February 11, 2017 (Saturday)

by Yule Heibel on February 10, 2018

What a squirrel mind I have this morning… There might be brand new chimney caps on my roof, keeping actual squirrels (and birds) out of my house, but my mind is home to seemingly endless invasions of disconnected-and-yet-oh-so-connected (all of a genus) thoughts, which, as the real squirrels did when they reached, through hollow walls, the basement, wreak havoc with furnishings and even window muntins. I wake up and realize I’ve dreamed something about my father again. But I have no idea what exactly it was, nor whether its lingering in memory means I should consider it important. I lie there and suspect it has something to do with not wanting to waste my life. I suspect, as the image and the specific feeling of the dream evaporate alarmingly quickly, that I’m supposed to get serious about a purpose or “deep work” (as per Cal Newport) before I’m dead. I suspect this anxiety is influenced by Debbie Millman’s (or Milton Glaser’s) exercise, which I haven’t done because I’m afraid to try it. I’m afraid I have nothing to wish for, nothing I actually want to envision. I have become the “wunschloses Unglück” of my mother, something I typically tended to blame my father for, but which I now see is a more complicated matter. Maybe that’s why he’s showing up in my dreams, to demand exoneration. Or at least an abatement of the judgement’s severity.

But if it’s not the man’s fault that the wife / mother becomes so derailed from her own ambitions as to lose her mind, whose fault is it? Anyone’s? No one’s? Yesterday, thinking of this “life aspiration” thing before sleep, I recalled our visit to Edith Wharton’s The Mount, and her work routine. Could that be me (setting aside that it’s financially out of reach)? Out in the country, writing (in bed!) all morning before filling her afternoons and evenings with fun, exciting, and gracious social and recreational activities? But then I remember, this morning, that hers was a special grade. She only stayed at The Mount in the summers, returning to her Manhattan home for other seasons. Not an option, I don’t think, for me! And she only stayed at The Mount for a brief number of years (maybe five, if that?) before moving to Paris and mixing it all up again.

Well, maybe she is a model of sorts: willing to shake things up… What did she retain, what did she jettison? The Western Massachusetts country drives in the afternoon? Yes. But the work habits? Probably not. Definitely not. Me, I don’t have work habits anymore – not of the intellectual-creative kind – because no one seems interested in my work. (Only domestic drudgery – ’cause it keeps things comfortable.) And that’s killing me, in a manner of speaking. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle I need to bust out of.

For now, though, it’s time to bust out the snow shovels – and by Monday, probably-definitely the snow thrower. It snowed some more, will snow some more, and by Monday we may see another blizzard. E. is supposed to fly into Newark at 5pm on Monday, continuing to Portland Maine around 8pm. I wonder how that’s going to go… I wonder how much friction Edith Wharton felt, living here, in this climate, or whether her wealth and standing isolated her from a lot of that? I doubt she ever in her life had to scrape ice off a car or shovel a sidewalk. Her frictions were different, of a social and standing quality.

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