I couldn’t help getting a little teary this week when I read his message. It was from Bruce, and he thought this quote from Thoreau might resonate.
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
I was in my office, a cosy loft that’s been my writer’s cave, library and ‘wonder room’ for these past weeks. It seems that I haven’t budged very far from it lately. Sure there’s been a little socialising, some romantic snowshoeing through the ‘deep and crisp and even’, my weekly laps of swimming and a yoga session or two.
But for the most part, since the bustle of Christmas, I have been squirrelled away on my latest writing project. The subtext (for those who know me well), is that I’ve pretty much been holed up in my cave – call it creative hibernation – and I haven’t been on a flight since mid October!
But even in hibernation, I get itchy feet and when the opportunity came up to visit some dear friends from Denmark who happened to be in Vancouver, it was all I could do to not jump on the one-hour flight to see them. I had made a commitment, to myself and to my mentor for this new project. And though it goes against the grain to be still and focused, these few months are reserved for writing.
My next book is underway and I am now ‘living and breathing it’… fellow writers will know what this is, but essentially it’s becoming a little obsessive and reclusive. And avoiding housework; the Christmas decorations still need to be packed away and my inadequate closet space is an ongoing issue. I now fondly dream of my expansive space in India as I still attempt, in vain, to shoehorn and shimmy some semblance of order. Marie Kondo, where are you?!
And so I write; at times overjoyed, at times lonely with solitude that doesn’t sit well with the ‘gregarious me’. At times I’m distracted by an uncertain future, the possibility perhaps, of another country.
But the beauty of my task? I’m writing a ‘travel memoir-love story-collection of life’ and every day I’m transported to a different time and place. As the pages flood with my memories, it almost feels like a butterfly has softly landed on my shoulder with a gentle, comforting caress – coming to me during the long hours and whispering, ‘stay committed, stay positive’.
Of course, I realize that this is a rather magical ‘writer’s retreat’, but still, sometimes we need that little reminder. Bruce’s message was a balm and it instantly filled me with gratitude. He didn’t message from afar, just two levels in the house below my aerie, where he works most days. Even with only ‘two degrees of separation’, it means pinging each other with occasional sweet nothings. I know, a little crazy. Maybe I need to climb up and down those stairs a few more times each day!
It seems Thoreau’s quote is a perfect metaphor for this ‘writer in residence,’ and for life in general. Sometimes satisfaction and contentment seeks you out while you’re busy doing other things. There’s beauty in allowing that butterfly to settle a while; there will be time enough to ‘fly away’…