This is how I remember work on the farm — a picture of my dad (beside the wagon) and either a brother or cousin on top. We cut the hay, raked it (see my poem, “The Hayrake”), shocked the hay into big stacks, loaded it on the wagon, and used a huge fork on a pulley to lift the hay into the hayloft of the barn. I remember riding on the wagon in from the fields. I remember how the hay got under my shirt collar and up my sleeves. I remember getting sunburned and feeling dusty and parched and, back at the barn, drinking water straight from the tap. The water tasted like rust and was incredibly cold.
I have been thinking about how writing can sometimes fool me into thinking it isn’t “work,” that I have to feel inspired or even caught off guard in order to write well. When it was time to harvest the hay, we didn’t have that sort of luxury. If the hay was ripe on July 4th, we hayed. (I guess that’s a verb.) If the hay was mature and there was no rain in the forecast. In any case, it wasn’t going to wait until someone felt inspired to bring it in.
Some years ago I heard poet Eavan Boland say that she learned from artists that you can’t wait for the muse — you paint when you have the light. Same with writing, or farmwork, for that matter. You get up in the morning and you do it. And you get up the next morning.
Today, feeling utterly stuck — as well as a little pressured because I had plans to meet an old friend at 10:00 — I decided to go to www.e.ggtimer.com (I think that’s the address) and set the timer for 15 minutes. I wrote in my journal for 15 minutes. Then I reset the timer for 20 minutes and worked on the novel. Then for 20 minutes more.
And I still had plenty of time to get dressed and meet the Edmonds Ferry at 10:00.
Plus there is no chaff down the neck of my shirt, and I’m not sunburned.