Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Muse

My Muse - John

Last Sunday before the Super Bowl, I was poking around in the bookcase, looking for something to read until kickoff, when I spotted an old favorite, Bill Moyers'  The Language of Life . Bill and his friends are always good for a few minutes or more, of entertainment.  In this case it was more, much more.  And, it wasn't a poem that grabbed me.  It was a comment that Carolyn Forche made to Bill Moyers in their conversation before her poetry was showcased.  She said:

"I took advice from Flannery O'Connor who said you must take it seriously and sit down every day before your writing table and wait for the Muse to come.  If you don't keep your appointment, the Muse goes over to the next writer's house and gives that writer the ideas."

I read that and I thought of Caleb Pirtle, a writer friend who often talks about his Muse. Caleb talks about him so much he now has a bunch of his friends doing it.  I'm going to be honest about this, now, I thought it was just a bunch of bull.  Well, maybe not a bunch of bull, more like a gimmick, a hook, a writer's trick to keep your attention on the page.  That's what I was thinking when I read the highlighted quote.

I thought about it through the first quarter and then BLAM, SLAM, another thought crashed in... Just because you haven't met your Muse is no reason to think Caleb doesn't know and work with his.  With that thought still playing, another one slipped into the room... a question actually, "Are you going to be here when John gets here?"

You probably don't know this, but that was the catch line to a comedy routine made famous by Brother Dave Gardner on his 1959 album, Rejoice Dear Heart.  I had it on a 78 rpm record and played it until my mother knew the stories as well as Dave and me.  You can listen to the original recording here, but before you go, let me tell you what happened next.

I played the comedy routine through in my mind a few times as Peyton Manning and Cam Newton did their things, and suddenly, I got it when IT knocked me off the sofa and onto the floor - IT can do that to you, you know?

Like bother Dave's character, James Lewis, I hadn't stayed around long enough for my Muse to show up.  With that in mind, I reread what Flannery O'Connor said, "If you don't keep your appointment, the Muse goes over to the next writer's house and gives that writer the ideas."

I pitched a fit right there.  Caleb had two Muses.  Mine and his.  The nerve of that southern living Texan.  I calmed a bit, and Flannery whispered in my ear, "Honey, you were the one who didn't wait.  Your Muse had to go somewhere with those ideas."

I straightened and said, "Will he come to me If I go back and wait?"

She laughed, "Sweetie, we can't know that until you go back and wait."

With a toss of her head, Flannery left.  At halftime Denver was leading and I was waiting.  A tiny little bit of inspiration came floating in and asked, "Are you going to be here when John gets here."

I tossed it aside and said, I'll be here.

The halftime show ended, and the third quarter started the way the second had ended.  The door to my mind creaked open, and Travis McGee came in with an idea for a blog.  He explained it.  I told him I liked it, and he stood to leave.  As he turned toward the door, he asked, "Are you gong to be here when John gets here?"

"I'm not going to miss that," I said.  Travis left.

The fourth quarter started, and I began to believe that Denver might beat the odds and win the Super Bowl.  That's when my mind's door slammed open again.  This time two big guys and a dog they call Buddha came running into the room. I knew them.  Malcolm and Sawyer and their dog, Buddha, from my novel in progress, Moon on Water.  "It's time to get back to the book," Sawyer said, then he gave me an idea that took away the block that had kept me from the project for more than a month.

I jumped up, and started for the computer, when I remembered I was waiting for my Muse.

Malcolm laughed and said, "It looks like you're planning to be here when John gets here?"

I nodded and looked at Buddha who was sitting on the floor staring at me.  I asked him,  "John is my Muse isn't he?"

The big dog barked and the three left.  I watched Peyton Manning and 21 friends close out Carolina.

An hour or so later, still lying on the sofa, I felt a tremor in the air and looked across the room at the big easy chair.  John, a little out of breath, but with a beautiful smile on his bearded face, was sitting there, staring at me.

You're John aren't you?" I asked.

"That's right."

"John, according to the pictures and the mythology, you're supposed to be a topless woman."

"I don't do mythology," he said, through that pleasant, all-knowing grin.  "I'm your Muse."

I've been waiting for you."

"I know.  I got caught in traffic."

"What traffic?" I asked.

He smiled wider.  "The traffic in your head.  The traffic that, until now, has kept you from waiting long enough to meet me."

He cocked his head to one side, listened intently, then said, "Good. It's cleared out now. Let's go to work."