Refilling the Well

“You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted. Begin again the story of your life.”  Jane Hirshfield


My last post here was an outpouring of grief. I’d just lost my beloved cat, Camille, a loss that stops me cold in quiet moments. But in her death was the grace and necessity of catharsis, for in the mourning of that sweet creature, I released the grief of other losses, regrets, and pain: my marriage, my mother, my miscarriages, even of friends who fell away when my personal storms blew the satellite models of normalcy to hell.


I resurfaced in the midst of grief, still surrounded by it, but no longer carried away in its current.


At some point I wandered away from social media, without intention (I feel frissons of Fremdscham when people announce on Facebook that they are taking a Facebook break; I imagine someone loudly announcing their departure in the middle of a crowded party. The room goes silent for a second, then there is a collective shrug, a turning away, and the cacophony resumes at a higher intensity, uncaring and annoyed). I’ve felt strongly the need to reserve my energy and thoughts for my work, to preserve my words. At the same time, my reading picked up pace, resuming its former, pre-marriage-ending levels when my concentration was intact: two, three novels a week. I wondered if I were procrastinating—all this reading of others’ work instead of focusing on my own—but I realized this too was part of the work, as it ever has been. I am refilling the well. Reading, writing reviews, brought me to the page in the first place. The more I fill my soul with sentences and phrases that make it sing, the more I have to work with. The more I write. First comes the necessary stillness, then the slow trickle of ideas that become words that become a story.


It’s been nearly three years since I’ve given myself over with abandon to new characters, although our time together is only so many stolen moments—in the stillness of early morning, a warm late afternoon at water-view beer garden picnic table; a sleepy Sunday in the backyard as the dryer vents out heated air…


I’ve written through three weeks without a laptop, after mine died and I waited for the replacement to travel from mainland China to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Alaska, Kentucky (?), Seattle and finally my front door. I indulged in new notebooks, copying passages from Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, scribbling story ideas while researching news articles on my phone.


I can’t recall when I stumbled across the Hirshfield line, “How fragile we are, between the few good moments.” Yet there it is, in a scene of my new novel, clumsily recited by Ben to Kate, who lets him ramble on, unaware the line isn’t his, and frankly, not caring. She’s not a poetry fan. She slips away from the reading a few minutes later, muttering something about a bad oyster in the ear of her friend Gina, who dragged her to the event. It’s Kate’s fragile moments I am exploring, even as mine become anecdotes in a larger life.

6 thoughts on “Refilling the Well

  1. Beautiful post Julie.
    The last two years I have been in semi-hibernation mode from social media. Sometimes you just need to shut off the online world. So I know exactly how you are feeling.
    Love that you’re working on something new. Wishing you many sweet moments of discovery as you get to know your new characters.
    And now I’m going to have to add Jane Hirshfield to my TBR shelf.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been going through something similar. I certainly envy you your reading time, but I have found that shutting off all the distractions has been a very welcome relief. Simply deleting the Facebook app from my phone has made me so much happier. Instead of spending my spare minutes looking for distraction, I turn to the page instead. It has been a very productive summer working on my 3-years-in-progress novel. My evenings are quieter and so much more restful and fulfilling, even with all the madness of my life.


    • Mae, I wish you continued peace and pages. My partner and I were discussing last night about the possibility of disconnecting from the internet entirely at home- no wifi, no cable- whatever I needed to do online I could save up for an afternoon at the library or cafe. I got giddy just thinking about the mental and emotional freedom… could happen… 🙂


  3. Julie, every line you write reveals a truth in utter rawness – “the anecdotes in ia larger life.” You make me evaluate my own life, how I’ve neglected my writing to wallow in my grief and regrets, sallow excuses to flee the responsibility of pressing forward to seek publication. Change may be inevitable but I stagnate in this dark corner. So I thank you for introducing me to Jane Hirshfield and for the nudge to my rear. I can’t fix my life, but I can fix my work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sharon, I treasure your comment. I’m working through that stagnation, as well, and how it feels to give myself permission to wallow for awhile, to rest and absorb. Be gentle with yourself, your grief, and know that your words await when your heart is ready.


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