There is a saying about “sharpening the saw.” Working 12+ hours per day, juggling open mics and critique groups and planning fall writing workshops in the Raleigh-Durham area can apparently lead to exhaustion, as I discovered. Instead of feeling guilty about taking a day for myself, I think of it as “sharpening the saw.” The story goes that there are two lumberjacks (or lumberjanes to be PC) in the woods (but if they are lumberjacks, let’s imagine red flannel fraying over bulging muscles) and in the morning they start cutting down trees. One of them takes breaks throughout the day, sharpening his saw, while the other one works non-stop, cutting down tree after tree, working to exhaustion. At the end of the day, the one who had the sharper saw cut down more trees.
So to sharpen the figurative saw I decided to follow a craving for seafood and go to the sea. Friend Angelika Teuber, and organizer of the Triangle-area’s largest poetry group Living Poetry, is performing her own juggling act: working full-time in IT, organizing Living Poetry, hosting many summer house guests and studying in her final year toward her MFA in poetry through a low-residency program at Oregon’s Pacific University. She was due for a day away too, so we drove out to North Carolina’s coast for a poetic sojourn and a search for seafood.
Instead of going out to Wilmington or the Outer Banks like everyone from the Triangle seems to do, we headed for New Bern, NC. Apparently it’s the birthplace of Pepsi. Nope, we didn’t order any while we were there.
New Bern was the original capital of North Carolina and we visited Tryon Palace’s gardens for a little poetic inspiration. We didn’t find any there. Instead, as we walked down the side streets Angelika pointed out some saggy flowers that I thought looked pretty weak. She explained that they’re moonflowers and only open at night. She said, “They look like big, white napkins after the sun goes down.” Around the corner of the house appeared the owner, watering his roses and he started telling us how his “roses are being drowned by moonflowers.” BAM! We didn’t have to look for poetry, it was handed over to us on a big, white, flowery napkin–or napkiny flower.
Over crab cakes and shrimp and cheddar grits we talked about how the majority of people aren’t following creative pursuits, that they’re searching for something, waiting for their calling, or spending their days working just to come home and zone in front of the TV and do it all over again the next day.
The waitress complimented my necklace, which is an illustration of the Eiffel Tower encased in glass. She then complimented my bag and I explained one of the businesses I work with just brought it back from Dubai as a gift. She said she wished she had a job that would allow her to travel. I didn’t say it, but there are waitresses in Paris, Dubai and every city in the world. You can be a waitress anywhere. Writers, you can write anywhere. (With other obligations aside of course.)
It reminded me of a friend from high school. He studied at Macalester College and received a graduate degree in library science two years ago. Frustrated by the job market, he’s been living with his family and working at Borders. I asked him why not look for a job at Borders in, say, Hawaii? But I guess that luau adventure is on hold, because the next email I received was a happy announcement that he finally got a job as a librarian, not in hula skirt country though.
Hopefully everyone’s taken time this summer to sharpen their saws, but don’t get stuck sharpening all the time–or doing it naked.