Simple Things or Peeling Onions

Since I couldn’t settle on one title to express what I wanted to say in this post, I chose a compound name which conveniently illustrates the opposite of what I am getting at.  I find myself wanting to get to the bottom of things, the root, the core, the ground, the seed idea.  For example:

  • I am back to the Tassajara Breadbook, and this time I’ve got some homemade sourdough starter going.  It’s appealing not only because I love sourdough, but because it is the simplest way to make yeasted bread.  Even so, something even more simple than that has gripped my imagination.  In an article called “Easy Dough,” in the Spring issue of Tricycle, Noa Jones describes a trip across the Sinai with Bedouins.  She describes how intrigued she was upon seeing how few supplies they carried.  None the less, each evening they mixed up dough and cooked it right on the campfire.  Jones describes the procedure but gives no exact recipe – figure it out for yourselves, she says.  I really can’t wait to try – flour, water, fire, and a pinch of salt; you can’t make a simpler bread than that.  This is the sort of thing I am getting at.
  • I’m at a similar point in my meditation practice.  Over the years I have learned and used some complicated techniques, but I find that all I want to do right now is the simplest practice I know.  It has a Japanese name which is usually translated as, “just sitting.”

I have mentioned that in my writing, I’m reviewing a half-dozen books to pick up ideas on spicing up plots, but I’ve even taken a small break from that to ask more fundamental questions about the story I’m working on.  Questions about all my current assumptions – everything on the table.

For instance, do I really want to write fantasy?  Well, yeah, at the moment I do – gut preference.

Do I really want to write young adult vs. adult fantasy?  I’m not so sure on that point – I sometimes go back and forth, but overall, yes, I am drawn to reading and writing YA fantasy.  Reminds me of the keynote speaker at a conference I went to saying, “You should be thankful for your crappy childhoods, since now you get to be writers!”

And finally – maybe the key question: what is my story?  Not for all time, but for now.  Clarity is required.  What is the core story I want to tell?

Well, I did some free writing, and out of that exercise, extracted a brief description and it hit me – the basic pattern of the story is, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”  And beyond that lies Pandora.  Pandora has meaning for all of us, especially, when we are young.  We fling open doors and rip open boxes before we know what we’re doing.  No way to avoid it.  As Jung said, “All the major decisions in life are made on the basis of insufficient information.”  As Pandora discovered, we discover, once the horse is out of the barn…

I was very pleased to arrive at that point.  This is a solid discovery, the outcome of really important work.  Something to build on.  There are many more questions, a whole list of them, and I will be discussing more of them.

Meanwhile, to end this post, I found a version of a great old Shaker song that’s been going through my head for several days.  At first I could not find it, since I thought the name was “Simple Things.”   It is actually called, “Simple Gifts,” and it’s a nice hymn for the end of a post on Easter.

2 thoughts on “Simple Things or Peeling Onions

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