Friday, November 5, 2010

Hard Frost. Slow Dance. By Laura Munson

Laura Munson is the author of the New York Times and international bestselling memoir, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS: A SEASON OF UNLIKELY HAPPINESS, which Book of the Month Club named one of the best books of 2010.  While the entry point to her memoir is a marital crisis, true to its title, this is a book about empowerment; about living in the present moment, and committing to being responsible for your own happiness no matter what’s going on in your life.  She has been on a national book tour with many media appearances, including Good Morning America and various NPR stations.  Her work has appeared in the New York Times Modern Love column, The New York Times Magazine Lives column, O. Magazine, Woman's Day, The Huffington Post, The Sun, Big Sky Journal and others.  She lives in Whitefish, Montana with her husband and children. 

Hard FrostSlow Dance.  

This is the time of year when the muse is hungry.  Starved by a summer in Montana where the physical world bullies you to come out into it and join the dance that leads with mountain, and twirls with rivers, and rests in lakes-- a spent tango.  And we find ourselves in fall.  The physical dance over.  Time to go home in the dark.  There is a lot of darkness now. 
            This morning was the first hard frost.  I could see it on the roof by moonshadow, silver and glinting off shingles.  It was confirmed by the first light over the ridge as I stood at the stove making my first cup of tea—the Mother cup.  The rest will be Writer cups, and there will be at least three more of them before it’s time for another Mother cup.  I drink a lot of tea.  Green with jasmine.  The muse used to be thirsty for coffee.  I taught her that tea is a more graceful entrance into the act of empathy which all writers must take if our work is to find itself dancing with our characters and our readers.  It’s easier to find empathy with tea. 
            So with tea and the first light, I go out to start the truck.  The frost has covered it and I rebel against the ice scraper which is lost under life jackets and beach towels—summer things, and I sacrifice a bit of tea to get the windshield thinking about doing its job, rock pocks and hairline fractures and all.  I am not ready for winter.  I don’t care how hungry or how thirsty the muse is to dance, in silence and dark, grey by day, and then dark again, for many months; many dark mornings with sacrificial tea rites.  I can feel myself brace against it this morning.  There is something different about this fall.
            It’s been seventeen of these in Montana and normally I meet the season and the muse with a warm embrace.  Relief, even.  I don’t know why I am dragging my feet this year to this dance I love.  It’s not that I don’t love what the muse covets; requires.  I do.  Writing is my practice, prayer, and way of life.  But it’s like what my ten-year-old son said this morning, snuggling with me.  “I don’t want to go to school.” 
            “Because there’s so much work.” 
            “But work can be fun if you look at it like an adventure.” 
            “It’s not fun when somebody asks you to do it.” 
            I smiled.  “You’re right.  But it’s possible to look at it like you get to be asked to do work, and you get to learn something you might not have thought to learn all by yourself.” 
            He wasn’t really buying it.  And neither was I.
            Yes, there is something different about this fall.  And my son helped me see it:  this is the first fall that I’ve been asked to do my work.  I have jobs.  I got a book published, finally, after many failed attempts, and suddenly…I have jobs.  In fact, it’s an embarrassment of riches, I have so many deadlines.  I’m not bragging.  It’s just that I’m worried.  I don’t know how to do this dance. 
            What I know how to do is this:  bow to winter by getting to work on a novel.  This time of year there are characters dancing in my mind’s mountains and rivers and lakes.  They want out.  They want their dance on a parkay floor in a dance hall with a live band and pretty girls and guys with gyrating hips.  They have no patience for the world of book promotion and magazines and blogs and Facebook and Twitter and books begging to be blurbed.  They don’t care if I’ve grown fond of the generous community of the internet and other writers, or that there’s finally a way that the writer can meet the reader without the publishing world.  They don’t care that I’ve learned to use Twitter as Haiku and my blog as a daily writerly warm up. 
            Most of all, they don’t understand that a writer needs an income.  That I’ve been at this years and years and finally…my dream came true.  They don’t know that once you’ve had a book published, you have a window of opportunity.  Especially, they don’t want to meet the baby being passed lovingly through it.  They are jealous lovers.  Sabateurs of other dance halls but their own.  They want to sweat and grind and tip back their heads in pleasure.  They want to feel the drumbeat re-arranging their heartbeats.
            And I fear that the work I have loved so much for so long, will somehow suffer.  And in-so-doing, I will too.  Never mind my muse or my characters.  Or potential readers for that matter.
            When I return from the Mother cup of tea, the sun bright, the yard is a puzzle-- bright green where the frost has melted, still stiff and sage-colored where it has not, a perfect shape of the shadow of my house.  I pause and smile:  nature’s dance. 
            The dance is perpetual, I decide.  The characters aren’t leading the dance.  I am.  My work is to keep writing and trust that I’ll know which dance it is to dance.  Now tango.  Now foxtrot.  Now waltz.
            I can bring these cups of tea, these yard shapes, these characters, and even my muse with me, wherever I am dancing.  And we will all be better for our other writing adventures.  No one will go hungry or cheap for the drum beat.  It is just slow for now in the way of novels.  I’m sure that winter will change that soon enough. 


