When I was a child in Ohio, a friend and I used to lie on our backs on late summer days watching long skeins of blackbirds fly from horizon to horizon, high overhead, sure that these linear flocks streamed from a far-off factory whose entire job it was to crank out birds, one after one, without ceasing.
It’s the kind of image only a child could dream up, or perhaps a child-like author. To this day, whenever I see a large flock of grackles, starlings, or crows, I think back to those late summer days in my now-distant childhood when blackbirds were presumably gathering for migration, winging across the sky in long, loose-knit throngs. I’ve long left Ohio, and I’ve visited many places between here and there, but I’ve never found that imagined factory that belched flocks of birds rather than billows of smoke. I’d like to think, though, that this childhood fancy reflects an inherent faith in the infinite abundance of nature, a faith that stays with me still.
It perpetually amazes me that Nature can crank out leaves the way the late summer sky seems to manufacture birds. Every autumn, the sky in New England rains down as leaves, and every spring, green leaves return in unimaginable abundance. Just as there is no end to late summer skeins of Ohio blackbirds, there is no end to New England leaves in autumn. No sooner do you rake, bag, and haul them away than this weekend’s leaves are replaced by next weekend’s and the next and the next.
I’d like to think that thoughts are like autumn leaves or that words are like late summer blackbirds. Imagine, for instance, that words are like birds, and each letter is a feather. Right now as I sit here typing, blackbirds fly across the blank sky of screen, migrating from left to right, left to right. Each word is a bird that is followed by fellows, and these words like birds keep coming, one by one, as long as my fingers, like those of diligent factory-workers, keep moving.
When I was an undergraduate then graduate student in English, I used to worry that as a writer I might someday run out of words, but now I know from long experience that words are like those blackbird flocks I watched as a child: they never end. As fast as you can type, words will show up beneath your fingers, or if you write longhand, words will never cease appearing beneath your pen. I’ve learned from long practice that your mind, like an infinitely deep well, gushes and fills from hidden springs below: the more you write, the more you have to write.
With this implicit faith in creative abundance in mind, this year I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month, a conscious decision to post something–anything–on each of November’s thirty days. Last year, I made an informal commitment to participate in NaBloPoMo, and at the end of the month, I was grateful for the “nudge” the exercise provided.
The mind, like a world full of blackbirds, autumn leaves, and words, words, words, is more fertile than you know, and having an arbitrary requirement, like a public commitment to write and share “something” for thirty days in a row, sends you back to the bottomless well where ideas come from. In this month when we officially give thanks for brimming cornucopias and bountiful harvests, it seems appropriate to take advantage of (and blog) whatever plenty that surrounds us.