This Thesis Thing
Its Sunday afternoon, the first weekend in April. I’m sitting in my rocking chair in my room looking out the window at the yard. The window is open and occasionally wisps of fresh cool air drift across my legs and feet. The snow piles next to the driveway are retreating, the lawn is splotchy green and dried tan.
The birds are out, flying from tree to tree. Nest building, chattering, and scattering when Feral the Cat wanders by. Dennis has gone for a walk. I would have gone along, but there is this thesis thing.
I am sitting here, feet propped on the footstool, pen in hand, notebook on my lap. Behind me, at the desk the computer is shut down, turned off. Too tempting, too tasking. It is a tool and sometimes a toy. I keep looking out the window.
I have been thinking about this thesis thing. Brooding, obsessing, and sometimes worrying. What does it mean? What does it mean to have written a thesis, and soon defend a thesis?
I can call myself a writer. I wrote a book length manuscript. I have been calling myself a writer for years. For a long time, when someone asked me what I did, I’d answer (silently) “writer” while replying verbally whatever my current occupation happened to be.
I keep looking up at the bole in the closest maple tree. Last week an owl perched there all afternoon and stayed until it was too dark to see anymore. It was an Eastern Screech Owl, small and round. In the tree bole it looked like a cat face looking out at me.
Tuesday a young hawk got tangled in the shrub by the bird feeder. The hawk was after the song birds that congregate at the feeder, but it scared them all away flailing about in the bush. Do hawks get embarrassed? Do birds laugh?
This window provides a view and a voice. The view, twenty-five years and counting, is familiar yet it changes. The landmarks are solid and yet they change too. Morning, evening. Summer, Winter. Opposites, dichotomies. Gradual shifting from one day to the next. Something different every day and so much that was/ is the same.
My favorite tree is missing one of its three limbs. It split last spring in the ice storm. The old rusty logging chain holds the remaining limbs in balanced tension. The wood peckers have riddled the upright limb. The bark of the tree hangs in sheets, gray exposed to the sun and underneath deep brown. Brown the color of decay, rot.
The voice seems as variable as the weather, the wildlife, the woman. Although lately, it seems steadier, smoother. Maybe even more sure. It still sways, swinging back and forth like a pendulum- poetry, prose, poetry prose.
I thought I had given up poetry after college. Those despair driven drunken days (and nights) ended when I graduated, got serious and then desperate for a job that paid enough to afford the neccessities; food shelter, beer.. A banker, I had the gray suit with a polyester blouse that tied in a bow at the neck. You can’t, I couldn’t write poetry in a polyester blouse that ties at the neck.
I could write stories. I wrote all stories of conscientious young women trapped in mind numbing jobs in bustling unfriendly cities yearning for something else, something different. then unexpectedly meeting the lumberjack, farmer, wilderness guide. I was pretty certain romance was the way to write myself out.
Two eagles are coasting on the thermals over the corn fields. Two sparrows just stared down a robin. The catkins on the maple are budding.
I didn’t think I wanted to write poetry. Too abstract, ethereal. Too confusing and convoluted. I wanted fact, the five questions answered thoroughly and succinctly. I wanted to write stories, essays, and memoirs.
The problem, and it was a major problem, was I didn’t have any stories to write. Going back to reading books I found out someone else had written all the essays. And you shouldn’t write a memoir without knowing your topic or yourself.
There is a tiny river of snow melt running down the length of the driveway and past the woodshed. In the dip there is a pool forming. A finch, just returning gold, is bathing in the pool. Now he is sunning himself on the old stump.
I was stuck. Too literal for poetry, too average for prose. No imagination, nothing to do but read and admire those who could and did write.
I’ve sat in this rocker in this window and read books of poetry, fiction, fantasy, history, essays, memoirs and so many books of the how to write, how to read, how to live variety. It didn’t matter. Whether I liked the writer or I despised the writer I admired the talent and perseverance. I just couldn’t be those writers.
Memoirs were out. I hadn’t suffered any affliction, addiction, or abuse. Fiction was out. I had found my carpenter partner and moved to this place in the country where there is a window that looks out over the yard where I sit in my rocking chair and observe. That’s all I had. I was left to write about birds and rabbits in the garden, how spring sunlight casts chlorophyll too green and the sound of ice storms on window glass.
This thesis thing I’m starting to think is about voice, finding one, training one, accepting one. This window I am sitting at has clear glass so I can see out and in certain light it reflects me back at me. Outside, inside, outside, inside. This thesis thing, it is my window. Prose, poetry, prose, poetry.
I am a writer of windows.