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I have been thinking, for weeks, about dormancy. And writing. And habits. I’ve been thinking about the weekly notification I get of how many hours I spend each day on my phone, which does not equate with hours spent on social media, but still. It’s a lot. An astonishing amount, really, especially when I consider how many decades I lived without a cell phone and all it contains. What did I do with the hours I now spend using a phone?

I’ve been thinking about how I spend my days, which, as Annie Dillard told us long ago, is how we spend our lives. Since June, there has been a great easing in mine. September and October, when I re-entered the classroom after a decade+ absence, had its rough days, and I know there will be more of those, but on the whole there has been so much easing. I’ve opened a space, but too often I have not filled it quite as I think I’d like to.

I have been thinking, for weeks, about how often I pick up my phone when there is a quiet moment. Or an uncomfortable one. Or an exhausted one. I’ve been thinking about how it has become difficult for me to sustain my way through the reading of a print book, and how astonishing that is. My father once told me, when I was a young woman, that when he thought of me he pictured my younger self sitting at the kitchen table with a book propped up behind my plate, reading as I ate. There was a time that I never truly ate alone, because if there was no flesh-and-blood human with whom to share my meal, there was always a book with its other voice to keep me company. I can’t remember the last time I consumed a book with a meal. I often want to, but I have no book I’m reading. I remember when I always had a book I was reading (usually more than one).

I start many books, but I finish few. I’m not sure why.

Sometime back in November, I went to the library to graze the stacks, one of the best ways I’ve found to tune into what the universe (or something that “the universe” is our shorthand for) is saying to me. That day, I found Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, a version of her classic The Artist’s Way, written especially for those “at mid-life and beyond.” Hers is a 12-week program of creative recovery, which is just about the length of a season. I read enough of it to decide to buy my own copy, thinking I would start working through its program at the beginning of January.

Instead, I began it this week, on the first day of winter. I have been thinking about winter since the day I listened to a Story Corps episode on the way to work in which Suzanne Valle talked about life in terms of seasons. She said that the winter of our lives begins at 60. Four days before that, I had turned 57.

Time is infinite, and the universe is infinite, but an individual life is not. I have been thinking about that, too. A lot. Despite what Cameron might have us believe, sometimes it is too late to begin again–because we have ended.

I have been thinking about Words of the Year, the choosing of which is a practice that some I follow or interact with on social media engage in. I tried it a few times, but it didn’t work for me. It still doesn’t, but I’ve been thinking about what I want more and less of in the coming year. “Scrolling” isn’t going to be anyone’s word of the year, is it?

As I’ve been having all these thoughts, I’ve been more mindful of what I’m getting (and not) when I engage with social media. I love Kate’s Instagram stories, because she so often shares things that are funny, wise, or visually gorgeous. Sometimes she shares words that seem to be just what I needed to hear at the moment I read them. I love being in the company of Dave Bonta’s Poetry Blogging Network. I love interacting with those of you who write to me here.

I have been thinking about June, when I might be in the position of needing to make a decision about teaching for another year. I have been thinking about all of the reasons I have never written in the ways I’ve said I would like to, in ways I gave up trying to more than a decade ago. I’ve been thinking about how, if I were to make a different space for writing in my life, I don’t know what I would fill it with, and how I am so often tired of the sound of my own voice. I’ve been wondering if the writing I do here is the writing I need to do, or if it is something that keeps me from the writing I need to do. I have been wondering how I want to spend my minutes, hours, days, life.

There have been a lot of thoughts rattling around in my (increasingly) old head, and I haven’t even started with the feelings.

So I keep returning to dormancy, and how that might work for a large mammal who cannot sleep underground for 12 or more weeks.

I’ve decided to take the winter off from things that make up too many of the hours I spend on my phone. I’m taking the social media apps (other than Messenger, which I use to communicate with folks) off my phone and I’m not going to write here again until Sunday, March 20th, the first day of spring. I’m not going completely off-line, but I intend to be much more intentional about being on. What I want is to clear some space and be purposeful about what I let into it. I think I need some arbitrary restrictions and some public declaration to make a necessary quiet happen.

I have been wary of writing that last paragraph because there are things I know I will miss, and because writing here has become a thing I count on for several different kinds of good things. I have been avoiding it because if I didn’t write it I could more easily change my mind about the whole thing. I was avoiding it because there’s some fear in this for me.

But I’m saying it and am going to do it because last week, when I went into Powell’s, a bookstore that covers an entire city block and was once one of my favorite places, I felt overwhelmed by the cacophony of voices shouting at me from the shelves. There is so much clamor in the world, and so often lately all I can hear is a grating din. I want to see if I can create a pocket of quiet within it, if I can make my way back to some part of that young girl who loved to make a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of canned chicken noodle soup and eat them slowly at her family’s kitchen table in the company of a book, able to hear nothing in her mind’s ear but the voice of one other person speaking to her. I don’t know if this experiment is as much about becoming some other kind of writer as it is about becoming a different kind of reader. All I know is that somehow, I’ve lost my way, and I want to find it again.

Hope you’ll check back in here come spring. If you’re not yet a subscriber, please consider signing up (top of right sidebar) and you’ll get an email when a new post goes up. (I don’t do anything with the subscriber list. To be honest, I don’t really know how to.) Wishing you all a good season of whatever it is you need from it.

