Looking for the right questions

I am at my desk in my nook and the thin film of ice on the pink strawberry mochi ice cream on a small black plate next to the laptop looks too pretty to eat. Most of the neighbors are still away judging by the empty parking lot. All I hear is the steady grumble of the refrigerator, the return of the nagging tapping drip in the ceiling now that it is cold enough for the steam radiator to switch on, the familiar click click of the keyboard, the plastic rustling and crunching coming from the other room where my husband is likely snacking on packets of almonds while assembling his latest project. After breakfast we went for a walk and some errands. Carrying the groceries, we remarked how funny it is that we always seem to be on our way towards our next meal. I find myself either eating, washing or drying dishes, eating again, and in between gathering provisions.

The sky was pale grey today, like a clean sheet of paper. The few remaining leaves clung to the wet branches and everything stood still, waiting for the snow. I started the laundry and decided to go out again and listen to an audio book on my phone. It helps to settle my nerves and become one with the places I call home. I took deep breaths and the cold air cleared my mind. I saw the little round woman in the ankle length coat and the red hat with the black fur trim leaning on the green postal relay box, holding an open book with yellowed pages in one hand and puffs of smoke rose from the cigarette held in the other. I see her often, with her back against the thick oak tree, or standing by the shrubs on the sidewalk, always with a book and a cigarette, or swaying side to side with the strained steps of a shaggy brown dog.

I swerved around people carrying shopping bags, the gathering crowd outside the reopened movie theater, the bulky strollers, the window shoppers. People were sitting inside the warm glow in the French cafe. A couple by the window were seated with their elbows on the table and the woman tilted her head to the side and smiled without showing her teeth. There are gigantic round holiday lights draped on a tree and I stood for a moment, just looking at them and the electric wires stretched out in the sky like a tightrope. 

I have been aching to write but the truth is I have been writing. I finished my journal and started a new one this week. Starting a new notebook is always a big deal for me because it is like moving after making yourself at home. It's hard to put the finished one away even though there is no more room for me in it. I keep picking it up from my nightstand and caressing its black leatherette cover, opening it at random and quickly scanning a page. The best writing experience I had this fall is an online memoir writing class I was lucky to take. It has been something I look forward to every week, cozying up with a warm cup of red cherry tea under the desk light and sharing personal stories with strangers. The last session is next Thursday and I am grateful to have had this experience and will miss it immensely. 

I've learned that substance comes from peeling away the layers. Daring yourself to go where you are uncomfortable is crucial, that is where you will find the questions. In personal writing, the answers are not that important. An answer is fluid but a question is like bone, the skeleton on which everything is built on. I've written down some of my childhood memories and in doing so, observed moments I hadn't noticed the first time around. When something holds importance we walk around it in circles, the hardest part is figuring out what that is and how to describe it. I keep asking questions because I don't want it to end. When I am not writing in my journal, or working on an essay, or reading, I am living my life and I am thinking about writing. 

We went for another walk in the evening and the wind caught us by surprise. I was holding my opened umbrella with both hands at my chest and let the wind steer it around in the other direction. I could feel the weight of the rain drops. Looking up at the lampposts, the rain drops transformed into featherweight flurries and slowed down time. They only existed for a brief moment in the street light and I was grateful I looked up. All I want to write is about how infinitely beautiful life is.


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