Silence & Solace

When I saw the house, on its own little island at the end of a long jetty that led out into the lake, I had to stop for a minute. I set my bags down, taking a deep breath.

“Well, it’s secluded,” I said out loud, although there wasn’t anyone around to hear me.

After all, I admitted to myself as I once again hoisted the heavy, stuffed duffel bag onto my shoulders, that had been my request. I’d told my agent that I needed someplace totally out of the way, where I wouldn’t be interrupted. Out there, I told him over the phone, there wouldn’t be any distractions to keep me from finally finishing a manuscript.

Had he sounded doubtful as he agreed to search for such a place for me? Or had that just been in my imagination, my inner critic taking a dig at my fragile self-esteem?

The jetty wobbled under my feet as I crossed it, and I felt the wooden boards warping slightly from my weight. I tried not to think about balance or falling. With my laptop slung over my shoulder, I couldn’t tumble into the water. Surely, there wasn’t anywhere to get it repaired for miles.

I made it across the long stretch of pathway, over to the house. Even on its little island, barely larger than the building’s foundation, trees sprang up around it to obscure its presence from anyone who watched from the shore. The door was around to the side, but two windows stared out at the jetty, watchful eyes ready to intercept any intruders.

The door creaked and protested as I forced it open. A faint musty smell hung in the air, but the lights worked when I flipped the switch, and the interior appeared clean and neat. Wood everywhere, of course, and a pair of antlers hung on the wall, for that proper “log cabin” feel.

“My home for the next three months,” I said aloud, into the silence. “This is where I’ll get my writing done.”

I hoped that the words would prove prophetic. Even in my wildest dreams, I hadn’t expected the success attained by my first book – but now, my agent clamored for me to finish its sequel, and I felt stuck. Every time I put my fingers down, preparing for that flow of inspiration to wash through me, I got nothing. I forced myself to write a little, but even as I typed the words, I knew that most of them would fall beneath the backspace button.

I took my time unpacking, hanging up my handful of clothes in the little closet off the single bedroom, opening the cupboards in the kitchen. I set my laptop down on the kitchen table, opened it up. Before sitting in front of it, I put the kettle on the stove, brewed myself a cup of mint tea.

And then, cup steaming beside me, I sat down in front of the computer and spread out my fingers over the keys.

Nothing.

I tried, for several hours. Much like a bowel movement, however, inspiration can’t be forced – and when you try, you mostly just end up with cramps and frustration. When I finally sat back with a sigh, my tea long since gone cold, I barely had a page’s worth of words.

I pushed back the chair, stepped out through the front door. I walked to the end of the jetty, looking out across the placid lake. It all looked so calm, in stark contrast to the roiling anger I felt inside of me.

Why couldn’t I write? When I’d been broke, unpublished, words seemed to come pouring out of me like water. Now, however, I couldn’t muster up a single sentence worth preserving. The silence seemed almost to mock me, as quiet as the voice of my muse inside my head.

“Ahoy, there!”

I jerked at the sudden voice, nearly tumbling off the end of the pier. Spinning around, I spotted its source – a man, sitting in a canoe a dozen feet away in the water! He grinned at me through a bushy beard.

“You the new tenant?” he called out.

It took me a moment to understand, to gather my thoughts. “Yes,” I answered, gesturing back towards the house. “Here for the summer.”

“Seeking privacy?”

Yes, that had been my intention, but suddenly, with another spark of life in my sphere, I didn’t want to push him away. “Seeking a change,” I answered. He looked in his late thirties, strong and vibrant. A plaid shirt wrapped comfortably around him, showing a strong chest, a flat stomach. His arms were thick as they grasped the paddle.

“Well, I’m just down the road a ways,” the man answered, raising that paddle and pointing across the lake, towards a jutting outcrop where I could just barely spot the edge of a deck protruding out into the water. “Welcome to stop by if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” I said.

The man gave me one last smile, white teeth glinting through thick black hair, and then bent his back to guiding the boat away. I watched him go, the canoe cutting all but silently through the water.

I headed back into my house, dropped into the chair at the table. Almost without thinking, my hands went to my computer.

“She sought out silence, told herself that she needed to be alone,” I began, my fingers flying over the keys. “But it was on the edge of the world that she met him, that she found her anchor.”

The sky darkened beyond the windows, painted in brilliant colors, but I paid it no heed as I wrote word after word, page after page. I was alone in the little cabin no longer. My muse had found me.

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