Anonymous said...

So nice to be over here at The Bird Sisters Blog. Thanks, Rebecca for all your great work and your lovely cyber presence! Can't wait for your book to come out! You are a true sister in words. yrs. Laura

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I truly love this post because it makes me long for winter, for writing, for ice on my windshield. Thank you for coming here and sharing your lovely words. You are gracious, talented, kind...xoxoxox

David Abrams said...

Spot-on observations of what most of us writers go through each morning, Laura. I don't know what dance my characters are doing--The Hustle, maybe?--but I'll take your advice and let them boogie 'til the cows come home.

Anonymous said...

I've been avoiding the Wisconsin winter, denying it's insistence, but it's true--it's lovely to write in.

Michele Young-Stone said...

I LOVE this post, Laura and Rebecca. I am so worn down with Twitter and Facebook and promotional things. I am trying to carve out more time for those wonderful dancers and their gyrating hips and persistent voices. I'm trying to let the rest fall to the wayside for a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Michele. I have found myself pretty grumpy lately in my interactions with people in my town, and I think that's why. There's so much to share cyberly that when I'm in line with actual human beings at the grocery store, it's like some sort of filter has been removed or something. I'm never sure what's going to come out of my mouth. I "over share" or I'm snippy. Not the person I usually am. I really think it has to do with the internet. I would love to see a social study done on this but for now, I'm sticking to readin ga few lovely blogs like Rebecca's, doing a post on mine once a week, and hanging a gone fishing sign on the rest for winter. I can't wait to get back to that dance, just like you. Have a great winter. Check in from time to time! yrs. Laura

pinemeadowpond said...

Oh my. Laura, gorgeous writing. Writing that I'll revisit again in the dark days of my New England winter, which I'm dreading. Winter writing for me has always been about the deep, bare bones stuff that can be paralyzing; there aren't any of those joyous other-season interruptions and there certainly isn't enough light. But maybe with Mother cups and writing as practice and prayer, I can make it less about the coldness and darkness. And, oh, those gyrating hips.

Thanks, Laura; you've given me something else to think about. And, thank you, too, Rebecca, for doing this wonderful thing you do.


Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Beth, what a lovely comment! Also, I just checked out your site, which is BEAUTIFUL!!!, and subscribed to it. I love your about page: you are making me re-think mine :)

Anonymous said...

This is the internet at its best-- connecting kindred spirits. You all inspire me. We don't have to be alone-- even in the dead of winter. yrs. Laura

Julie Jeffs said...

Goodness gracious, well if this blog and this post specifically don't make you want to be a writer I can't think of anything that will. This is lovely and gives me a much more upbeat outlook on the coming winter and my writing. We have had our first freeze as well, here in Tennessee, last night was in the 20's and the last few days it has struggled to get into the 40's and 50's. I am okay as long as there is some sunshine too, too many gray days and I only think of climbing back in bed for the rest of winter.
Thank you Rebecca and Laura for some sunshine in my day.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Oh thank you, sweet Julie. Laura is the real star here! And you, because your blog is stunning! I love all of you including your site addresses. What a great idea to get all of us together and sharing! xox

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."