The morning after a rain is one of my favorite times. It’s like the world has cleansed itself, rinsed away the heat and dust of summer and put on a new shirt. Everything is relaxed, refreshed and ready for whatever comes next. Life is filtered through a fresh perspective on days like this; anything is possible and the world is new and shiny – nothing is quite as bright rain-soaked grass in the morning.
It’s been a long, dry summer. We needed rain that never quite seemed to come – at least not like we needed it to. Summers like this remind us how connected we are to our environment; they remind us how fragile everything can be.
But then the rain comes, and reminds us how resilient we are; the summer was long, the rain short-lived, but it’s enough to refresh us, to keep us going. And now, with this first, crisp taste, relief is in sight. As long, hot and dry as the summer days have been, very soon they will evaporate into the mists of cool Autumn air.
Today I was thinking about a place that I barely remember. It’s not that the memories themselves are hazy; there are just so few of them. I grew up in a very small town in the middle of Indiana farm land. You might say it’s a town that time forgot, but these days time has a better memory than it used to.
It’s the same town where my father spent his boyhood. Dad grew up in the 60s; and by the time I was in grade school, the town he knew had become a shadow of itself. But even in shadow, some silhouettes are more clearly defined than others; and in our small town, there were edges that had not yet completely blurred into the dark mass we call what used to be.
Ruch’s Confectionary was one of those edges – a long, tall building with heavy, creaking doors and display windows stuffed with toys, games and advertising displays that had gone out of date ten years ago. The “Open” sign was only turned occasionally, whenever Mrs. Ruch felt like being there.
Dad used to talk about taking a break from his paper route to sit in Ruch’s and drink an ice cold Coca Cola and eat a bag of barbecue chips. It sounded like heaven. So, one summer day, I decided to take a break from my own paper route and enjoy a Coke and a snack. The open sign was turned – Mrs. Ruch was in and I was in luck.
I pushed the door open with both hands and sauntered to the soda counter. Sitting on an old high stool I gazed around and took in the shelves that ran floor to ceiling. They were packed solid with merchandise I barely recognized. Trinkets, games and toys lined the walls and even fell onto the floor; the smell of mildew stung the air and I felt as if I was trespassing time itself.
I sat and waited for Mrs. Ruch to make her way to the counter and wondered if I was allowed to be here. I felt as if I had stepped into a scene never written for me; I was a stranger in time. I had no business here. Almost as a protest, I ordered a Coca Cola and a bag of chips when Mrs. Ruch shuffled in from the back room. I sat in silence and tried to imagine what it must have been like before the air went stale – before the life began to slowly fade into the shadows. ¶
I don’t have the foggiest clue what this is going to be about. This happens to me sometimes, I just start writing with no idea what’s going to come of it. It’s like jumping in the car with no idea where you might end up. You just take off – windows down, radio up, speeding off into an overused metaphor.
I’ve often found myself comparing writing with driving; and, for some reason, when I write I really do feel like I’m moving. Perhaps it’s the sense of adventure I get when I start putting words together – I see these sentences and ideas taking shape and becoming something that didn’t exist seconds ago. Suddenly, I’m swept away into this world of my own invention. It’s a place populated by my imagination; nothing and no one is here without an invitation. My mind races through this brand new world of its own accord, carrying me along for the ride.
I write a lot of fiction – short stories, a play, I’ve even tried my hand at screen writing. I’d start writing, usually in the evening, and, often, I wouldn’t stop until dawn. As I worked, I’d find myself pushing back from the desk, standing up to stare at the computer screen from a different angle. I’d pace the room with my fingers in my hair, reading a print out of the last few pages, so excited about what would happen next that I could barely sit still long enough to write it.
Needless to say, it took a lot of energy to finish a project.
I’ve found that creativity is almost a possession; the work takes over, and you’re not your own again until it’s done. For better or worse, you’re bound to culminate the idea or it will never let you be. It may sound a little scary, but it’s the biggest thrill in the world.
So, when I sit down to write with no idea what’s going to happen, it’s electric. I know I’m in for the ride of my life and there’s no telling where I’ll end up.