Life in the Degradation of Metal

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” *

It’s 73 degrees with a 30 percent change of rain in my spot of paradise this morning. A grey curtain frames the mountain across the road from me. A tiny green bird with a white circle around its eyes slurps nectar from the white hibiscus blooming just off the lanai. Other birds flood the morning air with song. The mother hen we call Green Legs grazes in the yard. She’s down to two chicks now. They hop through our yard of mowed weeds to keep up with her. A freshly steeped cup of tea sits on my table alongside two books: Charles Simic’s collection of poems, The World Doesn’t End, and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. Those titles alone say something about what’s on my mind these days.

A new digital timer still in its plastic packaging also sits on the table. I didn’t buy it to conserve the battery life of my iPhone—I’m already down to 84%, and I’ve been up less than two hours. I purchased the low-tech timer, because my undisciplined self cannot set the one on my iPhone for my morning meditation without quickly checking email and Facebook and, heck, while I’m at it, I might as well see who liked the photo of my poi dog Nickel that I posted on Instagram yesterday, and while I’m doing that, a notice pops up that Diane made a play on Words with Friends, and I make a word or two myself. Playing with words: It’s fun. It’s what I do all day long, right?

Well, that was the idea.

Kim Steutermann Rogers' dog Nickel
Book Hound

I just completed my first full week of a job-free life. This was supposed to be the week I jumped into the book projects that were so important—so white, hot imminent—that I left a good paying job with all the fringe benefits.

Day one: I called a writing friend with whom I’d made a pact to start the week by sharing our goals (write every morning, first thing for two hours), acknowledging what might get in the way of them (iPhone; hence, the timer), and, oh yes, reporting on any successes (heads up, Anne: very few).

Day two: Called another writing friend, JoAnne, to discuss the first 50 pages of a manuscript I sent her the day before. I counted that as “writing time.”

Day three: Got waylaid by Patagonia’s 50% off sale. The success of the distraction was a new magenta rain jacket (remember the weather forecast) for a bargain-basement price.

Day four: Joined two local writing friends for a writing date in the morning and a short story discussion in the afternoon. Spent time not writing by driving to/from each location. Spent time not writing making preliminary chit-chat.

Day five: Responded to texts from lead scientist on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Project. Responded to emails from the volunteer coordinator of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui. Chatted with ornithologist who stopped by to pick up bands I’d collected from a dead Laysan albatross, which I had discovered over the previous weekend in the colony that I monitor for said ornithologist.

As I sit on the lanai my husband built, my eyes alight on a chair, its leg tilted cockeyed, the work of rust, and I remember when I bought the furniture set some time ago, its two chairs, loveseat and table. How many years, I wonder, was it?

It was before I took the job with Outrigger. That was six years ago. It was before our good friend Rob’s last visit. Before my local writing group got started. Before the first lobster party we threw on the bowling alley of a lanai that stretches completely across the front of our house. I tick the years off in my head: six, seven, eight. It’s hard to believe how much time has passed. We’ve lived in this house for almost a decade. The chair’s leg canted on its side is evidence. Rust proves the passage of time.

Rust would also make a beautiful photograph. Its colors and textures are gorgeous. The photograph’s title could be, “Life in the Degradation of Metal.”

There is a metaphor here for me. While I was frolicking around the Hawaiian Islands as a travel writer and blogger for OutriggerHotels, my personal creative projects were rusting. A garden went unplanted. Friends and family were ignored. My body decayed.

The tea bag squeezed of excess water and sitting on a plate beside my cup came with a fortune, of sorts, printed on the square of paper at the end of the bag’s thread. It says, “Why should I buy expensive art when I can make my own?” The quote was credited to Piero Milano, who according to Google is an Italian jewelry maker.

I will not even try to follow Milano’s message exactly. I will certainly continue to buy books, but I do plan on making of a few of my own, as well. I just hope not too many more legs fall off our furniture and not too much more dust filters through our open windows and coats our walls before I do.

I may not have gotten as much done this week as I would have liked, but I did take my two common poi dogs on two walks beyond the confines of our yard—two more than they would have ordinarily enjoyed. Two more than I ordinarily would have enjoyed myself.

Oh, and Providence, I made my commitment. I invite you to move, too.

 

* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is often credited with this quote, but according to The Goethe Society of North America, W. H. Murray wrote these actual words in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951. He was, however, inspired by these of Goethe’s words: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

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