Today’s dress-up theme is writer! You wear running shorts, a bathing suit, and a sunblock-stained tank top, and you make yourself stay for a week in a beach town on the coast of Uruguay not too far from Brazil. You wake up in your hostel bedroom before the hostel owners and do yoga on the beach to center your mind. (Thank goodness it hasn’t rained yet, or you’d be required by law to take a pensive walk, alone, on the misty sand). You spend your morning under the thatched roof of the hostel’s outdoor kitchen sending emails and beginning to put into words why you think other people will want to read about what you’ve been learning. You feel like you’re holding a recently hard-boiled egg that you have to keep warm while standing on a mountain top. All you want is to tap into its smooth heat, harness its thermal energy to propel you down the mountainside.
But the secret of this game of pretend, a secret you can only breathe yourself into over a certain number of days, is that it involves an almost unbearable stillness. You have to sit. You have to look at a textedit document and allow it to take down words about everything other than what you mean. You have to spend an hour moving sentences that you’ve already written around like chess pieces, while accepting that you don’t know how to play chess. Then, maybe, you’ll write something.
I’ve been easing myself into this dress-up game. I’ve stayed still, broadly. I haven’t left La Paloma in four days and I spend most of my time alone. But I haven’t been sure if sitting alone gets me to the stillness I seek. I want the kind that makes your mind run ahead of you, laying out words. I want the stillness that reacts and creates - the stillness that moves.