Yes, I admit it, I was attracted to teaching because I relished the idea of two-months of unfettered “me-time” I could dedicate to traveling, reading, relaxation and, above all else, writing. Stephen Vizinczey claims that writers are born out of talent and time. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you cannot find the time to utilize your talent then your talent will go to waste. I have always believed I possessed a certain level of talent in writing – what I did not always have was the necessary time. Hence my decision to become a teacher was greatly influenced by the attraction of having two months a year I could dedicate to writing. And dedicate I did. After a couple of summers of false starts and dead-ends, I embarked upon a creative journey that eventually became The City of Earthly Desire. It took me three summers to write the novel and during those three summers I focused on very little else. I am confident I would have never completed the novel if I did not have those summers free.
Thus, summer has become my creative time. I look forward to summer every year not for the weather or the vacations or the barbeques, but for the promise of having eight weeks to myself during which I can write. It is my time to forget the world for a little while and immerse myself in the cold, dark waters of my imagination.
This summer has been different. This summer has offered no promise of writing; no refreshing dip into the waters of my mind. This summer there has been very little “me-time.” This summer has become a summer without writing, and I could not be more grateful for the experience. I did not have a chance to become the center of the universe. Instead, I was tugged into the orbit of a much smaller star with a much larger gravitational pull then I could ever hope to possess.
My wife Melinda landed a temporary job in mid-July. The position takes her out of the house during business hours four or five times a week leaving the care of our nineteen-month-old son Matthew solely in my hands. Now, this is not a post about parenting; I will offer no clever anecdotes, heartwarming stories, sentimental observations, or clinical analysis about being a father or what experiences I have had taking care of my child. There is a whole industry out there that focuses on those kinds of things and I have no desire to add anything to it. I will say only this: the world becomes a much simpler place and you must become a much simpler person when you are caring for a child.
Everything is reduced to its most elemental level while caring for a child. Days are once again dictated solely by the movement of the sun across the sky. Time adheres to a different set of reference points: eat, play, sleep. The outside world melts away. Your ego flares up occasionally demanding to be compensated for the sacrifices it believes it is making. You wrestle with it. Eventually, you learn to silence it. Once you do, you find your days become the sound of the breeze filtering through the trees, the patchwork quilt of light and shadow on a forest floor, the sound of small lungs drawing breaths, a smile at a skill learned or truth discovered. The dark waters of imagination grow deeper and colder and darker. You turn your back on it.
There will be time to wade into it all again. There will be summers filled with writing, but this summer will not be one of them. There is something inherently beautiful in the acceptance of that. It carries within it a certain sublimity of which you are barely aware as it drowns all the aspects of your life you thought were so important . . . writing foremost among them.