The Next Chapter
This past autumn I had the blessed occasion to take a long walk with my kids, ages eleven and thirteen, in the wilds of Otter Creek State Forest, in the western Adirondack region of New York. This particular forest is about five hours north of where we live in the city, beyond the reach of our cell-phone provider, which afforded us a much-needed respite from the glare of screens both large and small. So it felt especially good to set off on foot, unencumbered, in search of nothing, or something, or everything, with only the sunlight in our eyes. After some time alone in the woods, our feet sweeping the fallen leaves with every step, we started making up a story—a dramatic tale with many chapters—so that every time we cleared a rise or entered a new stand of trees, the shadows lengthening across the forest floor, a new chapter began. “Chapter 1, in which our heroes set off on a long, uncertain journey,” my daughter said. “Chapter 2, in which our heroes grow tired but soldier on,” my son added some time later. “Chapter 3, in which our tale takes a dark turn,” I whispered, thrilling at each dramatic change in the landscape. We eventually wore ourselves out and headed back, but we never really finished the story. I suppose in some ways we’re still telling it.
I was reminded of our inspiring walk in the woods while reading some of the responses to questions we posed to writers for “Portraits of Inspiration”. In an outtake from his interview, Ross Gay wrote to me about his conception of a perfect writing day, which isn’t qualified by a word count: “It might be a couple of sentences, or it might be a couple of pages, or just a couple of words in a notebook or on an envelope before I go to sleep. Though reading can be a perfect writing day, as can walking slowly without apparent purpose.... It’s maybe extra perfect when you get to a little turn in the work, like walking along a creek in the woods and around the bend is a—pink!—dogwood tree waving at you. Which happens probably almost as often when I’m not writing as when I am.” Hanif Abdurraqib expands on this idea: “I feel charged with representing nothing in the world as small, nothing in the world as mundane. I have grown a deeper gratitude for the idea of production that isn’t entirely based on what I put on the page and more on how I honor the moments of living off the page.”
It’s a new year, a new chapter. In writing, in reading, in every step of your creative life, I wish you peace and productivity in all its many forms.