Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On Focus

Physical labor seems, sometimes, to create a mental state similar to that which can be entered through the act of writing. Tuesday, I was working on the southeast porch roof -- filling in where earlier construction workers had left gaps between sheets of plywood, and cutting out one rectangle of soft plywood that was still moist from the last snow-melt and rains, for replacement. Not having scraps of quarter-inch plywood, I looked around my supplies and settled on an old tobacco lath as being perfect for this minor task. I sawed it into short lengths and nailed the results in place.

This being former tobacco-growing country, the leftovers of that type of agriculture are still to be found at garage sales and auctions, hereabouts.

All that done, I rolled out some of the tar paper that I have been picking up at auctions against the arrival of exactly this task.

Afterwards, wearied and well-warmed by the activity, I was playing idly with Lorna in the yard. At one point I noticed how absorbed I was in looking fixedly at one spot in the grass -- not a special spot but simply one that with its tangle of brown and green grass blades and with its background colors of the soil presented the eye with a natural composition. The clarity and detail in the bright sunlight; the combination of order and disorder: it held me so that I was sitting and intently looking; and the rest of me was tired enough that it simply complied with that absorption, that overpowering focus. The focus removed me from the rest of my surroundings.

That absorbed state is not one to aim for, in writing. I imagine it is one of those targets you can only miss if you take aim. It seems instead to be state you may enter, after having applied yourself year in and year out to your task.

Cheers ...

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