Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I spent a few hours this morning writing a sentence—that’s right, just one sentence, but it was a doozy, over 500 words long, and yes, I know  the word count isn't as important as making every word count, making sure every word is the right word for the job, but  I think these are the right words, most of them, and if not, they wrongness of the wrong words will reveal itself over time as I mull over the sentence some more.

I started writing the sentence (or the sentence started composing itself) in the middle of my morning walk. I was thinking of writing about butterflies, how sparse they are this year and last year too, how puzzling the fluctuations of their populations, how I used to be able to stand near a patch of blooming butterfly weed and watch half a dozen fritillaries and swallowtails and the occasional monarch vying for position on the intoxicating blooms, but now I have to content myself with seeing one or two, and rarely a monarch (although I may have seen one at a distance yesterday but it flitted off too quickly for me to be certain).

So I was walking up the hill thinking intently about butterflies and noticing little to nothing around me, but then at the top of the hill the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and lit up a haymeadow where great round brown bales sat scattered around a field of green glowing with the intensity of Grant Wood’s “Spring Turning,” a painting that when I saw it in person for the first time seemed to light up the entire gallery.

And as I looked at that haymeadow I forgot the butterflies and I wondered why I can’t put that field into a sentence, a simple sentence that would somehow contain and convey the brilliance of the colors and the peace of the moment and the evocation of Grant Wood, plus everything that surrounds the moment—despair over the dearth of butterflies, for instance, and concern over the passing of time and the need to get right down to work the minute I got back home—the sentence would have to include all of that too, as well as all the people and houses and roads and lives that radiate outward from that haymeadow, and yes, the sky and the sun and the distant stars and planets and everything.

How can I write a single sentence that encompasses everything? I can’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It is a doozy of a sentence. One of these days I’ll share, but for now it needs to rest a bit and wriggle around so I can see the parts that stick out funny. It took a lot out of me, putting everything into one sentence, but if I anyone asks me what I accomplished today, I can say proudly and unapologetically, “I wrote a sentence,” and that will be enough.

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