Friday, January 15, 2010

Member Appreciation Month: Arlene Stanton

Why I Write
by Arlene Stanton

There I was, 4 years old, toes embedded at the edge of the sea surrounding Taiwan, wearing a huge- brimmed sunhat that was its own umbrella. Blue sky met blue water and stretched on into infinity, and I stretched out my arms to embrace that beauty, the vastness and the ache of it. The sand shifted under my feet and, being human, I fell back flat on my butt, arms still outstretched, terrified and outraged at a loss I didn’t understand. Mother Ocean serenely gobbled at my toes.

Years later, terrified of water, I ask a friend who teaches children to swim, to teach me. He is a hardy and patient man, a good thing because it takes five lessons before I can tolerate putting my face under the surface of the pool. Weeks later, I spend 45 minutes a day swimming back and forth, pulling against the water, unable to see where I’m going but plowing ahead with joy and strength. I stretch, I pull, feel strong and timeless, and emerge to find the middle-aged men who sit out in the sun cheering me on, clinking their beers.

But years later, I find myself flat on my butt again, this time facing the computer screen, alone and lost, longing and afraid, and repulsed by my fear—but of what? Finding what I’m looking for? I begin to organize my ideas. Mostly they are scribbles of ideas, and I realize how many times my working titles are about finding the way home. Ah ha. Is this about me finding my way home, through my writing? Each time I commence, I feel like Gretel without Hansel, starting off into the forest and trying to remember if there’s a wolf in ‘my’ story. I read books, articles, ponder the concept of writer’s block but don’t give up the idea that this is something I must do.

But each time I go seeking, it is a new journey. I stumble about, rattle at my interior cabinets wondering if this one will get me to Narnia. Sometimes, I end up bumbling around in the wrong place, like a drunk pounding on the wrong door. You have to earn admission, again and again, but how to do that, lacking magic or a password?

Yet more years later, I spend quite some time with the man at Sherwin Williams to find the right color for my office walls—not a mere off-white or blunt turquoise, but the color of a swimming pool, or more precisely, the color of getting into a pool, feeling the world fall away, the limbs loosening, the arms stretching out to pull back the weight of nothingness and move on. I paint my walls.

And sometimes…suddenly, there I am, where I have not been before, standing squarely on both feet. A moment as I look around, alone. But no, there are voices in another room, firelight and shadows. Dropping my keys in a familiar place, I move forward, into darkness, into light.

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