floor.

The snakes should be gone for the season, but I saw one yesterday on the walk I didn't want to take, a black snake lying across the path like an omen, right before an owl swooped low overhead, scaring me and also making me remember how most things are beautiful, even though many people are not.

This morning I was driving the kids to school and a girl suddenly walked in front of me.  It was (near) a controlled crossing and she hadn't hit the button, so the light didn't come on.  She had given no indication, no slowing and looking both ways, no sign that she was about to make the crossing.

In fact, she didn't even look at me.  

In fact, she wasn't even ON the crosswalk, but about five feet to the side of it, moving diagonally towards it.

In fact, I did not hit her, but I had to slam on the brakes.

("Wow," my son said.  "That was awkward.")

The girl flipped me the bird, so I rolled down my window.  I said, as nicely as I could, "You should cross on the crossing and press the button.  It's still quite dark.  You could get hurt."

A cyclist banged on the roof of my car.  "YOU SHOULD BE DRIVING MORE SLOWLY!" he shouted, as though he had been there (which he hadn't) and had seen the whole thing (which he didn't.)

As though naturally, any interchange between a driver and a pedestrian MUST be the driver's fault.

The thing was, if I hadn't been driving slowly, I would have hit her for sure.

(I feel sick thinking about that.  How she wouldn't have even looked up.)

I think about how we are all so angry with each other all the time.  I'm angry at the girl for not crossing ON the crosswalk.  She's angry with me, for not seeing her.  The cyclist is angry at every driver who ever cut him off.  

We are all so angry at people who render us unexpectedly vulnerable in the middle of a mundane part of our every day.

It's all fight or flight.  All the time.

Like how the snake disappeared like a flash when the owl's shadow crossed the path.

(He wasn't angry though, I don't think.)

It isn't really the same at all.

The point is that no one who does this as a job is infused with the spirit (demon?) of writing all the time.

The point is sometimes you still have to write, even if it means extracting the story painfully from within you when it may or may not be ready to see the page.

The point is that you do have to have a bit of that feeling all the time, that there is something that needs to be said.

The point is that you should take more walks.

The point is that the season is changing.  Again.

The point is that nothing really means any of the things we imbue it with.

The point is that no one actually sits down and writes purely, without distraction, without drinking too much coffee and trying not to think about the half-patched hole in the wall and how there's no insulation behind it and how it might snow one day.  

(The hole is a metaphor, too, of course.) 

That's the point.  

The metaphors are always the point.