To you, I give my solitude

Darcie Dennigan
September 19, 2009
Comments 2

I am an extremely busy person. I keep an eye on the world…

I watch the almond trees on the street below.

When I visit the Botanical Gardens I soon become weary. There I have to keep an eye on thousands of plants and trees, especially the gigantic water-lilies…

I can remember the terrifying face of one woman I saw on the street, a face devoid of any expression…

That is Clarice Lispector talking. But I, too, am kept extremely busy by my many watching responsibilities.

There is a bridge near my apartment that is stuck in the raised position, and I have to stare at it in many kinds of light. If the day still has some sun, I have to also stare at the bridge’s shadow on the water. I don’t even have time to get into the huge responsibilities that living near water entails. Too, my apartment is on a hill, and being able to see above the roofs of the neighbors to the east also creates endless tasks–I have to watch the moon and the clouds, and the birds in v formations, and since it is autumn now, I have to watch the sky itself… Never mind the man across the street who comes home from work on a bike at 6 am. Never mind the family of skunks beneath the shed.

Clarice Lispector even watched for ants.

I kept a watchful eye on these insects when I was little and now that I so dearly long to see them again, I cannot find a single ant. I know they have not been exterminated otherwise I should have been told. Keeping an eye on the world also requires a lot of patience: I must wait for the ants to reappear. Patience. While watching the flowers open imperceptibly, little by little.

“But,” Lispector writes, “I still have not found the person to whom I should report my findings.”

Yeah. There’s that.

To whom to report?

For the kids-books-kitchen floors-jobs-snubs-cupcakes-cars reportage, there are many outlets. But reporting on business of the Clarice Lispector kind needs another platform.

It is a bit like praying, blogging is. You want to pray for your child, or for the child in the newspaper. Or you want to hear your own voice counting aloud tiny events and ants from your day before that day is obliterated.

But as you start to pray, you think, but why should I be listened to? And how far into the prayer do you get each time before you remember? — I don’t even believe in God.

Maybe to blog, to sketch, to write a literary-ish weekly column in the late 1960s for a local Brazilian newspaper a la Lispector, is to to render what you might have shared over dinner or in bed or on a late walk, aloud or silently, if you had known with whom to share it. (Here: This is what I am when I am alone.

But why write of tiny things at all? Even as she wrote her newspaper column, Lispector maintained that writing too much and too often contaminated the word, that it was writing ‘from the fingertips and not the heart.’

What goes into a blog or column is as ephemeral and at best as mildly, incidentally important as the tough-stalked, blue-flowered weeds that grow in the cracks between my apartment building’s concrete foundation and the sidewalk.

But perhaps someone is watching online in the same way that I watch out my window. And how busy s/he must be.

To say nothing of the busyness of this woman I know who watches for marginalia in her library books. Who, she wonders, took the time to turn over the page’s corner, to lightly underline a sentence, to pen an exclamation mark beside a paragraph? What is the point of lovingly marking up a great book as if you were going to return to it at leisure, when you know that in two weeks, it will be once again in the library’s hands? It is as if the book’s borrower had incredible faith that the next reader would see the faint crease in the once-folded-over page and nod gravely and assent, “Yes, that is a good passage.”

Putting something on the internet is the closest I come to thinking God is possibly listening.

2 thoughts on “To you, I give my solitude

  1. Hooray, a second shot of Darcie! Theodore Roethke, I remember, also advised sternly against regular writing schedules of any kind– he called it “nattering”– I also once remember Louis Menand on the gradually diminishing quality of G.K. Chesterton’s weekly newspaper columns, that his “tics became tocks.” Have you read Annie Dillard’s “For the Time Being”? Among the better discussions of prayer I’ve come across in that rangy kingdom of the lyric essay…

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