Sunday, May 22, 2011


(I think this is the beginning of an essay...)

These past few days have been a curious lapse for me. Things have seemed out of sync. What started out as wi-fi troubles in our home network led to a temporary aversion to all things electronic, including my blogs. Not unlike George, the dog, I recognize myself to be a creature of habit. I get upset and discombobulated when my normal routine is interrupted, for whatever reason. One of these, currently, is our regular migration from the city to our cottage in Laguna Beach. It has been more than two weeks since we were there, and it will be another ten days before we get back down. (The cottage is currently on loan to a young British couple, actors hoping to find work in Southern California,; we have arranged an exchange for their flat in Islington, not far from our grandchildren, where we will be staying for ten days in September.)

Routine is useful to me. I’d almost say indispensible. It’s a kind of security blanket, without which my mind is more than usually restless and uncomfortable. Things just seem to move along smoothly when I’m in it; when I’m not, everything goes wrong. That hard-to-reach bulb explodes and needs changing. The garden hose develops a leak. I lose my place in the book I’m reading. At dinner time, I eat more than I need to, to compensate for the discomfort that I’m feeling—and wake up in the morning feeling slow and bloated.

Big things, little things. It all seems out of kilter.

Worst of all, the writing suffers. My usually powerful motivation flies out the window. Long-forgotten fears about “not knowing what to say” come flooding back. When I do sit down to write, I get side-tracked by some triviality that would, in other circumstances, be made to wait for my attention.

Routine is not practice—neither creative nor meditative practice—but I find it essential to facilitate practice.

Is it humdrum? Is it boring? I suppose that it might seem to. I suppose that it might be allowed to become so. To prevent that from happening, it needs to be properly observed and used. Like practice itself, it is a discipline that brings its own challenges and rewards.

I understand routine to be a temporal analogy for spatial orientation. It’s a matter of knowing where, in time, I am. It helps to recognize that is cognate with the word “route.” It’s a navigational device that sees me through the day. Without it, I am blown by the winds and driven by the tides. With it, no matter the external circumstances, I know my longitude and latitude (no coincidence, surely, that these are measured in minutes!) and where I’m headed. I know when it’s time to trim the sails and idle, and when it’s time to tack hard in the opposite direction.

Okay, forgive me, I’m getting carried away with a rather trite metaphor, but I hope that it serves to clarify the point. As I say, I’ve been watching myself go increasingly adrift in the past few days, and need to get back on track. Which will mean rediscovering the routine,

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