After several days in the Sierra foothills, where all manner of bird was chirping and all manner of squirrel was scurrying about, returning to downtown Los Angeles was jarring. In a way I had not expected. I'm mid-story, mid-book, mid-review. I have a lot of writing to do - serious writing - and the "country" agreed with me. Yet I did not know this while I was in the country. It only became painfully obvious once I'd returned home. To the noise. To the streets without trees. To the grimy windows and doorways.
It was only upon returning that I realized how much I'd enjoyed - needed - the quiet of the country and its big open spaces to let my thoughts twirl about, get tangled, then untangled, then fluid and then down on the page. Yet, I struggle with this concept - the very notion of it - because it is only after moving downtown and seeing so many different things, meeting so many different artists, that I began to take my writing quite seriously. That I began to have so many bits and pieces and moments to capture that I had to travel around with pen and paper. With my recorder. To capture the moments and scenes and deep-buried ideas that came, somehow, bubbling up to my surface once I'd made downtown my home.
So right now, in this just-back-from-the-country moment, the city is making me nutty. After reading Jeanette Winterson's June column, it seems I'm not the only one:
"Now I am sitting in my cottage in the Cotswolds, with the kitchen door open onto the garden, watching the rain pour down. I love to have the back door open - feel oppressed when I am shut in. I don't know how my friends with smart but shut-in London flats cope with life. My hens get more fresh air than they do.
I suppose there is a big psychological difference between the urban beast and the country animal. When I have to go to London for work things or to the theatre or the opera, that's fine, but when very occasionally I have to spend leisure-time there, I find myself going mad. What is there to do in the city unless you make a list of plans?
In the country there is always something to do - in the garden, walking, little jobs with the radio on, and then a quick dash in for a cup of coffee, or a quick dash out for a walk. I need to have ordinary contemplative life - it is easy to calm down digging a vegetable bed, or clearing out the shed or going for a walk whatever the weather, all things that can be done without spending money or being run over."
Extremes of any kind are always suspect to me and so I doubt I could ever wholly do one place or another - country OR city isn't an option for me. Yet, I wonder where that balance is - country AND city - and if achieving it is critical to my writing or if I'm just in a city slump.