Saturday, November 29, 2008

The elements

We have been battling the erratic weather both inside and outside our house this past week. Since our house has no insulation, we have to work hard to keep ourselves warm. We are lucky to have two air conditioning units that covert to heaters but due to the insulation situation that I mentioned, it is wasteful to use them for extended periods. So hot drinks, many layers, and staying together in one part of the house. We have moved our camp upstairs where it is warmer and spend most of our time there now. This week the upstairs was often darkened when we used the storm shutters. For a few days there was tremendous rain, wind, hail, and thunderstorms raging across our island. Lots of fun, especially when you recall that we are pedestrians. But then the sky will clear and the yellow and red trees that are blazing everywhere now will have a perfect blue contrast in the background.

As for the homesickness and culture shock that I mentioned, they are really just natural parts of living in a new place. So if you consider that we have been gypsies for quite some time now, then you can understand that we have been in some stage of culture shock/homesickness for many years. It can't be solved by returning home, we discovered that when we went back last time. No, it must be faced head on. You must continue to live how you wish regardless of these currents of emotion.

Which brings me to my next topic. I am facing a decision that would seem quite foolhardy to many of you but I persist with it anyway. I am considering withdrawing from graduate school. Or at least taking a leave of absence. It is something I might do simply because I have had problems with registration for the next term and so there might not be any space for me in the classes I need to take. The core reason I want to leave the program is because I want to work on my writing in the evenings. I have been running away from this aspect of myself for all of my adult life. In my youth, my path seemed so clear but then faced with the realities of adulthood, my plan seemed tattered. I didn't consider developing a better understanding of the craft of writing. I had no understanding of how to become the writer I wanted to be. Perhaps I was not meant to start in earnest on that path while I was so immature. My writing would have been (and was) trite and weak.
Something has changed now. I read over some pieces I wrote last year expecting to find utter crap, but saw something else. As a highly discerning reader, I saw potential in my words. They had all been written hastily and received no revising or editing treatment but there was a little spark of possibility there. And that is the distant star I am chasing. I am following the advice of the great Annie Dillard from her article "Write Till You Drop":
"Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"

I have tried to live a brave and aware life but if I am not writing, I am not meeting that objective completely. I realize that this seems an impractical direction for a working mother of two but history has shown that the best way is not always the most pragmatic. Besides, in many ways, this is for the boys. As I watch Sebastian's talents developing I have to consider how I will support them as both he and Nico grow. Writing might not be a lucrative profession but if by following this innately laid path I can be a model for my children, then that is enough for me.

And before you say it, let me just inform you that I am not quitting my day job. In this position, we make ends meet without having to sacrifice too much. It is not always the best, but it is workable. Being isolated is trying, but in many ways it is good for us. It forces us to sit still and to work on aspects of ourselves that we couldn't focus on with all the movement. So for now, this is what we are doing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.
Take care.

1 comment:

jan in nagasaki said...

well, the weather... Possibly a bit more dramatic out on your island, here too, we are having intermittent blustery rain and sparkling blue skies... and you chose the work "camp" which fits the situation perfectly. I have been in much better insulated "shacks" than the house I live in. The heat goes right out!!! We use a kerosene stove and I love keeping a kettle boiling on it and some soup or stew cooking...

regarding your decisions, I think that instead of consciously making them yourself, they have a way of just happening. It sounds as if the evolution of not continuing graduate study has revealed itself to you... and might be a path that you take....

good luck with however it happens... let me know when you are in Nagasaki again and I will come meet up with you.