A month ago we moved. We left a community where we’d been deeply rooted for the last thirty years. We left wide skies and open fields of the high shrub steppe for a forested island near Seattle. The move brings us closer to family, to grandkids, to big city opportunities, but wrenches me from the kind of friends who’ve “known you since when” and from the small writing community that nurtured me through my first published novels. I’d forgotten how all consuming and disorienting a major move can be and I forgot how exhilarating a new adventure can be. I didn’t expect to be grieving. In a disrupted life, I’m trying to find my way back into writing. In my bleakest moments I wonder if I’ll ever write again.
Then I remind myself that I’ve been in the wilderness before. We’ve all been there at one time or another. It’s the empty space after the death of a dream, the wreckage in the wake of a tragedy, the hollows of grief and even the unfamiliar paths of a new success or adventure.
I’ve come to believe that the greatest part of life is wilderness, and we must learn to not only survive, but to create within that space. If I wait to feel settled, even for a reconstructed office, or a clean desk, I may never begin. Disruption is the default, those moments of tranquility, focus and blessed routine are the exception. I know that in my most difficult times, writing has saved me. It’s helped me uncover how I feel, given me vision, and a glimpse of hope. The opposite of despair isn’t happiness; it’s creation, which always requires hope.
If it’s the act of creation that helps us navigate and survive the wilderness, it’s also the act of creation that sends us there.
When we begin a new work, we voluntarily set out on a path that will lead us into unknown territory. In fairytales and myth, this journey is usually into the dark woods. In those mythic woods nothing is as it seems and anything can happen. We willingly putting ourselves at risk. Safety is not guaranteed. However, there are a few assurances on this journey: we’re sure to lose our way, we will be afraid and the journey will change us. Time spent in the wilderness always does. It always put us in the position of risk. Who would choose to put themselves in that position? Anyone wanting adventure, anyone driven to create. Without disruption there is no story.
I am trying to be at peace in a disrupted life, to understand as Bilbo reminds us in the Hobbit, adventures are not comfortable things. And neither is creating. And as for moving? Ask me in a year.
Women Writers, Women's Books
December 28, 2019 | By Maureen McQuerry