Kate Flora: I am now starting day six of an awfully spartan diet, which likely colors my mood in a not very pleasant fashion. Still, when I sit down to blog, thinking of readers and writers out there, I always cheer up. I don’t really know who reads this. We’re all so busy that being a faithful blog follower is difficult. I will assume, though, that someone will read this, and perhaps, like me, be one of those who find the winter months are great for reflection.
From time to time, usually in anticipation of what my husband and I call “significant” birthdays, I will wake up one morning with an interesting question in mind. For fifty, it was “What matters?” For sixty, “What are you waiting for?” For sixty-five, the question was “What will you regret?” Now, having passed another significant birthday, the message is, “It’s okay to slow down.”
I have found these “messages from the universe” to be very helpful. Asking what matters really made me reflect on things that are most important to me. It made me ask what do I love? I love Maine. I love being in our little cottage and smelling the sea air and watching the birds and boats and sunsets. I love writing, watching those stories emerge from my imagination, sometimes coming so fast that I can hardly type fast enough to get them down, other times when they stubbornly refuse to get told. Testing me and making me work for every character and scene. I love it when I am so deeply into a book that I don’t want to do anything else. I love that dozy time before I wake when the story is already playing in my head and I can hear my characters talk. What matters? Family and friends. Feeding people. My gardens.
The message from sixty was compelling: what was I waiting for? I’ve always been a bit timid, kind of a loner. A worker bee who rarely gives herself permission to leave the desk, the project, the characters, and just go out and play. I still haven’t become a motorcycle outlaw or run away for a six months to a year just to do obsessive writing (despite being so jealous of John McPhee), but I have traveled to places I always dreamed of, like Egypt and India and Patagonia. I have tried to say “yes” more often, instead of staying at my desk. I’ve twice gone to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for two week writing residencies. I’ve stopped being so cautious about saving all my money for the future and let myself enjoy little treats. I’ve indulged in my Goodwill and Salvation Army treasure hunts. Trivial as it is, I’ve let the little farm girl who only had one pair of shoes buy all the second-hand shoes she wants. My closet is groaning.
“What will you regret” is another nudge to live instead of postponing life. I’m slow to put it into practice–I still haven’t climbed Katahdin or made it to The Common Ground Fair, but hope to do that this summer. I have started to plant vegetables in pots. I’m taking tap dancing lessons, despite being an utter klutz. I’m saying yes to more chances to spend time with friends. I’m enjoying the adventure of trying a new character and learning his story. I’ve marked my calendar so I’ll remember to enter the lottery for The Lost Kitchen. I saw fields abloom with poppies in California. I finally went out to see the puffins!
I haven’t lived with “It’s okay to slow down” for very long, but I have a kind of a pushme/pullyou reaction so far. Turns out, I have absolutely no idea how to slow down. Not with a book to be rewritten, another awaiting beta comments, and one due in June. Maybe, as in that movie “What About Bob?” I’ll have to work on this one with baby steps. Baby steps like stopping in the window to watch birds at the feeder or how blue shadows illuminate animal tracks in the snow. How the oilman’s hose leaves snake tracks across the yard. How if I stay very still, I can listen to the little creaks of my house. I can even put my delicious oils in my diffuser, close my eyes, and inhale.
Friends, do you get messages from the universe? Do you listen? What are your messages?