A waning gibbous moon at 9 o’clock this morning as I walk Leonard to the park and back. Crows pass overhead in noisy, staggered murders. A year ago, they would have used paused here in the neighbor’s tree – and I miss them. I miss the crows and the tree.

And since the new family moved in next door this fall it has been all too quiet. The blackbirds no longer gather in the driveway at 5 a.m. I have to admit, sometimes I felt a bit like a mash-up of Snow White and the Queen of England having them sing outside the window in the mornings to wake me.

Letting go of these fun little daydreams involves a kind of grief.

When I was six or seven, I would lie alone in the grass in my grandparent’s tiny garden with the one braced sapling, and I’d imagine I was Alice in Wonderland. Those kinds of flights of fancy, as secretive as they are, you’d think you could hang on to them as an adult. But I have those kinds of playful moments rarely now. I miss them.

To be clear – I would not be a kid again for anything. The “go outside and play” refrain from adults still rings in my ears when I find myself in awkward social situations. It felt like a declaration of exile every time they said it.

Go find something to do. You don’t belong here.

And oh my goodness, the boredom. But then… then the flights of imagination.

I don’t think it is my age that is the problem. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my imagination. I think it’s the clutter of adulthood. There is no space in which to be bored enough to let my mind go wandering. There is always something to do. Some should do. Even if that is the novel I should be reading. I can easily avoid boredom while believing I’m behaving virtuously by doing so.

I line all the shoulds in my life up like ducks along a rope across a lake and I focus on all the ducks: Meditation, running, writing, reading. Work. I can’t see the lake for the ducks.

I find order comforting. I find creating order comforting. After the chaos of the DVT it took me four months to find my way back to the familiar rituals. At night the fear of death is still very much alive in my subconscious, but during my waking hours, order keeps me calm. Rituals are like handles on the baggage I carry around.

But carrying baggage around is an unnecessary habit.

When we hike, E. often takes a much bigger pack than is necessary. When people comment (and they have) he shrugs his pack and says people go to the gym to lift weights they technically don’t need to lift. He says it’s the same thing, and then he’ll pull out a huge thermos of coffee that I’m grateful for.

But I don’t believe hanging onto this baggage, no matter how kettle-bell-like, will make me stronger. I think it will wear me down. I also think tending to it is an excuse, a constant and convenient distraction from boredom.

I suppose boredom is like so much else in life – it is painful to begin – we’ll do almost anything to have to face it – (including poking at familiar wounds in a perverted act of self-comforting). But we can fall into a spacious momentum, and in the end, we rarely regret beginning.

Beginning a new year – I will try to welcome the unpleasantness of boredom more often. I will try to put the loose shoulds of my life in boxes – in dedicated rooms for dedicated attention. I won’t answer emails from students ticking into my phone at 11 pm. I will be sleeping.

And I won’t answer on weekends because I will be lost in some magic forest where tiny faeries live under the shelter of mushroom caps and sing dirges for the trees that were. They will be cruel and kind and tell me stories more true than any I’ve ever heard.

Last year I ate twelve grapes and wished for twelve things for the new year. This year, I am eating twelve grapes and making room for twelve muses.

I have to admit to myself that very little of my life has gone according to plan. It would be comforting to claim that this has been for the best. But it has been, such that this is now.

I find myself circling back to old desires that were somehow discarded along the way – like a dream where you are traveling with a baby and then suddenly you’re not. There’s no panic, no regret, just wonder: I wonder how that slipped away so quietly.

Things never look entirely the same when one returns to a place stamped in memory. Buildings are smaller, people are less attractive – or more so. A novel we remember as almost finished is a half-page of notes.

“I want to be a fireman” is an hour’s deep impression, not a long path through childhood. I’m not expressing an original thought when I say that significance warps our perception of time.

The common advice for rekindling a sense of desire is to try to remember what you enjoyed doing when you were younger. What you were doing when time seemed to fly by. But I think the problem is that our memories are biased. We remember what is reinforced. What is stamped in our memories under personal or cultural pressure.

In the past months, I’ve been sorting through notebooks and computer files. So many times I’ve stumbled over declarations and confessions that I don’t remember writing. Poems and outlines for projects that are so like soft-boned babies that somehow slipped away in a dream. These are flashes of desire. The signposts of paths not taken.

Yet.

Where I come from, the words most highly valued are those spoken from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed.
LESLIE MARMON SILKO

Maybe the greatest privilege of this time of my life is the time to circle back. There is a roundness that comes with age, a natural and new returning like a second orbit with a slightly different perspective. And a slightly different perspective can change everything.

A decade ago I left a thousand and one eggs on a blog with the same name. I’d forgotten about them. These things – now uglier and more beautiful than I’d understood. These flashes of desire that I recognize as genuine.

I have a plan to circle back.

These days I’m under far less pressure and I’m excited by
the rough roundness of eggs,
the ugliness of hatchlings –
the fearlessness of flight.

I feel ridiculously self-conscious talking about writer’s block. I am one of those people who believes that all present tense descriptors only relate to the moment as it passes: not the future. And that the past is “history” and not something one can cling to in the present. Though I know we all do that for comfort sometimes.

And sometimes I think “writer’s block” sounds like a humble-brag.

I took enough Spanish in college to remember that there are two verbs used when describing people. You can say: soy feliz or you can say estoy feliz, “I am a happy person” or “I am a happy person in this moment – as the words escaped my mouth”.

The correct way to say, “I am a writer” is soy escritora. But I can’t bring myself to say that if I’m not writing. In these pauses between books, between journal-keeping, between poems; what am I?

I try to tell myself I am not “a what”… Still: what am I dong with my life?

A few years ago I named the problem: the oxpecker who sits on my shoulder and pecks at my brain. My writing practice has always come in seasons, and always with varying production. But the drive to write never left me entirely until three years ago. It’s bound up somehow emotionally with the day E. and I were running on the beach and I just couldn’t seem to find the energy. I wasn’t “tired” or “fatigued”, it was a feeling I’d never experienced before. It was as though I just couldn’t get the engine to turn over, to catch hold and run.

I kept telling E. that something was wrong, but it was nothing I could point to. Until my leg turned purple the next day, and I was hospitalized with deep vein thrombosis.

My body is healed, but the shock having walked around for 51 years, ignorant that I’ve had a weird congenital defect seems to have broken my confidence in so many other ways. And when I sit down in my little library to write, I feel that same sense that something is wrong. That tiny fear of not being good enough – of needing reassurance – has grown and animated itself as this bird that pecks at the wound in my mind. I would say that it feels like my life in on pause, but I see myself growing older. Time is passing.

Yesterday a good friend asked me to join her at a “share your practice” session at one of the local arts centers. A young dancer was going to hold a workshop. It was so much fun. She lead us through a kind of guided meditation dance, and through a series of exercises with gesture work, and partner work with abstracting gestures. I am not a dancer. In fact, I don’t think that I can ever be a performer again really, but her instructions kept me focused and in the moment so the oxpecker was also distracted from her own goal: to protect my ego at all costs.

When the workshop was finished the dancers decided to do a half-hour jam. No rules. No distractions. The oxpecker returned to pick at my wounds. We have a phrase in drama pedagogy: rules as tools. Now I am thinking: rules as distraction.

Now how can I apply that kind distraction to my writing practice?