Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing.
I realized a few weeks ago that this website was in need of an overhaul and I’ve been working on some much needed revision ever since. So far this hasn’t been a quick process. Projects and tasks that also must be done tend to fill up the daytime hours which more or less leaves me the option of writing at night.
Ordinarily I don’t mind working through the small hours. I’ve always been a “night owl” and have gotten some of my best creative work done between four and six in the morning. Distractions are few and the neighborhood is as quiet then as New York is going to get – outside a bank vault. I’m not sure if it’s the peace and quiet and lack of distraction or if I truly am a nocturnal animal, but when most sensible responsible souls are snug abed renewing and recharging for the next grueling New York day my mind snaps to attention, my focus is laser-sharp and I get a hell of a lot done. Inspiration sparks much more readily for me in the middle of the night and creativity unfurls from wherever in my mind it gets stuffed in the daytime. It rolls out and opens as gracefully as a fiddlehead fern in the Spring. When this happens, I become perfectly oblivious to everything except the creative work at hand. Time stops and no longer has meaning.
The problem here is that it DOESN’T stop. Time flows majestically on as mighty as the Nile and the next thing I’m aware of is that it is now broad daylight. I may have gotten in a good deal of satisfying work during the little hours but now I’m faced with the extremely distasteful fact that I must now somehow get through the work day coherently and without resting my head on my keyboard. No amount of Earl Grey makes this prospect more attractive. I just have to drag through and this is bad. Especially since the situation is often further exacerbated by my working through most of the next night. And the one after that.
Then I find myself caught in the vortex of a seriously Vicious Cycle of Creative Insomnia which can all too easily lead on – I am told by qualified professionals – to a condition termed “Circular Insanity”. This I certainly don’t need. What I do need is a nap.
I could also greatly benefit from an off switch for my brain. This cycle of creative insomnia usually begins because once my brain is going, I can’t seem to shut it down. I try hard enough. I turn off the light, tuck myself in and crank up the volume
on Sounds of Nature: Thundering Waterfall to mask any racket coming from outside the building. I am just drifting off when suddenly some random thought explodes like fireworks and I’m instantly wide awake. This is precisely what happened night before last when I found myself wide-eyed as a marigold at five AM skimming info I’d written on each perfume to see what needed to be revised or rewritten.
And that’s when I discovered that somewhere along the line, my original text for 103: Memory of Kindness had gotten replaced with a seriously truncated version I have absolutely zero memory of writing myself. Any further chance of sleeping that night was then blasted to Hell when I checked my archive file and found that any copy of whatever I’d originally written had completely disappeared. I began revising at once.
Memory of Kindness is a perfume most important to me. Of course I love its scent and I wear it often when the weather turns warm. But the true reason I hold this perfume so dear to my heart is that it now and always represents to me my very favorite Aunt. It is impossible for me to smell tomato leaves without also seeing her quiet smile. This lady has been a major part of my life since my earliest memory. She is the woman who – inadvertently but still most profoundly – first demonstrated to me the enormous power scent has to convey emotion and suddenly change it for the better. Far more importantly, in the simplest fashion possible she has proven herself over and over to be the kindest, most loving and accepting woman I have ever met.
This perfume is about her. And the fact that somehow how all mention of this very special woman had been eradicated from what I’d originally written about the perfume seemed to me an intolerable injustice and one that I would immediately correct.
And so I did.
I wrote through the rest of that night and finished tinkering with the text the next afternoon.
I know full well my revision isn’t exactly like the original. It doesn’t matter. After hours of tinkering and revising, I managed to capture and express all I’d originally intended – the indelible memory of one shining moment when I braced myself for anger and punishment but instead was met with her beautiful smile and her gentle, loving nature. That was the moment I first felt true absolute kindness. Every child should be so very fortunate.
So I encourage you to read the now complete story when you have a moment. The scent of fresh tomato leaves may well not be for you. But the memory of kindness is.