Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2018 >Daily Dispatch #58

February 27, 2018: The Writing Life: The Selfish/Unselfish Balancing Act

Yesterday’s storm left us with 12-15 inches of snow. Whoosh, it fell in one fell swoop. I told Pete this morning that it’s good this occurred in February and not December – if it occurred in December it would remain here until March. March will be here in a few days, so it won’t be here that long.

We both thought that it would stop snowing around noon. But it kept on coming down, until well after dark. Beginning at 10 a.m. Pete and I alternated in working on my Rasmuson Grant. I would finish revising a section and he’d copy edit it. I figured it was better to do it this way, rather than to have him read it all at once. Pete had it posted by 11 p.m. As such

things go, there was an additional and unforeseen question on the funding application. They wanted an artist’s statement. Fortunately I had one that I had written (for a previous Rasmuson Grant). So I revised it. It was excruciating – the words would not come because I was so tired. I could no longer get myself in the zone.

As Pete was revising, I laid on the bed and read an essay in the 2006 Best American Essays anthology, edited by Lauren Slater. It was written by Alan Shapiro and entitled “Why I Write.” It was one of the best essays on the subject that I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it. Most interesting to me (all of it) in particular is what he says about being in the zone. Why do it (meaning write), he asks. Quoting Poet Elizabeth Bishop, Shapiro writes that she “provides a possible answer in a famous letter to Anne Stevenson.” He says that “Bishop writes that what we want from great art is the same thing necessary for its creation, and that is self-forgetful, a perfectly useless concentration. We write, Bishop implies, for the same reason we read or look at paintings, or listen to music; for the total immersion of the experience, the narrowing and intensification of the focus to the right here, right now, the deep joy of bringing the entire soul to bear upon a single act of concentration. It is self-forgetful even if you are writing about the self, because you yourself have disappeared into the pleasure of making; your identity—the incessant, transient, noisy New York Stock Exchange of desires of commitments, ambitions, hopes, hates, appetites, and interests – has been obliterated by the rapture of complete attentiveness. In that extended moment, opposites cohere: the mind feels and the heart thinks, and receptivity’s a form of fierce activity. Quotidian distinctions between mind and body, self and other, space and time, dissolve.”

I could not have said it better, which is why I wrote the above quote. Shapiro goes on to say that the best writing days are those in which one is in the zone, even though nothing of worth may have been produced.

I do not know if Pete was in the zone when he was formatting and posting my grant proposal. I would not have been in the zone had I had to do this. Shapiro also writes about writers being guarded with their time, which he and others construe as being selfish. I would not deny that in this respect that I am a very selfish individual. I have recently come to the conclusion that in this respect that I live with an individual who is my polar opposite. Pete takes great joy in doing things for me and for others. He is in this respect, selfless. He took a break from working on the grant to plow us out. By the time he was done, the snow piles along the pathways were over five feet in height.

And so, last night, 11 p.m. The grant had arrived at its destination. Most would then just go to bed, but not us. It was then time to do evening animal chores. In the early evening the snow had turned into a snow/rain mix, then to rain. By late evening, the temperature was dropping. We picked up manure, knocked the frozen ice and ice cycles off the mares (Tinni had been blanketed the day before) pulled the blankets out of the horse trailer, blanketed the horses, hauled down water, hauled up manure, and doctored Tinni’s eye and Hrimmi’s mouth. By then it was 1 p.m.

I had vet tech class this morning. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to leave Pete with the morning horse chores. A tough call because once a student, always a student. I never blow off classes. This was my way of being more selfless. The sun was shining brightly as first I then Pete headed outside. Now that chores are done, I can resume being in the zone.

Next: 59. 2/28/18: The Horse Life: Horsey Home Schooling

Horse Care Home About Us Dispatches Trips Alys's Articles