I’m back.

Returning to this blog is like trying to reconnect with an old friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time; there is a mixture of anxiety and guilt and remorse, and with each day that passes, these feelings grow stronger until they threaten to overwhelm. It is easier to procrastinate, to forget, to simply not put the effort in.

I don’t know when I last posted on here, and I don’t remember what the subject was. I had been trying to update the formula of my posts, increase the content so that this blog became more of an all-around writer’s journal and less focused on simply reviewing speculative fiction books.

I have three children. My youngest is 4, and before the pandemic began, my wife returned to work. When my youngest began crawling and getting into everything, that was when my reading and writing declined. And with my hypersensitivity to sound the audible assault of my children playing/fighting/screaming for the sake of screaming, burrows into my brain like a parasitic worm. Even when the sound is gone I am left on edge, conscious of the weight of this thing inside me.

And our home is a cottage over 100 years old; it needs constant repairs and maintenance, not to mention the perpetual demands of a 1/4 yard filled with gardens and trees. There have been storms and floods and droughts, and all of these have taken mental and physical energy from me, and by the time I have prepared and cooked food I just want to sit and ‘zone out’ for the evening.

And the pandemic. Well, that has certainly been a challenge for many of us. At least we already homeschooled, so lockdowns didn’t present too drastic a change to our lifestyles. Before the pandemic began I tried starting a local writers’ group (of which I shall write a post about next, for that was surely a drama in its own right) and I have been more social over the past few years (not so much despite my social anxiety, but more in spite of it,) but as a deeply introverted person, these social commitments have required much motivation and energy to pursue.

But I’m not complaining. I love my family and my home, even if both provide me with sometimes deeply challenging stresses – I just haven’t got the house and yard to a point where I can comfortably turn my back on it enough to dedicate a small amount of time and energy to writing.

The ever-present specter of economic, societal, and environmental collapse is a barrier to creativity. “Use the nihilism in your writing,” I tell myself. But instead, lately, I’ve been glued to live streams from Ukraine and, with the announcement of Putin readying his nuclear defense forces, wondering if his generals are mad enough to start a nuclear war if Putin orders it, or if they have enough humanity and sense to disobey.

I gave a friend a lift (she has no car) to Dunedin city last week, and while I waited for her down there I sat in one of the city’s old hill-top cemeteries, looking out over the coast. I wrote unconnected fragments of poetry based on my observations. Maybe some of those snippets will be edited and arranged into a final product. Perhaps they will simply hold the inauspicious title “Random observations in a cemetery” and I won’t bother arranging them into stanzas. But now, it is approaching 1pm and I need lunch and a coffee, and perhaps later I shall convince myself to do some proper writing.

Bent like a wooden dining chair,
an old man leans on a headstone
     and tenderly
traces one gnarled and weathered finger
     over
moss-choked engravings,
like a timid lover.

At his feet plastic flowers sway,
snapping their stems in the brutal
    unyielding winds
that taste of salt
and the last days of Summer.

I close my eyes
and when I open them
    he is gone.
Maybe he snapped in the wind.

Eventually we will break.
We are all plastic flowers,
    brittle
and
    faded
in the sun.

From 'Random Obersvations in a Cemetery' by Adrian McCauley

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