Tea Break Read
Flash Fiction by Allan Hunter
I’d spent the whole day, a rainy bleak kind of day with gusting winds, waiting for my muse to arrive. That’s what I called it, or her, or whatever that thing is that makes me write. My muse. By which I meant inspiration; an idea for a new piece. An insight, a flash of… something. And nothing had arrived.
This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been just the one day, but it had been over six weeks since I’d sent off my last piece of writing, and closer to six months since I’d felt that deep glow of enthusiasm that could keep me at the keyboard way past any reasonable person’s bed time. I was in a slump.
Actually it was worse than that.
You know how people talk about writer’s block? And how there are a million books out there telling you how to overcome it? Yes. That. I should know. I’ve read a whole lot of those books. A couple of years back I even wrote one. It seems I was having trouble taking my own advice.
Although… that’s not entirely accurate. I had done the things that normally would spark some creative energy. I’d meditated. I’m not much good at it, so I also tried long walks in the country – until the weather got too awful. I watched movies, read, thought, pondered. Nothing seemed to work.
I went down to my local coffee place, Mary-Anne’s, and sat surveying the other customers, most of whom seemed to be sitting looking as vacant as I felt. And I began to turn over idea for stories. What would it be like to wait tables there? What sorts of people went for that job? Who would their friends be? Would that be an idea for a story? What would be the dramas of such a life?
I couldn’t get into it. All rather tired material, I felt. I needed new ideas.
I scanned the papers heaped up by the cash desk. Nothing much there. Was I blocked, empty of ideas? Or was I depressed? No ideas came. Or if they did I couldn’t register them.
So I walked home. The rain had eased off. And then, as I walked down a suburban street, I saw it. A rabbit. One of those black and white pet-shop rabbits they used to call Dutch rabbits. It was wet and cowering by the front wheels of a parked car. I bent down, and I could see it was shivering, so moving gently, I reached out and picked it up.
It struggled a little, but was clearly used to being held. Wet as it was I held it to my chest to warm it up, and pretty soon I could feel it snuggle into my sweater. It didn’t seem to be hurt. I looked around. I rang the door of the nearest house. They must have thought I was completely nuts – I mean, wouldn’t you, if someone came to the door holding a rabbit? Anyway, it wasn’t theirs. Neither did it seem to belong to anyone else I rousted out of their Sunday night torpor. So I took it home.
I used to have a rabbit when I was a kid so I put this little chap in a cardboard box and got some lettuce and stuff from the fridge. I put him? her? I decided it had to be a she, on an old towel and tried to do a bit more thorough job of drying her fur. She didn’t object. We looked at each other for a while. Then I thought I’d better put out a few ads saying ‘lost a rabbit?’
Over the next few days I had not a single reply. So I put up a notice near where I’d found her, pinning it to a phone pole. No replies. After a week I decided I’d better give her a name. Obviously it had to be Cynthia, after my childhood rabbit, and I moved her to a bigger cardboard box well lined with newspaper while I figured out what sort of hutch I could put in the garden.
And at some point during all this I began to feel again the joy I’d had as an eight year old, with my first pet. I began to sing little songs to Cynthia as I’d clean her box or feed her lettuce. I found myself picking the leaves of any dandelions I saw on my way to the shops, because rabbits really seem to like dandelions, and Cynthia was no exception. In the evenings she’d scrabble on the side of her box, asking to be held. So I’d pick her up and she’d sit on my lap, perfectly content, for hours, twitching her nose and sometimes nuzzling my hand. I fell in love all over again, my eight-year-old self standing beside me, smiling, no, beaming at me.
Since I was at my desk, the computer before me, I started to type out a few thoughts that came along with the warm feeling of knowing Cynthia was there.
And that’s when I knew that the muse doesn’t respond to us by giving us ideas for stories. Ideas come from the head and they’re rather cold and calculated. What the muse responds to are emotions. It’s the heart the muse engages. Anything else is not important. At some point during that first week I knew that my job was to write from my heart.
Cynthia has the run of the house now. She goes to her cardboard box as a litter tray, only, and she loves to sit on the couch. She doesn’t like TV much (too noisy), but she loves to follow me round the kitchen. She sits on my lap when I type. I think she approves of what I’m doing. She is extraordinarily loving. And everything I write is filled with that knowledge. Everything is a love note to this astonishing, magnificent, ordinary world I so often used to take for granted.
He is a full professor of Literature at Curry College, a counselor, and his doctoral degree in literature is from Oxford University. British by birth, he traveled extensively in Europe, India, Africa, and India before settling in Boston, Massachusetts.
Three of his books seek to show readers how to use writing as a therapeutic and life-enhancing tool. They are all based in workshops he has taught for over thirty years (The Sanity Manual, Life Passages, and Write Your Memoir). In each case the emphasis is on using writing and story to reach a place a deeper understanding and peace. His other books have explored the way six specific archetypes recur in the 3000 years of the western world’s great literature; Stories We Need to Know, The Six Archetypes of Love, and Princes, Frogs and Ugly Sisters: The Grimm Brothers’ Healing Tales. He concludes that these archetypes are ways for us to contact the deep structures of the psyche.
His tenth book, The Path of Synchronicity, asks us to consider what it is the universe seems to nudge us to do, rather than what we think will make us famous or wealthy. As such times we move into the flow of synchronicity.
He followed this with Spiritual Hunger in which he asks us to consider how we can feed our inner need for relevance in a mass culture, and how we can choose healthy possibilities rather than those sold to us by large corporations.
His most recent work is Gratitude and Beyond – an exploration of how gratitude is just the beginning to the journey of self-discovery. Following a brush with death I describe how I learned, the hard way, lessons I needed to know so that I could live more harmoniously in the world.