Since waking, I've been at work in wondrous ways that nonetheless seem to bring me no closer to cleaning my desk. I'm sipping a drink (seltzer, gin, and the juice of one orange) and banging away at the typewriter creating even more paper. I had hoped to clear things away.
I read a friend's fourteen pages, wrote a note to her, then wrote about all of that and was able to recycle all those pages. I read and tweeted about a tremendous New York Times piece recommending spider webs then recycled those three pages. I typed a letter to a friend and recycled several pages and envelopes he had sent. I typed that letter on the backs of an article I wanted to send him, thus relieving the desk of two more sheets. I sorted all the mail into the bin and the bill holder.
At this point I expected to feel as though I had gotten somewhere but the desk seemed about as swamped as before. I still have the print of a Dani Shapiro article here. I've read the piece but feel like there's something to write about it. And the clock needs a battery. I take the dead battery to the basement, add it to the recycling, grab a fresh battery, notice the laundry basket, find the clothes still damp, clear the lint trap, and start the dryer again. Upstairs I install the battery and set the clock realizing how long I've been distracted. My desk is still a mess.
There are three sticky notes on my paper planner. The first is a quote about meditation. I used half the quote in my newsletter but the other half feels useful too. I shake my head and drop the note in the bin. The second note, about the business of writing, something I need to learn, has been stuck to the planner for three weeks. It mocks me. The last is an idea for a blog post or a book chapter. I should make time to write that but first the desk.
I'm far enough into this piece and into clearing my desk to wonder if there's any point to either of them. I'm suspicious of lessons learned but sure of the virtues of a clear desk. I feel very far from any kind of wisdom.
After that paragraph I shelved three books that had been behind the typewriter. A fourth book caught my attention and I started the introduction before remembering the two books I'm already reading. A third will grind everything to a halt. I've started a to-read list. It's eight books long and I wonder if it was better to forget books I wanted to read. I rarely ran out of reading material and the list already weighs on my mind.
I'm not going to clear the desk. I'll admit to that. Father forgive me for I have sinned. As soon as I clear it I'll find more paper to save if only for a while. These are ideas. These are possibilities. I'm not ready to let them go just yet nor am I able to attend to all of them. Days like today I pick and choose.
There's a quote from that Dani Shapiro article:
Had Jane Kenyon (or Virginia Woolf for that matter) lived long enough to be told to build a Twitter platform, she might have resisted. She might — as many of us do — have found ways to build a fortress around herself, a cathedral of peace and silence. She would have emerged from that cathedral...only in her own time, and at her own bidding.
I've been at this work for six hours. The desk is still cluttered with paper, pens, a typewriter. The shelf next to it is a mess of paper, books, my planner, and a folder I hoped would organize things. It turns out I've built a fortress of paper that is not a cathedral of peace but might be a temple of ideas. I rise from the chair and genuflect to the desk onto which I will now add this sheet, one more piece of paper that might be a leaf from the tree of wisdom. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"