“It’s not the moves, it’s between the moves.” This was one of those offhand remarks that has stuck in my mind for at least twenty years. I remember the person who said it―an old friend (actually one of the oldest since we met in junior high) the artist Mimi Gross–but I can’t remember the context. Mimi always had a way with those deceptively simple life maxims and this one has proven true on many occasions. I’m between moves―literally―returning from Bogliasco, getting ready to leave for London―and with my writing. But more than the task of repacking what I just unpacked, I have to push myself to get myself going on the work front: to finish proofreading the first pages of my memoir and to begin work on my friendship project (aka my feminist friendship archive). I know I will enjoy the next installment of writing, just as I know I will love being in London again. And yet I’m not moving. I’m on the verge, peering over the edge.
Yesterday morning I woke to hear the frantic cheeping of what turned out to be a tiny sparrow apparently glued to the windowsill outside my bedroom window. For the better part of an hour, I watched the tiny bird look down, hop around itself, ruffle its feathers, receive the visit of a fearless fellow sparrow who would pop in now and then―possibly to share a bit of food, and take off again, doing what comes naturally. But why did my bird stay put? (As always, in these musings, I do not hope for hope for any kind of expertise when it comes to flowers, animals, birds, or indeed anything in nature. I’m just interested in the metaphorical potential of what the outside world provides.) Why would this bird not take the plunge? Fear of heights? A bird? Nothing made sense. And yet ultimately, the sparrow vanished.
So why am I stalled here neither completing the task at hand, nor proceeding to the next? Why am I stuck between the moves at the windowsill of my desk? After all, like the sparrow, I got myself where I am, it’s time to get myself going, get a move on, do what I know what to do. But I don’t seem to be moving.
My friend Carolyn Heilbrun, who like Mimi Gross, loved maxims as explanations for life’s difficult passages, would say on occasions like this, you have to wait for the well to fill up. So maybe, I’m not just stuck, I’m simply waiting.
One more Mimi-ism. This one I can date because the sentence is inscribed at the bottom of a woodcut she made in 1956. “Friends can last forever even if they don’t see each other―if they are friends.” That would be our case. We rarely see each other, but when we do, there is exactly that sense of something still in place―an affinity we call friendship. And if I were smart, I’d put that in my book.