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My husband and I are leaving the bookstore late one evening, filled to the brim with coffee and magazine perusal. In the safety of the darkened car I say "Iíve been thinking what I really need is a Crock Pot". He looks over at me in that way long-married couples look at each other, as if to say ĎOh Lord help me! She has finally turned into her motherí, and says "What?"

"I need a Crock Pot."

"Why?"

"If I had a Crock Pot, I could put food in it before I go to work and then supper would be ready when I got home."

"And this would mean?Ö"

"Well then I would have more time in the evening and I could write."

He started to chuckle. "Oh I get it. You need a Crock Pot". Only he said it "Crahk Paht", stretching each syllable in a unique blend of southern drawl and eastern twang. "Now you canít write without a Crahk Paht. Before it was a laptahp. If only you had a laptahp you could write everywhere you went. Before that it was a penÖ" He went on and on, all the while I was laughing and swatting his arm saying "Stop it, you know what I meant". That moment solidified what is known at our house as the Crock Pot Theory.

As with many of the stories floating around our home, the Crock Pot Theory has grown until it isnít really about crock pots at all. It is the official name for my unending search to make it all come together. It is not uncommon for me to be convinced there is one more item I need to accomplish my goal, and, after a diligent search, even as I hold that item in my hand, I find it isnít quite right. As the theory suggests, such trivial discoveries do not deter me. Iím an inveterate searcher, and I am willing to keep searching because I believe there is a place in the Universe where everything is exactly as it should be, and there is a way for me to be in that place.

I am so certain that place exists that I have shopped for hours for the perfect pen. I have sorted through stacks of school supplies for the perfect notebook. I have combed bookstores to find the perfect book. I have spent my life seeking the key, because as surely as I know there is a place in the Universe where everything is exactly as it should be, I also know there is a door. This door stands between where I am and where I want to be and my quest is to find the key so I can pass through that door. And when that happens, when I find myself in this mystical place, you ask, what will I do?

Why, I will write, of course. I will write whenever I want. I will not have to worry about my job. I will not see this monthís uncompleted paper work out of the corner of my eye. The telephone will not ring just as Iím about to grasp the word I need to complete my story, nor will the timer go off on the stove as I slip into the pace needed for my fingers to work in sync with my brain. Lest you think me simple and vain, it is much more than relief from minor details. On the other side of the door, I will hold the one thing that makes it truly possible for me to write. Inspiration. I will always be inspired.

In the place I inhabit, ideas are fickle, sneaky, conniving little creatures. You might be cleaning, for example, reach into a corner to pick up a common household dust bunny and notice it has the oddest shape. There amidst the dirt and grime, a pattern emerges and within that pattern there is a spark and before you know it, youíre scratching the idea into the back of your hand with a ragged fingernail waiting for the computer to boot up, chanting words over and over again so it does not disappear. You press the words onto the keyboard. The screen comes alive. Youíre off in a world of creation and everything is wonderful...until the phone rings or the stove timer goes off or the next door neighbor enters shouting "Hello, it was open so I thought I'd come on in".

In the blink of an eye, the idea will retreat back into the corner and no amount of coaxing will retrieve it. Other times, ideas donít appear at all; there are only blank pages and blank screens and empty minds and the creative passion of the moment is a distant memory in my soul. How could I have been there one moment and transported here the next? It seems at times that Iím carried into that place on the whim and fancy of the ideas themselves.

Sadly, I have discovered that I cannot dwell in that place for long, that I cannot stay there no matter how comfortable I feel when I arrive. I have found that life demands that I return to the phone calls and fixing supper and talking to neighbors. Yet the need to create drives me to grasp at any spare moment I can find to enter the door, over and over again, day after day. Sometimes it opens easily. Other times no matter how hard I pull and kick and pound on the frame, passage is denied. I keep trying and seeking because the memory of the wonder of creation is etched in my soul.

The soul, Thomas Moore writes in " The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life", has an absolutely unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. The soul does not forget that creation can happen.

That is why Iím standing next to my car on this Sunday afternoon. The day has given me a few precious hours in which to find the door. I am headed for the local bookstore. I will claim a table by the window and buy a frozen coffee drink, specifically raspberry mocha with whipped cream. At this point, I will open my special book bag, take out my purple notebook and my favorite green pen. I know that while I may look to others as if I am sitting quietly at the table, these elements will combine and, in an instant, I will be on the other side of the door. The pages before me will fill with long phrases of wonderful prose, followed by concise lines of poetry and insightful creative non-fiction.

This day is not the first time I have taken this journey. I learned long ago many things can go wrong. No matter how prepared I may feel I am, I have faced and yet been unable to open the door. The slightest irregularity can skew the key. Once I discovered Iíd chosen the wrong notebook. There was the time someone was sitting at my table, and another when they were out of raspberry mocha mix. But I leave my home this day so confident that I put a pot roast in the Crock Pot for supper. It is my way of giving myself all the time I need. My soul, you see, is ready for an afternoon of enchantment on the wings of the written page.


Barbara Hampton is a long-time resident of a small town in southern Illinois where she has been wife and companion to David for over 29 years. Her writing is driven by the variety of roles she finds herself in, including wife, companion, mother, grandmother, financial adviser, student, lay minister, inspirational speaker, group leader and expert on all things chocolate. Previously published in the John A. Logan Junior College literary magazine (Expressions) Barb can be contacted at iriswrit@midwest.net


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