An ice warning in Austin, Texas puts me in a pensive mood. Although sometimes the school delays and road closings come with local portents of the dangers abroad (a skateably icy sidewalk or at least pervasive, wailing sirens), more frequently the danger afoot comes only through ethereal channels, usually crash reports via the Internet. Perhaps it’s this uneasy contrast between the apparent and the emotional realms that makes me overeager to search for allegories in the mundane details of my life, as though finding and cementing links between defined and ill-defined things makes the world more sensible to my caveman brain, the brain that finds that my unease at clear walkways a frustration building to a prehistoric hissy-fit.
Case in point: in order to start writing these words this morning I had to clear my desk of books, papers, and an inordinate weight of piddly crap. This is because my office has become one of many casualties in my wife’s war against the organization of our apartment. Her aim is to match the drawers, shelves, and cabinets to the contours of her mind, contours which shift like sand in an hourglass upended at the end of every day. So the battle is one of guerrilla warfare, where the lines are redrawn at will, the enemy is ever-changing, and those that stand still for even a moment will be destroyed or at best used for cover from suppressing fire.
And my desk has certainly been at a standstill for more than just a moment. It’s been a few weeks since I first announced the temporary hiatus of my independent game, and in the interim I’ve started a new job, marched right into end-of-project overtime, and generally found reasons to do everything but sit down by myself. And so my desk, the supposed font of my creative work, sits under mountains of junk. And, in the spirit of an Austin ice warning, I start thinking about a fallow field, overgrown with brambles. A responsibility neglected. A fertile, hard-won cultivation returned to craggy weeds and sprouted spores.
Which of course offends me artistically, because although it personifies my guilt well enough, it’s a rotten fucking metaphor for my creative process. Instead I have to recall a sunflower that in my childhood sprang up unbeckoned and unplanted in the middle of our front lawn. It towered over the yard, standing over 4 feet tall, swiveling, as its ilk are known to do, to face the sun as it arced across the sky. It was an anomaly in the landscape of our house, but nobody in the family was so miserably sensible to cut it down in its prime. At least, not until its wide face, ripened with the brevity of a flower’s lifespan and bristling with seeds, bent over with the weight of its new wisdom. That was when we rent its head from its stalk, pounded out the seeds, and devoured them roasted with salt. And then we waited, hungry for another visitor, as we continued to trim the grass in the smooth expanse of the lawn.
Which again, is a pretty shit metaphor. Maybe the conceit of the field was a bit pompous, but at least it didn’t count out the work required to make yourself fertile for those errant seeds. And both ideas convey waste, whether through neglect, or through expressing and consuming one’s art by gobbling up that sunflower. And wouldn’t it have been just as big a waste to let the sunflower topple over, it’s bounty unspent? Or maybe its seeds might take root and take over the goddamn lawn my parents spent so much time perfecting? Now I’m not sure if I’m thinking about the field or the flower, as they’re all muddled up. But either way, with all this guilt, and with all this moaning about the waste of unexpressed words, and despite considerable efforts to the contrary, I’m now thinking about the Bible.
Specifically I’m thinking of Onan, who spilled his seed upon the ground and was struck dead for it. Or more accurately, pulled out during copulation with his brother’s widow (over a complex matter of social hierarchy and inheritance that occurred to him at the moment of climax and not, somehow, before intercourse began), and ejaculated on the ground. And then God killed him, arguably because wasting the potential for life is wrong (although more likely because he disobeyed the concept of levirite union).
With my fallow field of a desk, bereft of the visitations of solitary sunflowers (or at least the opportunity to messily consume them), I had found myself of late walking around with ideas bustling within my head, protesting loudly for examination. And I’d been studiously ignoring them, knowing that following those threads to their conclusions would expend them, free them from the confines of my mind. And I was afraid of that. Afraid of blasting my precious elixir of brain juices without an appropriate canvas on which to spatter them so they might be displayed to the world. I was possessed with guilt, and arrogance at the wonder of my own excretions, and fear of the judgement of those that care what I do with my petty thoughts. Maybe, this was the waste. I had resigned myself to swell with my ideas, pushed to a throbbing, aching, maximum capacity. But what on earth did it matter if I blew my load into the quiet of my solitude, or worse yet, the unfeeling backside of the Internet blogosphere?
Which is exactly the kind of thought that leaves one blinking with surprise, like a black-out drunk waking up to unfamiliar, flower-print curtains. Exactly how did I get here, looking at my desk covered in junk? Maybe it’s possible that my frail and raw emotional mind is not perfectly described by a fallow field, a brilliant sunflower, or jerking off my brain. Maybe these are just ways that my poor caveman soul, burdened by the expression and consumption of a lifetime of books, fashions ways to cope with an invisible snow day in Austin, Texas.