Aug 13, 2007

4:20 AM: A Meditation on Writing

by Rene Allen

It’s 4:20 A.M and all I see in the window of this room where I write is a faint reflection of book-filled shelves and an open doorway. Darkness outside foils the dim light cast by a single lamp so there is meager penetration of the night. Yet, in an hour’s time the sky will change from black to dove gray, then the palest yellow and finally blue. Through this same window will be a familiar vista of cerulean sky, a eucalyptus tree exuberant in new growth from the monsoons, and festive Mexican Birds of Paradise richly blooming in orange, red and yellow.

But I am on the inside where there is light. I am contained in this room that through the years has been like a sanctuary. Almost in this early hour surrounded by darkness, do I feel like an oyster snug in her shell with the vastness of an ocean outside her bivalve door. This room where I write is a place of safety, of transition and change, a place of peace. It is where time slows to a trickle and thoughts meander with the insouciance of a meadow creek. Night becomes a kind of protection, like a shell or blanket and I on the inside, am illuminated and thoughtful.

Yet, were a person to stand only a hundred yards away outside in the dark, the dim light visible through the window might become for him both beacon and destination. There is this paradox about light and dark, that when it surrounds you, you are blind to the darkness. In the dark, however, even a small light shines with such brilliance it offers hope, focus and direction.

It is this way with writing, that at the beginning when the page stares blankly and you madly sift through and reject all sorts of possibilities, you are in the dark about what lies ahead except for a tiny flare of truth, a thought or mental picture or idea that becomes a magical, alluring bead of light bringing direction and a sense of destination.

Likewise it is fortuitous for a writer who is writing to be blinded, figuratively, to daytime distractions, the pulls and pushes of getting places and arranging schedules and looking out for family. She requires an interior place where she can go with a window through which she views the external, a door to open and close, and the lovely hush of her own exquisite thoughts.

Ah, now, the inevitable has happened. To the east, there is a sunrise. Through my window, I see tinges of light pushing at the darkness and making it go away. Soon, I will see a single white-wing dove on a solitary eucalyptus branch and perhaps, this afternoon those magnificent cumulus clouds that congeal over the mountains and bring rain. In a few minutes, sunlight will pour into this room and I will turn off the lamp.

It is these cycles of light and dark, of inside and out, of blind and visionary that fuel the writer’s soul.

Well, there it is, the sun is fully up now and I offer you this enlightenment—a meditation on writing.


  1. Rene, if I tried all day, I doubt that I could equal your beautiful description. Oh, I know that I know all the words (though I did look up insousiance to be sure). I basked in your night's coolness.

    OK, I mix metaphors. I know 'bask' indicates 'warmth' but then even in stark darkness my soul warms when I think of blessings I receive, or can give, and our Father's inspiration, in which we bask, knows no time boundaries.

    See how my mind wanders? Maybe, if I work hard at it, and let my mind wander,'insousiant as a meadow' I might get the hang of it--or will I merely keep wandering?

    Thank you for inspiring me.

  2. What a beautiful picture you painted for us, Rene. I have always been fascinated by the concept of light. Your words brought me great joy today. Thank you.

  3. Renee,

    I always look forward to your posting. You have a way of looking at things that I admire. This was a beautiful posting, and the title was just right.


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