Writing Is a Solitary Pursuit, But…

Writing is a solitary pursuit, yes, as well it should be. And it seems best suited for the early morning hours.

But first things first. If you have a dog, you have a perfect excuse to walk it in pre-dawn darkness. Only this morning there was the full moon, making the headlamp unnecessary, and that white brushstroke of clouds around it, lining itself up for you and you alone. On mornings like this, only the brightest stars still have their say, and you say in kind, “Good morning,” with a humble nod of the head.

Back inside, dog fed, you make coffee like a Buddhist, listening as the water boils, enjoying the steam as it rises from the wet grounds, sniffing those warm echoes of distant Guatemala’s beans.

Waiting for the water to settle through the cone, I typically read a poem. This morning, opening Hayden Carruth’s Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991, it was “Of Brook and Stone” on p. 245:


Bo, may you someday,
as I now you,
here by our brook in a yellow
August afternoon,

bless your son in his absence
from you, you then
standing as I stand, alone
on our big stone.

And may, though many changes
will have transmuted many
things, this rock still
hold you, and this old brook’s

water still flow then
as now, murmuring
beneath your feet of why
and how and when.


Kind of sad and beautiful, that, reminding me of my own absent son, of how we have things that are “ours” too, things as simple and lovely as a big stone. The first sip of coffee couldn’t help but taste better after that.

As a youngster, I was a writer of letters. Thus, the daily arrival of mail in the summer was an event. Approaching the mailbox. Hearing the rusty hinge upon opening. Hoping the hollow would be filled with envelopes, at least one of which was addressed by a friend responding in kind.

Nowadays, as a writer, there is some of that in checking morning e-mail. Writing is a solitary pursuit, yes, as well it should be. But one always anticipates the arrival of a stranger’s e-mail. A stranger / editor accepting one or more of your poems.

This is one thing writers live for, no? For their work to speak in some way to a stranger. A stranger eager to share it with even more strangers through publication. That way the poem can become a big stone, too, words flowing below it like a brook.

You stand on the stone. You think of others who now hold it in common with you. The “why and how and when.”