I am currently going through the files on my computer to determine what I want to archive to the Amazon cloud storage. Apart from documents about family matters, there is little amidst my collected ephemera that is worthy of preservation. Many things that seemed important to me years ago now seem like trifles, no more valuable than my childhood collection of colored rocks stored in egg cartons.
I found some writings from a period when I was experimenting with journaling or non-directive writing, as I attempted to follow Dorothea Brande’s advice for novice writers. She said the important thing was to free the mind from the shackles of self criticism. To further stymie my over-active critical sense, I would type at the computer with my eyes closed. The effect was more like dictation than literary composition, which in my case proceeds by endless accretions, deletions and rearrangements. My results were not encouraging. I cranked out endless pages of pretentious, vaguely haiku-like maunderings:
Even the strongest and purest work is undertaken from uncertain beginnings. A light shines in the darkness and we move toward it. How glib we are in explaining our motivations and desires!
Or worse: The boulevard glows with subtle inquiries and suppositions. The corner shops sell what you need, if what you need is recreation and despair. By their fruits ye shall know them.
Or even worse: Taste the sweet savor of priceless beauty. Vapors of Christian piety drift over the source of true imagining.
Buried in this drivel I found a fragment of a short story dating from January 2004. It appears to be the beginning of a fairy tale, judging by its tone; but I have no memory of writing it.
There was a cottage near a gap in the mountains. Travelers would stop for aid from time to time, because the way through the mountains beyond was steep and uncertain. The cottager, a sociable old fellow, would tend to their needs: a bite of porridge perhaps, some friendly conversation, and a hospitable pile of bedding straw in the corner of the cottage.
One time in the fall the cottager was awakened at dawn by an insistent rapping on the door. He climbed unsteadily from the loft, nearly slipping on the bowed ladder rungs. He bent to peer through a lengthwise crack in the door slats; and in the gray morning light spied a young woman, no older than fifteen or sixteen, dressed or rather wrapped in a loose drapery of dark green cloth. “Just a moment,” he said over the continued rapping . He unfastened the binding strap and opened the door part way, not for fear of the young woman but cautious that she might have an accomplice bent on mischief.