Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Writing in Ratio

I used to work at the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery. Many years ago. It provides shelter care for children ages 0 to 6 years old. I began as a childcare provider and eventually I supervised. The ratio was 3 children to 1 adult. During daytime hours volunteers were part of the equation. Because of wildly different needs of those ages, the whole day was a sort of balancing act. Always calculating the dynamics, the numbers, the space. We had the multi-purpose room for infants and toddlers. The gym for running around. We had the cafeteria for eating and a sleeping wing with a myriad of different arrangements. And then there were the different employees. There were baby holders and nose wipers. Straight up nurturers, there were the gross-muscle nurturers. The pragmatists and the softies. The kids also were different—some needed a one-on-one caregiver. Some needed a lice treatment. Some needed extra rocking. Some were hilarious. It required certain creativity, attention to detail and constant math to balance out numerous kids with their rightful amount of adults.

The work was not so different than writing. The constant organization in my head of time, need, and nurturance. My husband and three children( I include my prose as a child) are the main orbiting objects. All of us have varied and sundry needs to fulfill and the kids still require that one adult in ratio. At the nursery the days felt busy. They hit me with a violence of necessity. There was a concrete-ness to the space and time realities. This writing life is a little more ephemeral and as a result insidious. My brain revolves around itself all of the time. I have no wisdom around this. Let’s just hope I have perspective.

For years I dreaded feeding my family until just recently I discovered how to enjoy it. I started to teach myself to cook and see it as a challenge and experiment with it. I start with an ingredient and make a meal around it. And now it is my one unencumbered art form. I cook and make bounties of food for everyone to eat. I look forward to it. I chop. I wash. I sauté. And the time I spend is immaterial. I don’t dread any part of it. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out and I can just shrug it off. And I have no more aspirations than to cook for the people I love.

Cooking is a lot like writing practice. Perhaps I can find wisdom there.

As Always,

Writing Exercise:
Look over your lies (or truths) from yesterday. Find a part of it that resonates and write down some more. Have fun with it. Make up even better lies than before. Add details. Concrete and sensory. Write until you have all the necessary ingredients for a whole meal.