Unravelling All Around

The terror, and necessity, of starting over

In the movie “Dances with Wolves” Kevin Costner plays Lt. Dunbar, sent to a remote fort in the midst of Indian country. On his way there, he and his driver Timmons come upon the skeletal remains of a settler killed by an arrow. Timmons, perpetually coarse, can’t help himself. “Someone back East is saying, ‘Why don’t he write?’ ”

I have asked myself that same question the last few months regarding my blog. Why don’t I write? What is stopping me? How do I explain the silence? I can’t point to an overly busy schedule, though I am spending more time with grandkids and loving it. I can’t blame it on the weather, even though I’ve lived in Minnesota more than 30 years and should be good at making that the excuse.

Sometimes we need silence. In the world, in our lives, in our hearts. A quiet place where the noises are muted and we can be still and listen.

Last night I was reading about murmurations, the phenomenon where massive numbers (think thousands) of birds in migration pattern the sky with unusual shape shiftings as they bend and turn in synchronicity toward their destination. Besides the roar they reportedly make, so many throated creatures clamoring together, they are continually changing while staying essentially the same. And who isn’t pondering the unravelling in Paris and Beirut, Mali and San Bernardino, events that make me wonder if the world itself isn’t coming undone.

I thought I was close to finishing a revision, even announcing as much to some and daring to think beyond. In a moment of quiet, brought on as much by a sudden lack of confidence as by the world’s horrors, I heard a voice, one that had been trying for some time to offer me a different structure, a better way in. Finally I listened. As if I needed fifty thousand winged creatures moving across the sky or bullets tearing flesh and air to get my attention. I finally listened to the persistent voice. “And what about you, Lenore? When are you going to step forward and speak?”

Maybe this is what unravelling yields. Out of the chaos we begin to assemble the pieces in their right order. We resolve that what we believe, who we love, the words we choose, are more important than ever. That is what we have to lean on.

It is a terrifying thing to start over. To take a manuscript I’ve labored on for two years and see it again as different colored threads, not a nearly finished garment. It has left me, temporarily, at a loss for words. Unravelling the strands of narrative, forcing open scenes, reimagining the chronology has forced me to ask, Is this who I am? Is this what I am trying to say? Is this what I believe?

If to any of these questions the answer is no, then we aren’t ready to dare something different.

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