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What I Did Over the Summer, or Path Building for Writers

September 8, 2014

Photo on 9-8-14 at 9.00 AM A stone path catches a late-summer glance from my window. Cobbled and rustic with stones both uniform and rare, the walk is exponentially better than the sad ditch that was tamped before the door only a few months ago.

I am in a pensive mood: summer splashes in a shallow pool as the pressures of teaching and writing mount like the elongated tusk of a carpenter ant whose shadow crawls across the sill in search of sugar and curtains.

I built that path out there beyond the window. It took a lot of hard work and precious stone handling, but I got through it. You might even say I enjoyed myself (minus one broken finger and innumerable scrapes and bruises). It was a project, an ordeal, and an experience so full its “lesson potential” could be described as nothing short of luxurious.

path under construction

They used to make us all write essays at the start of every new school year, taking account of our summers and ourselves. The point was that any full experience awaits a harvest.  Having passed from the luscious immediacy of real life into the vague interiors of memory, the things you did over the summer could yet be distilled into a spirit worth drinking.

Writing and reflection. Together, they’re 100 proof.

brick pathAt night, the path swallows moonshine. And nothing swills more noon sun than these granite appetites, brick-tongued pavers, shale-wavers, sand-cravers all!

Photo on 9-8-14 at 9.59 AM

The grass has grown less shy of its stone neighbors. Their woody toes curl in those cold sheets.  Lessons  about community pass from blades to edges, sharing veins.

In the beginning I sketched the design of the path onto paper. Then I etched that image into the earth one stone at a time, adjusting as I went, attending to every heavy stitch but ever mindful of the whole of my rough quilt.

These strategies are as familiar to me as the smell of gypsum in the cracks.

Here’s hoping the lesson withstands the experience, which is another name for weather after all, a clima, swollen (as all living and doing is in the end) with frost and heave.

6 Comments
  1. Thanks for telling us about your summer’s labor. This summer I learned to use a chainsaw and I’ve been building my woodpile (as opposed to buying wood) one carefully planned cut at a time. Your line, “… an experience so full its ‘lesson potential’ could be described as nothing short of luxurious.” describes my situation so perfectly, it made me catch my breath for a split second.

  2. Beautiful post! You have a lovely way of putting things: the less shy grass, the woody toes, and this: “At night, the path swallows moonshine. And nothing swills more noon sun than these granite appetites, brick-tongued pavers, shale-wavers, sand-cravers all!” Gorgeous!

  3. Michael Andreoni permalink

    Beautiful job. imagining the work you put in has my joints aching, but some pains are worth it.

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