On the Holding of Spaces for Essaying Into

By , , , and | 31 October 2021

Lockdown #6. I feel more defeated than usual. It caught me by surprise like it did many
(several friends commenting on their surprise at being surprised). It took a while longer for it
to hit my 5-year-old. Tantruming at the drop of a hat. ‘I don’t know why I feel like this’ she
howled. Lying on the floor kicking and crying. Punching and wailing.

I know why. Knew why. Got down on the floor with her. Stroked her forehead softly. She didn’t pull away. I gently distracted her shortly afterwards. Pulling out an indoor trampoline and the invitation to bounce. I know what to do, but it’s exhausting. I am low on reserve. This is a low-on-reserve time for us all.

But what does this have to do with writing? With this genre or method we call essaying? With in-to?

It’s something about standing in the midst of uncertainty, of not-knowing. Indeed, of choosing that approach. It’s something about a turning-towards. A tuning in. A not-knowing what will happen or even what to do next, even as one might know exactly what to do. A being with. It’s an attempt to do all of this on the page. A writing in-to the thinking. A leaning in. Against. A staying-with even as one might want to turn away. Or need to do the dishes, put dinner on.

*chainsaw in the distance

I have a compulsion to observe things, I think, which has intensified over the past year. The
pleasure lies in witnessing a moment of change, however brief. I think the shrinking of my
world has a lot to do with this – I’ve spent more time alone over the past year than at any
other time in my life, and the way I move through the world has changed as well. I don’t
know the full scope of this change: I feel slower, less confident, less capable of negotiating
disquiet, but I also feel comfortable with silence, with time, and I am more aware of small
things. I have also become less capable of describing: more and more, words don’t seem like
they’re enough.

It’s almost the end of winter, and we’re about to head into spring, a time of year that rewards close observation. There is much to see. In the corner of our backyard, little white flowers peek out from the grey branches of an old plum tree; a small beetle slowly makes its way across the back of my hand after hitching a ride on my sleeve; the sound of birds returns with the changing light, and it becomes warm enough to sit outside in the mornings, watching and listening.

*creaky chair

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