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  • I returned to work after a year sabbatical and I ran out of words. Administrative missives, letters of recommendation, bureaucratic reports, syllabi and editorial comments, emails, texts, post-its. They make no difference. These words are for others, they aren’t mine. They add up but they don’t count.

    In January 2012 I found cowbird by accident, following a link from another link to a beautiful photograph. I’d been running frantically away from grief, had a head full of angry sentences, and half-turned phrases, sorrow on the tip of my tongue. I needed a space where I could lay my burden down. I wrote lightly at first, about coffee and campus activity. And then came the tomatoes, the taste of which I’d held onto for 5 months and needed to describe. Since my brother died, I was already falling so I leapt and then the words let go and then the words wouldn’t stop.

    For 6 months, I recalled things that I didn’t know I’d bothered to remember, wrote things I would never say aloud. If I were a religious person, I’d say I was being ridden by angels or that I was possessed by the devil. I didn’t question. I just knew it hurt and then I was released and then it hurt again. I knew writing though was better than cutting.

    For 6 months I was raw and open and soothed by the sound of my fingers hitting laptop keys. I started to fancy myself a “writer” because I wrote every day even though it pained me, even though I didn’t know where I was going.

    In July 2012 I returned to work and I didn’t have time to write, didn’t make the time even though I said I would. I was focused now. I was a scholar again, an administrator, an advisor, an organizer, an editor. But not a writer. My nails were meticulously manicured and on the other side, the calluses on my fingertips were gone. It would seem I’d healed, I’d written my way out of sorrow and regret.

    But something else. When I do think about writing, it’s like standing at the edge of a precipice that I can’t afford to look over, let alone leap into again. I think "writing" and a soft polished hand immediately covers my mouth. My days are organized, scheduled, compartmentalized. My eyes are bright, my mind sharp, uncertainty secreted and pathos concealed. There is no place for them in my day. I’ve run out of words. And the words have run out of space.
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