Tuesday, November 7, 2023

A Time to Every Purpose by Gabriel Valjan


The days are growing shorter: do the seasons affect your writing schedule, or ability/preferences, in other ways?


To associate the seasons with the stages of life is as old as Ecclesiastes. They mark time. Winter is devastation, spring is potential, summer is fruition, and fall is harvest. Light is life, and the gradual retreat of sunlight is correlated to decay, disease, and inevitable death.


“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”


The creative life is no different, but it is individual to every author and artist.


Perhaps, I’m weird because my relationship to the seasons has changed. Life experiences have altered my perception of them, along with my understanding of my own creativity. I’ve grown in self-knowledge and awareness of myself: creativity, included. The one constant for me is the cyclical nature of feelings, and the circadian rhythm of my creativity is a meeting of opposites that are reflections of each other: lightness and darkness; the ebb and flow.


That and I love autumn: the slow but beautiful striptease of trees losing their leaves. Like Proust’s madeleine, wood smoke evokes powerful memories. We all have an olfactory arsenal of scents that hurl us across the continuum of space and time, to places, events, and people. It could be a perfume or the distinctive fragrance of Play-Doh.


Back to metaphysics…I came late to the artistic life, meaning I was creative but without any sense of craft. I drew and painted for fun, and not because I had ‘something to say or explore.’ As a child, I was not aware of Time, of mortality. I created on Impulse, with little regard of any clock. Don’t get me wrong, I write for fun now; it makes me happy, and I feel most alive when I’m writing, but I’m older, know better, and have some understanding (however perverse) of craft.


I’m moderate by disposition. I dislike extremes. I don’t like too hot, too cold, or too bright and too dark. I do have, however, a quarrel with summer. For medical reasons, I’ve become intolerant to heat. When the thermometer reaches 84 degrees (29 Celsius) and beyond, my personality changes. I become irritable and anxious, unable to focus. I’ve concluded that when you’re cold, it’s easier to get warm, but when you’re too hot, it is Hell (figuratively and literally). I can’t write during the summer, unless I have an AC on.


Whether I have talent or not, I don’t know, but one thing is evident: what I don’t lack is discipline. I write throughout the year.


If I had to choose, I’d say that I am a winter person. The seeds long dormant from decades of reading and experiences have been activated. Perhaps, it’s the awareness of my own mortality or, to quote Dylan Thomas, my “rage against the dying of the light.” I don’t mind the winter doldrums—unrelenting days of gray and drizzle can weigh me down—and those days between Christmas and New Year are the most godawful time of year for me for personal reasons, a wasteland, but I write nonetheless. To put the metaphor in a more positive light (pun intended), I am an iceberg in movement. I float in water as a different manifestation of liquid, but still water. Though it appears I move slowly, I melt and I shed what has been frozen inside. Writing to me is what Kafka said about books: “the axe for the frozen sea within us.” I’ll write out all that is within me, in the time I have left to me.


A suggestion for you, dear reader. Music is a sonic tableaux—one way to access your thoughts about creativity. Listen to each of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or individual meditations on each season, such as Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Sibelius’ Tapiola, Schubert’s Die Winterreise, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.


What emotions do they provoke in you about your relationship to your creativity?


Susan C Shea said...

Music, yes! I pulled out my recording of The Four Seasons and have listened to it 3 nights in a row! Have you listened to Janacek's opera, The Cunning Little Vixen? Its perfect for autumnal thoughts and there's such a glorious kind of acceptance of life passing and dignity in the music (in addition to a metaphoric fox!). I always listen to the whole opera at least once in November.

Gabriel Valjan said...

I've not listened to Janacek, so I'll look for it. Thank you for the suggestion.

Erica Miner said...

Thanks, Susan C Shea, for mentioning The Cunning Little Vixen. Relatively few people are familiar with it, so you must be quite the opera aficionado!