"If a scene isn't working, try adding some rain." —Michael Ondaatje
1. Make toast, and slather it with some of your Aunt Nola's seedy raspberry jam.
2. Listen to the Labeque sisters playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on two pianos. Try reading the liner notes in French.
3. Work into your writing the snatch of conversation you overheard yesterday on the corner of Main and Second: "The first Sunday of the month is always Pug day in San Francisco." A chance meeting between two bangled owners of Pugs.
4. Decide for yourself whether the Anasazis were cannibals.
5. Take this opportunity to put away four or five of the pairs of shoes which you've taken off and left by the door the same way your mother does—though she, of course, has more doors.
6. Put on your favorite cashmere sweater, and see if you think its color is closest to
· soft powdered Egyptian blue (pigment ground into tree resin)
· the blue robe of a Renaissance saint (lapis lazuli incorporated into viscous oils and honey, wrapped in a cloth and kneaded)
· the blue of a Pompeian fresco excavated from ash (sand and copper, baked)
· partly cloudy Constable blues
· the blue of one of the Auguste Macke watercolors in Tunis—Woman on a Street, maybe, or View of a Mosque without the camels
7. Do not think about how there is no light in the day, about the general failure of light in winter, which is what you hate about it most of all—or start to wonder if it's maybe your own failure that has brought you to these lonely precincts of rain.
8. From the top shelf with its dusty lip (which you really ought to do something about but probably won't), pull out Michael Ondaatje's poem Tin Roof, knowing he's talking about one of those tin roofs on the Big Island of Hawaii, perennially rusted, which the hard warm tropical rain runs down and down. The refrain goes
(Do you want
to be happy and write?)
And again, stanzas later,
are you happy?
The quiet answer,
No I am not happy
9. Try to figure out what year it was, that day in Yellowstone, at Lake Lodge, late in August, with the rain skeining outside all afternoon turning to big wet flakes of snow (the passes closed by midnight), the day your father taught you how to play ping-pong in the chilly cavernous room made of yellow knotty pine. "Hold the paddle like a soup spoon," he said. Astonished to discover that you didn't know that silverware could be held any other way than overhand, the way toddlers hold it, gripped in a fist. You must have been nine or ten by then, precocious only child, and your father, the age you are now. Together at the kitchen table every day for lunch and supper, though in the morning he'd play solitaire and never talk to anyone until he'd had the best part of a pot of coffee, black, and two pieces of toast. Then off to shave; and then he'd talk again, and the day began.