Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vernal Equinox; time to shift writing into high(er) gear?

I am in love with time. I own several wonderful wristwatches, have clocks all over my house (set to varying times which, oddly enough doesn't mess with my head at all) and pride myself on being (mostly) ON time for things. I enjoy thinking about time and timing. I often sit and listen to the ringing in my ear (tinnitus) and think of it as some massive clock gonging to get my attention. But what does this have to do with the Equinox and with writing? HA! thought you'd never ask!

If you read my poetry (what? you don't have my latest books? fie unto thee I say!), you will notice that time and landscape are inextricably wound together. I have come to see (for myself) and notice (in others' poems) that time is part of setting; and without a sense of time in a piece of writing, it is just too freaky and loose for me to stay IN for the long haul of reading. We live our lives by calendars (chunks of time) and we schedule ourselves by this artificial blocking of time. We look at clocks to see when the meal will be ready, when to go to bed, when we prefer to get OUT of bed, etc. Why then is it not the most natural thing in the world to attend to issues of time in our writing?

I recall a fiction class in my undergrad years where we were asked to comment about a story and one student decided that the character's son probably suffered from AIDS. Now this story took place in the 1950s. What is wrong with this picture? Hmmmm, let me see.... oh wait! 1950s... no one had heard of AIDS, not yet on the horizon, much less a factor in a short story. So, time a HUGE factor here. An author, sans sic-fi genre, would not have factored in a non-existent disease because it was not TIME for it to appear in writing. By the way, this student argued on and on that "it could be a about that" while the professor silently ripped out his hair (metaphorically). I recall the incident here as a way of showing that time IS part of setting, a critical part.

When I write a poem, I am acutely aware of "when" as much as I am cognizant of "where." If I am writing a poem that is set a kitchen for example, the "stuff" of the poem will determine the time, or conversely the time will determine the "stuff." A wringer-washer will help to locate the poem's place in time as being perhaps 1950s or earlier. A washboard and brush might date it even earlier. A rock and stream even earlier. Time. It's a necessary element in writing.

My 5 year old grandson is writing a small piece on Abraham Lincoln, a bit of a deja vu to my daughter decades ago. He writes, "Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin." This simple sentence LOCATES time. Even without the date specific, it locates time. He may be unaware of this now, but hopefully as he continues to do his school writing he will notice and appreciate how time can work for him.

Another issue for me regarding time is linear time vs circular time. What is the way I look at time? Personally I can write in both linear and circular time. But my THINKING is more circular, the notion that time is a wheel, spinning along with returning elements (altered? sometimes) and with lessons to be learned along the wheel. I see nature as repetend also, and the idea of time as circular is evident in the cycles of nature. This of course brings me back to the title of this blog, Vernal Equinox. I am gobsmacked over the equinoxes and the solstices. I see these as grand gestures on the part of the universe, the earth, the Creator. Yes, these specifics-named events are noticed and named by men. BUT the concept, the actuality of what time does is not man-made at all. Every year on the equinoxes, I stand eggs on end. Naysayers insist it is not possible on these days more than on any others. Ha! I do it. It is real. I take pictures of the eggs on their ends. It is phenomenon I have witnessed first-hand.

I digress (of course). My point is that these markers of time are important to me and make me even more aware of time's tricks, magic, and flux. Isn't it great to have this built-in muse for your writing? This wonderful anchor or wings for your writing? I contend that time is critical for all reading, and for writing. I am excited for the wheel to roll around again and hesitate, if briefly, at equinox.

A few years ago I wrote an equinox poem (suitable for vernal or autumnal equinox... since they are equal time partners). I reproduce it for you here:


In one breathless shudder

within the hiding away time,

the earth rolls

quietly to a stop.

So finite and rare the moment,

it is dared only at the exact halves

of each year, and goes

mostly unnoticed.

I challenge you to:

1. Think about how time factors into your own writing and share your thoughts here
2. Write about something wherein time is a factor and share here
3. Write about the equinox and share it here

In closing, I am using this oncoming equinox as a kick-in-the- to infuse my writing with new energy. After the egg rolls back onto its side, I will pick up the pen.

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