On the first March day to feel as if it has Spring tucked like a bouquet behind its back and is twitching to yank it out and surprise us, I take my bike from its winter den. A long hibernation: it has been in the basement leaning dolefully against the patio furniture since my stress fracture last Thanksgiving. The brakes protest against soft tires—an eerie, winnowing sound—as I roll it around the house and up the garden path to the driveway. I will do anything this weekend to coax my bobbing mind away from the current of hope and worry that has burbled through these past few weeks. I need to put my feet on pedals, outdoors. I need to get into some hills, breathing hard, thinking only about the crest of the next climb, or the next.
“What is your blog about?” a writer-friend asked me last night.
“Nothing,” I shrugged. “Anything. It’s about little everyday things, at home or away. Just a place to practice writing things down and getting them right. A word gym,” I said. “A place to try and get stronger.”
Only it hasn’t been, not lately. Ever since my injury last fall gifted me so much sedentary time, the long hours these fingers have spent at a keyboard have been for work or tapping out the fifth and final draft of my novel.
First I took it apart yet again, page-by-page, combing out anything I could bear to bid farewell. Then, we elected—my agent and I—to build it up again. In October and November, when the pain in my foot had me hobbling around on crutches, new characters waltzed in unexpectedly and struck up new conversations, shifting other parts of the story forwards or aft. Then in January, an about-face. Words and people and scenes were slashed out or conflated, twisted in new directions, tightened with a winch. And then there was the day when I pushed back from my desk with wonderment and certainty—this crazy project, I knew in my heart, had taken its true and final shape.
Or had it? Confidence, that fickle trickster, is melting away with winter. But I’ll know soon enough. It’s all coming to a head now, all these hours of work and worry. My novel is in the hands of publishers and the wait for a yes or a no is a constant fluttering under my ribs, a constriction in my throat. The agent has given them a deadline and the answers, she says, will be in next week.
I hunt frantically for distraction. I pour every ounce of energy into my day-job where—let’s be clear—I’m soaring. (Why is this, in itself, not enough?) I invite my writer friends over for wine and word-work and they speak of their own projects in whens, not ifs, and I ache for that strain of surety. Today other friends agree: it’s time to get our bikes on trails again—they don’t know how much I need this, how much I need to be out of my own head.
We choose a trail that dips and scrambles over the low-lying knolls where the snow is in retreat. The sun shuffles the clouds like a card trick so that we ourselves feel played on the dry and dappled hills. The spaniel, grown stout while the wounded, wannabe novelist was slumped at her laptop, sprints and corners and bounds, tongue lolling, as if he is happiness itself. This is how happiness moves.
When the hail comes out of nowhere, fast and driving, it’s more ridiculous than it is biting, even though I’d opted for shorts and a thin jacket. Swooping down the final slope, frozen beads plonking on my helmet, I can feel it: I’m grinning. Happy to be alive, happy to be healed, happy to be outside at last, away from the what-ifs and the what-nexts. This is the moment when anything is possible, when hope is still aloft. Remember this, I think. Tell someone. Write it down.