18 thoughts on “Dormancy

  1. Cynthia Cappel says:

    I hope taht your time goes as you need it to go. Although I don’t often comment, I always enjoy your posts, and I will look forward to whatever you have to say come March — or earlier, or later. (But if later, please at least let us know that you’re OK!) Cheers to your dormancy!

  2. Bethany Reid says:

    I love this post, Rita. Last year I read Wintering, by Katherine May, and gave the book to two of my friends. If you can drag yourself back to a print book, it’s one I recommend. Dormancy, yes!

    Also, 57 is pretty damn young!

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I read that book last winter–and loved it. Maybe I’ll drag it out for a re-read. I have finished some books over the past year–I’m just puzzled at how often I don’t. At your suggestion, I just got McDermott’s What About the Baby, and I can’t wait to start in. I have a good little stack, as I took myself shopping for books as a Christmas present. Sometimes you need to be your own Santa.

      I don’t know about 57 being young, though. I know it’s not old, but…age and time are questions I’m wrestling with these days.

  3. TD says:

    Dear Rita, I understand and fully support your decision to seek the quite space of winter dormacy with your blog space. You may find that you might not want to re-engage blog space. May you bloom in spring as you! I don’t know where I will be in spring… no one truly does.

    You are definately not alone. I have notced the handful of blogs that I followed for a few years slowly driftaway from the blogging platform space. As you may remember from my coorispondence, I choose not to engage my energy time width on sites of instagraham, facebook, twitter, tic tok, newsletters, paid walls to read, and those lists goes on of all social media platflorms demanding attention into lost of time and energy of what is truly important of life itself.

    I, too, have been hearing myself say, “Just Stop! Just stop into my quite space.” And this has really helped me feel better. Feel better about everything!

    You re-married, re-jobbed, and re-home lifestyle. It is a lot! I suspect (from the little I know of you from your writting and blog-pal-ship) that you are choosing a healthy use of what little time we have left in this space of being human. Well wishes!

    • Rita says:

      Good wishes to you, too! Thank you for reminding me that 2021 was a year of huge transitions for me. Maybe I’m just a little worn out and need to rest and get my bearings. 🙂 I like thinking about what winter means for bulbs. They are invisible, tucked away under the soil. But lots of things are going on inside of them, out of sight. I’m feeling a little like a bulb right now. Despite the definitions of dormancy as periods of inactivity, I don’t think it’s quite that. It’s more about things happening, like you put it, in a quiet space. Wishing you a peaceful winter. See you in the spring, I hope.

  4. Dave Bonta says:

    Best of luck with your hiatus. I’ve really come to love this blog, but I definitely understand the decision to pull back from online commitments. (I’ve done a bit of that, but in a far less intentional manner.) Thanks for your kind words about the blog digest.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Dave. I will definitely still be reading your weekly roundup of poet bloggers, for as long as you continue to post them. Being included in that shifted something important for me–is, perhaps, a big part of why I want to step back right now. It had been years since I had seen myself as a poet. Knowing that someone else does unsettled things I thought I’d long settled. In a good way.

  5. Kate says:

    I love the idea of you with your grilled cheese, soup, and book. It’s such a wonderful mental image. Enjoy your winter, Rita!! The rest and stillness and quiet of this season are one of the things that make it my favorite. I’ll miss your posts, but am happy you’re taking this time for yourself, and look forward to hearing about it when you return.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Kate. I hope you enjoy your favorite season, too! I’ve been practicing rest and stillness and quiet this past week. It’s been a hibernating sort of winter break for us, and it has felt just right. Lots of slow days. Just being. I think this world might be a kinder place if we could all have ways to do more of just being.

  6. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    I love the idea of this. I considered taking a six-month hiatus from blogging, social media, and everything else. I’m still thinking about it. Part of me is afraid to do it, especially considering what is brewing in the world right now.

    I am adding that Julia Cameron book to my library list. You know how much I love The Artist’s Way, so I’m excited to learn more about this book. I have an intention of reading more books beginning next week. Less phone, less outside noise, more reading, and more inside noises.

    Sending you love , and I’ll look forward to reading your words in March.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…What’s Made Me Smile This Month- December 2021My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I am wanting to know more about this–how your fear of leaving social platforms is connected to what’s brewing. I know I’m early into my experiment, and I’ve started during winter break, so it’s not what I think of as regular life, but just cutting back feels better to me. I’m not on a complete hiatus (yet, anyway), but I’ve been filling my days with walking, private writing, reading, and household puttering. I’m feeling more present, and I like that. I think Cameron book I’m reading is very much like the original. There are some passages specific to those who have retired. As I’m not really retired, they aren’t resonating as much for me. I suspect they might not for you–you’re still in the thick of mothering. But, there are good parts for those who think it’s too late for some things, whether retired or not. Those parts do hit home for me.

      Sending you love back, and looking forward to keeping up with you one way or another.

  7. Margaret says:

    Over from Ally’s just as you’re taking a blogging break. (which I understand by the way) I too seem to pick up my phone whenever I have a free moment or feel bored. What did I used to do? I’m not even sure these days.
    Margaret recently posted…The BlogosphereMy Profile

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