Step Over Step

It’s getting colder here, well, at least at night, which means two things: I am craving cookies, and I feel my annual call to hibernate. I love noticing the ways I am synched to the seasons; it makes me feel like a bird, or a bear. Hibernating is not very socially acceptable, because people seem to find it rude when you don’t call them for three months in a row. But that’s kind of what I do.

Part of my problem is that it is so cold in my house. I wear two shirts, one sweater, one scarf, and yet I still feel chilled down to my bones. (Maybe if I just put on those pants . . . ) My husband says if I exercised that my body would be better equipped to warm itself. I agree, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen, so why pretend?

Each hibernation season, I focus on something. Last year it was Mad Men. I would wait anxiously at the mailbox for the next Netflix DVD in the four-season series, and then watch the five shows on the disc until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning after the kids went to bed. Being cold + genius TV + melancholic worldview = depressed viewer, so I’m very relieved that this hibernation season I will have a new obsession.

It’s too soon to tell exactly what my fickle fancy will fall upon, but right now I’d put my money on my green binder filled with crazy scratchings that is supposed to become a novel. I’ve been devoting my coffee shop time to this enterprise lately, and so far the experience has been—how do I describe? Horrible? Wonderful? Wonderfully horrible? Horribly wonderful?

Ugh. I do not know what I am doing at all. This is an utterly bad plan. I don’t even read fiction anymore. Besides the Gabriel García Márquez novel I read the last time I had the flu (which made me want to start my autobiographical novel three generations ago), I haven’t read any fiction since Clinton was president. I’ve tried. Friends have given me books, but it seems like every time I crack open something with Oprah’s stamp of approval on the cover, someone with my daughter’s name is being raped and sold into sexual slavery after being abandoned by her parents, all by page 12. Which is when I quit. As my mom said recently, so much of fiction is so sad. And I can’t take it.

So that gets me back to why this is such a terrible idea. How can I do this if I don’t even remember what a novel is supposed to be? I feel horribly unprepared. I’m not even in a book club. (The first time I wrote this, I typed “book group.” I don’t even know what a book club is called.) I try to remind myself that there’s no one “right” way to write a novel, and that art is about expressing yourself, not following a prescribed set of parameters, but mostly I am just afraid. But as I’ve said before, I’m tired of being afraid, so I’m trying my best to shake it off.

Ever since the pigs have been sharing their energy with me, I no longer spend my days doing tai chi and reading my Motherpeace cards (there are drawbacks to dialing myself back up), but I did do a reading the other day, and it reminded me (or I reminded myself?) that all I need to do is listen to my own voice, keep my head down and focused on the path in front of me, and keep plodding along. It reassured me that I am on the right path, but it’s a new path for me, one that exposes more of myself than I am at all prepared for, and that this is only the beginning. Gulp.

My husband climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro right before he found out he was going to become a father. During the last leg of the climb, an excruciating final push in the middle of the night, the guides encouraged the hikers by telling them “pole, pole” (pronounced pole-ay, pole-ay), which means slowly, slowly in Swahili. This is how he made his way to the top, repeating these words in his head, when a step beyond the one he was taking seemed as impossible as reaching the summit. Pole, pole. Step over step, step over step. (Any Tikki Tikki Tembo lovers out there?)

A novel. It looms as large as Kilimanjaro, but it’s made up of tiny steps. My job now is to write the bits down, one after the next. I’m not doing this for anyone but myself. I just want to tell the story, even if at times it’s a difficult story to tell. Pole, pole. Step over step.

© Amy Daniewicz

3 thoughts on “Step Over Step”

  1. Amy, I LOVE that idea. Again, you and Seth are sharing the same vibe :) :

    All the best to you as you write one word, paragraph, page, and chapter at a time. Let me know if I can help in any way.

    What about Anne of Green Gables? I have personally LOVED reading that recently, especially as a mom of a daughter. The language is beautiful, and it’s not sad. :)

    Great to connect today – let’s go out for drinks soon – or I’ll bring one over and hibernate with you!

    1. Sonya, our conversation today inspired me (as they often do). Thanks so much for all your help and friendship. :) And yes, most likely the novels I love the most were the ones I read when I was a child, or at least a tall version of a child–Anne of Green Gables being one of them. You’re right; I shouldn’t forget about those! See you soon . . . Amy

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