Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

I can't remember the last time I had a day off.  A proper one.  A day with nothing to fill it, empty hours stretching languorously through the daylight hours and on into the dark.  A day when I've thought, "I'm so bored."  

Every night, I fall asleep dreaming about words and unfolding plots, interlaced with real life, which is to say the kids and what they need and deserve and want and love and hate and why they won't stop fighting and if they'll ever clean their rooms and if the dog will stop launching himself like Cujo at passers by and how I'm back at work at the University soon and deadlines and vacation and all of that.   

It's the characters who keep me sane.   That's true.  I'm telling you because I just realized it.  

Every morning, I wake up and wish that I'd properly cleaned the house the previous day, stumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen to make yet more coffee in the pot that's only passably maintained.  I love my life, but there's just so MUCH of it and it's all in need of a deep clean.   I haven't had my hair cut in two years, at least.  I don't spend much time thinking about if I like how it looks or not, I just twist it up on my head and pin it in place with a pen or a chopstick and put off dealing with it for another day.  

I'm always saying, "Tomorrow."  

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.  

Maybe tomorrow, I'll crawl into the crawlspace and concrete over the part where water rises up out of the ground and seeps into the stored bedding for beds we no longer own and bags of outgrown clothes and shoes and toys.  

Maybe tomorrow, I'll help my son convert the shed to a workshop and we'll get someone to put in the window that we picked up for free from the bottom of someone's driveway and maybe tomorrow, we'll swim in the pool and light the propane fire and roast a marshmallow and savour the summer.  You know, the possibility of Northern Lights glimmering through the warm summer night exists and we should be watching for it, waiting, holding our breath, because sometimes we get so busy, we forget to just stop being so busy and to go for a long walk in the woods, looking up and down and sideways.  The way the sun shines on the green of the maple leaves is everything.   The stoic way the trees grow slowly up towards the light.

Tomorrow, I will go for a real hike, with no destination and no hurrying, just one step in front of the other, deeper and deeper into the woods.

I'm writing it down because it's life, or it's my life right now.  It's how it is, every day a scrambling to the finish line trying to fit in as many events as possible, like some kind of demented party game where at the end you win only the satisfaction of knowing you did it, you didn't think you could, and you did.   Don't get me wrong, it's worth it. 

I'm afraid of boredom.  So it's good that I don't have time for that.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.

Oh, there's a fish, a birthday-party goody-bag fish -- who gives PETS at a party? -- who needs badly to be cleaned.  I have to remember the fish.  I'm typing this blog post, a post about nothing, a tallying of busy-ness, and the fish can barely see me through the green tank, which will take five minutes to actually clean but going to a website and buying him new gravel seems like a better use of time.  Remember when we had to drive to a store to buy things like that?   I miss those days.   We had a department store that oddly (in hindsight) had a pet aisle where you could buy actual pets -- birds and fish and hamsters.   What must it have been like to be an animal who lived in a cage in a department store, waiting for someone to suddenly decide that along with socks and laundry detergent and a new hat, they also needed a guinea pig?

The birds chirp with delight when I sit down next to them to write, at least I assume it's delight because I like the idea that they are delighted, when really they are probably saying, "Look, lady, just clean the cage, OK?"  I'd like to offer a blanket apology to all the pets.  I love you all.  Is love enough?  It would be if they were human.  I need to order more bird seed and some spare time that I can spend letting the birds spread their wings, flying frantically around the living room, their birdy little hearts pounding with excitement and fear.

There's a garden.  I've eaten three tomatoes that I grew myself but the kids won't eat the strawberries in case there are spiders.  Don't forget to be afraid of spiders because they lurk everywhere, something I didn't realize before I had kids.  Being vigilant for spiders is a part-time job, too.

Last week, I spent a valuable day pulling the waist high weeds from the yard and made a mountain of weeds for the haulers to haul away but when I got back from a writing event, but now I am back and so many have grown back that I need to do it again before they come.  But where can I fit that in?  

The weeding, the endless weeding!  I'm going to look back on my forties (and fifties, I'm guessing) as the weeding years.   Here's something that might surprise you.  It surprised me when I realized it the other day.  The thing is that I love weeding.   Or, more accurately, I love the gratification I feel when I have a hard job and I manage to somehow do it, sweat pouring down my face, and the clock ticking off the hours that I'm not working but probably should be, all the while, the characters in my head, scrambling for a foothold.   That's how it is, to write, to be always writing, and it's amazing.  It's wonderful.  I can't recommend it enough.  Your kitchen won't be clean enough.  Your whole house, actually, will accumulate a filmy layer of dusty neglect, but who can bring themselves to care?  

Not me.  

My hair is too long.   The weeds are encroaching.   The crawlspace is leaking.   And every day, I step over a puddle on my front steps which seems to have no plausible source.   But I'm writing.   There is a woman with a tattoo on her arm sitting at a kitchen table.  She's very beautiful and she is afraid.  The tattoo has faded to grey and she has a child.  

A really unusual child.   They are all unusual, aren't they?    

I'm going to clean my son's room and while I clean, I'm going to be listening to that child and waiting for the story to unfold, one word at a time, one sentence unfurling into a paragraph into a chapter into a whole thing, the thing that I meant to tell all along.