The Household Members of Resistance
Tonight I'm feeling that hard to describe urge/need/pull to write, and the oh so familiar question of what. My own approach to this is the same thing I tell everyone else: Start. Keep going. It does work. And that doesn't mean I am not sometimes filled with my own menage of resistance.
Now I want to look up "menage," as I'm not sure it means what I meant it to mean, but it sounded just so pretty. And French. French is so pretty, all those zh sounds. Je mange une orange.
I am so full. We ate rigatoni with really good sauce (have you ever tried Rao's marinara? It's so worth the extra few dollars per jar.) And Ben & Jerry's. It's snowing again. Winter feels endless right about now.
I had such a huge blindspot for so long, that from time to time I need to remind myself I am not missing something huge. I mean, I could be. But I feel like trusting myself is absolutely crucial, even when I'm not sure.
I go over to the bookshelf and close my eyes. The first book I pluck is a collection by Robert Hass. I open the book and land on a poem called "My Mother's Nipples," groan, and close the book. I have changed.
Each year, I weed out a few more books from those I've kept close for decades. I can't do too many at a time -- too jarring -- but the slow paring down to those volumes that still speak to my heart is a satisfying process.
Second try, eyes closed again, some faint whisper in my head asking for the book, the poem I need to read. I run my right hand along the tops of spines and select one. It's a hardcover.
I briefly wonder if it's "Call Me By My True Names," a cherished collection by Thich Nhat Hanh, its jacket cover ragged with time and use. But I’m wrong. I’m holding “Constance,” by Jane Kenyon. I open to page 16 and the title stares back at me without blinking.
A wasp rises to its papery
nest under the eaves
where it daubs
at the gray shape,
but seems unable
to enter its own house.
My eyes are dry from crying last night; this happens with contact lenses. I blink several times as I read the two short stanzas, which seem to be meant for me. The wasp, the writer, the house.
I look up "menage." It means "the members of a household," its origins in Old French for "to stay" or "remain." I look back at the first paragraph and reread where I used it instinctively: The menage of my resistance. It fits. My resistance sometimes consists of an entire household of voices and characters; they stay and stay no matter how gently or forcefully I tell them their time is up.
These household members, they make coffee at night long after I've gone to sleep; they read Russian novels at the kitchen table and drink vodka and ridicule the rich, the idle, the elite. They poo-poo my requests to vacate the premises and seem to find my daily machinations charming.
Meanwhile, it is so crowded here sometimes I cannot find entrance to my own house, my own quiet places, the ones where the writing lives alone. Flanked by books on either side of my aging body, I continue typing, as if the act of fingers flying over keys will jar open some door. So many books, so many unwritten stories, and a sense that time is running out.
This morning I squatted in the shower for a minute, one hand over my heart and the other on my belly as the hot water bounced off of my shoulders and back. It's a small shower, a stall, and I was facing the curtain, aware that no one was here, no one would pull it back, no one would interrupt or witness me there in something like prayer.
All of this is to say something like: I am here. The tug, the pull, the nest under the eaves, the menage of resistance -- these are here, too. It's snowing again and winter feels endless. But it isn't. The seeds of a new season are already sown. The birdsong already stronger. In the dark, though, where there is no immediate evidence of such things as longer days or warmer times, it can be hard to believe.
So I close the book, then close the laptop, then lock the house and pull my body close around my beloved. We close our eyes, and sleep, letting the household members of resistance carry on without us, long into the night.