He’d given up journaling because his life seemed just too mundane to keep wasting time writing something even he wouldn’t read. I’m doing it for the introspective value, he would tell himself as he struggled through a scant page a day, if that. He journaled about the weather, observances of local wildlife, about thoughts so uninspiring and shallow that he finally put the black journal down and didn’t pick it up again. That was two months ago. Now winter was fully upon the valley once again. Where had the year gone?
Winter. The best time of year for introspection, yet this season nothing was forthcoming. The fireplace burned nicely, restarted from the banked ashes of last night’s fire in a reassuring and endless continuum. Warmth was life. He would go out and begin some chore or another after the sun was fully up, but right now it was fine sitting at his makeshift desk in front of the south facing window, which badly needed washing, watching the daylight slowly advance up the long deep valley beyond the pines in the foreground. Bare deciduous trees etched the horizon of the opposite hills. He decided winter light possessed an entirely different quality – a cooler, weaker yellow like meringue or piss, with none of the exuberance of summer dawnings.
He didn’t know why nothing was forthcoming. It was as if a spigot had been shut off within; a disconcerting feeling because he was a writer, a man attuned to thinking deeply about things. But now he seemed unable to think about anything other than homestead chores, which required a practical thought process, refreshingly simple. Refreshing for the first year because, if the truth be told, he had been hiding from deep thoughts. Now that he was finally ready to analyze his situation it was as if he had lost his ability to do so. Being a writer, he thought best with his fingers on a keyboard, but day after day nothing would happen. After an hour, he would shut down the computer and do his chores. There was never a shortage of chores. In this remote valley with no internet connection, chores replaced social media.
Friends complained he was no longer accessible. His old teaching friend Richard Self had called him up the other day. “Jack, come on into town and I’ll buy you dinner. Jesus, you’re turning into a mountain man.”
“Love to, Rich, but I’m really cranking on the new book,” he lied.
“You’re really hard to get hold of now. How the hell do you research a new novel without internet?”
“I go to the library and use their Wi-Fi when I need something. Hey, you got hold of me, didn’t you?”
“Third time I tried,” said Richard. “How about Friday evening? Come by the house and we’ll go paint the town.”
“Cool. I will. Thanks for calling, Rich, see you Friday.”
Jack Padgett sat for a few more minutes, fingers brushing over the keyboard like a blind man, watching the pines sway in the cold wind. The light was less anemic now. His third cup of coffee had gone cold like the day. He decided to switch to Brandy later, something more befitting January. He switched off the computer. But first a man had things to do simply to survive: split wood, check the chicken coop heat lamp, chores. Things that kept a man from thinking too deeply.