Théodore Chassériau, The Ghost of Banquo, 1855
" … what these Visitations seem to do to me. "

It seems to me that my departed friends never leave me for long. Once gone, they revisit, often at inconvenient times, apparently intent upon setting me onto a somewhat straighter path, for I meander on my way to pretty much everywhere. The shortest route between any two points seems utterly irrelevant to me, as I seem to insist upon usually taking some more scenic route. I set a goal then head off in another direction, my dereliction ranging behind me, weighing me down. These diversions even seem necessary, for if synchronicity is to have any chance of influencing me, it seems I must stray from any straight or narrow. My detours sometimes seem down right harrowing, for I often get lost in those woods. I seem to sometimes even abandon myself when straying, as if my underlying purpose in pursuing might have always been betraying myself. I end up lost, good and lost though it often feels bad and betrayed, as though I've cost myself my dream.

My departed friends tend to visit me then, when I'm feeling pretty near to absolutely dead-ended.
They usually arrive in dreams, curiously unsettling ones that wake me from fitful sleeping. I wake alert then, able to recount everything that just happened. My old friend was clearly present, no longer gone into any great beyond. Their appearance, often accompanied by some song. I rise then, for what else could I possibly do? I'm through with sleep and ready once again to seek whatever I'd originally set out to achieve. I firmly believe that these Visitations exist beyond dreaming, that they probably represent my fate scheming to set me straighter. They seem to say, "Enough, already! Go get that done!" And I usually find myself running back into the recently deflected fray, be it then night or day, I suddenly cannot any longer stray away from that fate.

Creative arts emerge in fits and starts, mostly fits, it seems. Few ideas cleanly emerge. Most appear covered in muck and fear. No light heart guides development, either, but one perennially filling with ever greater dread. Each fresh work needs ample shop time grinding away, producing sparks and filings. Hardly reinforcing, it's always well worth deflecting for now. No casual undertaking, it often seems the sort of effort one reserves an undertaker to clean up after, bound to simply do me it. Well worth avoiding for even the longest times, but my dear departed ones won't tolerate my intransigence for long. They remind me that I'm still quick, however sick I might have become of my work, and that I'd best be getting on with it. What can I do but respond?

I'd been crawling through a "final" read of a manuscript I'd "finished" writing two summers ago, seeking some deeper knowing, trying to understand what I'd been trying to say. This kind of work seems naturally unreinforcing, for it demands considerable revisiting. I aspired to experience that work as a first time reader might, as one not previously introduced to any of my work might encounter it. Not as testament to anything, but as simple experience. Not with an editing pen securely held in one hand still fine tuning, but as some random reader might hold it. This effort had been surprisingly hard going, for it seemed to demand that I ditch myself for the duration. Studiously schizophrenic, I had been slowly driving myself crazy when Jamie came visiting. He was singing Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered and pointing in a slightly different direction. How about I just go finish reading the damned thing, he seemed to be implying. Forget the aspirations and the self-imposed rules and just get it done.

I was up in a flash, glancing at the clock: 1:30 AM, a perfect bewitching hour. I found an old video of Rita Hayworth lip synching that song, in a scene from the regrettable movie Pal Joey, and watched as I poured myself a small single malt scotch. Then I commenced to reading. I set my editing pen on the table beside the deepening pile of finished pages, rarely feeling moved to change anything. My heart started singing, beguiled again, and I caught myself simply experiencing again. My friend Jamie, in life, was all about living authentically, so he seemed the perfect emissary from beyond to remind me to simply find satisfaction in how things come. I had fallen behind my schedule, but what did that matter once I felt beguiled again? My old and departed friend had apparently come to introduce me to another dear friend, the one who'd first chiseled out the manuscript before me. His occasional naiveties should properly embarrass me, for they remain an indivisible part of me. I read to within a hundred pages of done before heading back to bed, and awoke a few hours later curiously refreshed and renewed. I'll be getting back at it now. That's what these Visitations seem to do to me.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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