Monday, January 7, 2013

Neighborhood Spy Association

January 7, 2013 – Neighborhood Spy Association

I spend my days spying on the neighbors, and sometimes I write. My desk is set up in the front room and I have three windows to watch from—one of which gives me a splendid view of the bus stop. There’s endless watching to be had there. When I’m not focused on the young things dancing under the bus stop’s rain cover, the old man who looks like a down-and-out Santa, the dark headed girl who always walks by in the afternoon with her head bent over her fancy phone and her fingers moving fast, the camo dressed and army booted girl who makes her way past at the same time each day, the homeless guy who carries all his things on his bike including his dog, and the school bus that comes in the afternoon to discharge its young charges the house across the street gets my nearly undivided attention. A lot of activity goes on over there. Throughout the day the mysterious neighbors receive a barrage of packages and an uncanny number of visitors (some bearing packages going in, others carrying bulging wallets going in and coming out again). The man of the house, a T-shirt wearing, long bearded creature, leaves for short periods each day in his dusky blue car always returning with new and size-varied packages. I decide they’re drug dealers and not very subtle about it. Later on, when I’m giving my theories to my friend she reminds me that she’d told me they’re glassblowers. Suddenly, the six foot tall bag of green Styrofoam peanuts makes a lot more sense. I’d spent half my day trying to come up with a good theory on why drug dealers needed all that packing material (and come up sadly (for a fiction writer) blank). I spend the second half of the day trying to decide if I’m thrilled or disappointed to know the truth. 

When I’m not sleeping or spying on the neighbors I go and wash the dishes or chop vegetables or bake scones or follow the cat around the house to see if she has food (she lies about this a lot) or to turn the upstairs bathroom sink on at just the right level for her to drink (she prefers running water to still). The Cat has wasted no time in training me to do her bidding (she thinks I’ve moved in to serve her). Apparently I’m a sucker for providing creature comforts (the Cat is probably right), or I just want an excuse to leave my desk.  

I feel I’m doing surprisingly well in this rainy environment. For instance, I’ve been here weeks and have yet to succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder. I even get out once a week or so to walk to the store whether or not it’s raining. Despite my belief that Oregon never has a dry moment, it’s not all dreary and grim and the perpetual duskiness of the Northwest is occasionally broken up by fifteen minutes or so of completely clear blue sky and sunshine before the clouds roll in from west and take the sky back over. During those brief moments of brilliance I drop whatever I’m doing (I’m not immune from my solar dependency after all) and rush outside to turn my face sunward. 

It’s a simple existence and I revel in it.

Here in Springfield all day feels like breakfast time until dinner time comes along and then it feels like bedtime. Each day seems comfortably the same. I settle into a beautiful routine.

Day after day after day.

But it’s not all spy games and jet lag recovery, I do actually get work done. I revise my novel again cleaning up the language and dialogue, and then send out twenty-six queries to agents. I start the research for my next project and agonize over if JFK will be a part of the story or not (he keeps jumping in willy-nilly). I start the book from four different points of views and reject each opening with artistic temperamental disgust. To cover my anguish and the despair that perhaps I’m not a writer after all, I have conversations with my friend and/or the Cat about plot structure, hummingbird tears, gift theory, Derrida, Aztec sacrifices, strategic essentialism, and insane forgiveness. 

The house is cozy, inviting, friendly. There are books on the shelves I’ve been wanting to read. There’s easy companionship with my friend. The only places I really need to go are within walking distance. I could stay here forever. I threaten this several times. My friend doesn’t seem overly alarmed and the Cat thinks it probably a good idea to keep the trained help around.
It’s the kind of life I’ve always dreamed about. The perfect place for a reclusive writer to live. How could I go wrong with cats, spiders (there are a lot of them--mostly outside), interesting neighbors and the best vantage point for spying on them?

Maybe every perfect thing comes at a price. The price for me to stay here is too high; my body betrays me to the barometric pressure, and the arthritis I’ve kept at delicate bay for the past several years asserts itself in fury.

Ah pain, my old distracting friend. I cannot in any kind of honesty say, “Well met.” But I can take each day as it comes. I can delight in this place. I can be happy in the sun or the rain. I can take it slow and easy. Of course, I can also spy on all who venture past my three windows and, as always, I can struggle along with words.

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