Diving Inspiration

shelley.wood-divingThe man has ventured out in the boat to find a salmon beneath the waves. The writer sits in pajamas at the window with her laptop on her knees, bidding the cedars, the sea, and the salt breeze to be her muse. The spaniel is bored. He gnaws halfheartedly at an orange canvas duck the humans bought for him and named Jemima, although he himself is unconcerned with names, his own included.

Maybe the neighbourhood bear will lumber past her window, which would at the very least be something to write about.

The man loves fishing, loves the collision of serendipity and skill. He’s content to be out in his borrowed boat, bobbing in the waves, thinking of — what? She doesn’t know. But she likes to imagine it, likes to think of the fisherman alone with his thoughts spooled out like fathoms of line with no clear sense of what might happen at the far end.

She’s happy that she, too, gets these quiet mornings to herself — writing time she calls it — an empty hour or two to stare out at the feathery trees and the battered dock bucking in the bay, willing the words to come. Never mind that all she has is scenery and exposition: no characters, no rising action, no conflict and dénouement. A flag snaps in a gathering wind. A canoe, moored on the dock next-door yanks at its rope as if it, too, is impatient for whatever comes next.

It’s not quite enough to fish without catching anything, just as it’s not entirely satisfactory to dabble in nouns and verbs and too many adjectives and have nothing solid to show for it. She knows writers who say they write only for themselves and don’t need to see anything, ever, in print. She envies them. If asked, the man will admit — it’s disappointing to mooch and troll, day after day, then come home with only sea legs and a sunburn.

So she sits and taps at her keyboard, rearranging phrases, pursuing precision and inspiration, seeking a sudden twist in the plot. The spaniel sighs deeply and settles into a dream that involves pursuit and adventure.

The wind is picking up, roiling the bay. She glances up from her screen to see if the fisherman is returning and sees the canoe, too, is tired of waiting. It has bobbed away from the neighbour’s dock and it takes the writer three words, maybe five to realize it has broken free. It is jolting northward in the waves towards the rocky outcrop. It is gaining speed. The wind is bundling in the hull, chuckling about the trick it is playing, hurrying the canoe along.

There is scarcely time to peel off pajamas, and a lesser story if she hadn’t. The would-be writer is stripped and out the door, descending the steps and racing tenderfooted down the pebbled path to the bobbing dock, the dog inside roused into an ecstatic soundtrack of staccato barks, muffled entirely by the cold water that rushes into her ears, rushes around her lazy limbs as she dives.

If nothing else, she’ll have this for the fisherman when he comes back empty-handed.