I rolled towards the wall and buried my face in a pillow.
I flung the comforter off and sat up in bed.
“What!? Leave me alone!”
I switched on the lamp next to my bed. There was no one in the room. The big blue numbers on my nightstand clock glowed 4:37 am.
I tried to go back to sleep, but after several minutes, I knew it was pointless so I reached for my phone and started thumbing through my social media feeds. I must have dozed off because the next thing I felt was a vibration on my chest and heard the muffled sound of my cell phone’s alarm.
I was certain that I had disabled the alarm before I went to bed last night. My plan had been to sleep in for once on a Saturday morning. I was not surprised though. This could only mean one thing. She was back.
“Stop messing with my electronics!” I muttered. “I hate it when she does that.” I sighed and rolled out of bed. After making a quick pit stop in the bathroom, I stumbled into the kitchen.
She was standing there with her head inside my refrigerator. “Don’t tell me you were planning on having cold pizza for breakfast.”
“Arvilla, what do you want?” And shoved a K cup into the machine and jabbed the button. I could not deal with her without a big cup of Columbia first.
Arvilla shut the refrigerator and plopped down in a chair. “I think you know. “
Her voice made me wince. Most of my creative friends had muses who were lovely ethereal beings who sprinkled inspiration like magic dust— someone like Glinda, the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz. My muse, Arvilla, is a middle-aged brassy redhead with a nasally whine and the personality of the Wicked Witch of the West. She also did double-duty as my inner critic. And: my other friends’ muses don’t stalk them.
She read my mind. Literally. “I am not into sprinkling fairy dust and I do not stalk. You have got to do the work,” she pronounced. “You’ve read enough self-help books for creatives so you know what you need to do. “
I reached for a box of organic granola and shook it at her. She shrugged her shoulders. “You need to get out of the house,” she said, “and do some fieldwork. “
I perked up. I thought she was going to nag me to sit down and write.
“I thought you might like that. You, my dear, are a little constipated.” She nodded her head at the box of cereal. “And that isn’t going to help you get unblocked.”
I glanced out the kitchen window at my yard and the two large magnolia trees in it. “I’ve got so many chores to do. I need to rake leaves for one thing. “
“What leaves?” I looked again. There were no leaves under the trees. “And don’t even mention your laundry. You have enough underwear and towels for one more day. Good grief, you sure do know how to procrastinate.“
I opened the refrigerator and pulled out a box of almond milk. As I poured it over my cereal I said, “So what’s the plan? “
“Bring your camera, a notebook and pen, and your inventory list of colored pencils.” I arched an eyebrow at her.
“Trust me. I’ll meet you at Blick’s in at 9. Don’t be late. “
Right on time, I entered the art supply store. I found her on the drawing aisle. I consulted my list and reached for a pencil in the open stock bin. “No, no. You don’t need any more burnt umber or yellow ocher. Ghastly colors. How boring. Get the spring green. Oh, better yet, the lime green. “
“Lime green? When am I ever going to use a lime green pencil?’
“Trust me.” Going shopping with Arvilla is always an interesting experience.
A few minutes later we were in my car. “Home?”
“Not yet. The art store was the appetizer. We still have the main course coming.”
Arvilla directed me and soon we were speeding south on the freeway.
“Get off at the next exit. “ I immediately knew where we were going.
“The botanical gardens?” Arvilla just smiled.
I have always liked the botanical gardens, a place where I could get away and unplugged for a few hours. I have never been there in May, but I knew the colors would be glorious.
The garden did not disappoint me. Every conceivable flower that could grow in this area was in full bloom. The rose garden was particularly vibrant. Trees, leaves and other foliage were thick and lush from all the recent winter rain. They displayed every possible shade of green, including, yes, lime green.
I toured the vegetable patch, the succulents and cacti, the herb garden and the indigenous plant section, enthusiastically snapping pictures and getting a feel for my new camera’s features. I started down a path towards the large pond in the center of the park and the banyan grove.
“No, we’re done. Time to go.” Arvilla was suddenly at my side. I jumped.
“Stop doing that!” I glared at her. “And why are we done? We haven’t been here a full hour.”
“Because I know you. You’ll hike all over this place and snap a few hundred pictures. Then you’ll be too tired when you get home to download your pictures and they’ll just sit on your camera for three months which will make me have to come back and kick you in the butt again.”
She had me pegged.
“Fine.” I started hiking up the hill towards the exit.
“We’re going to stop for a few minutes at the gift shop.”
“Just do it.”
A few minutes later I arrived at the garden’s gift shop. Arvilla was already there, seated on a bench and filing her nails as she waited. I settled down next to her.
Arvilla pointed her nail file towards a rack of succulents on sale. Next to them was terracotta bust that looked just like Arvilla. “I know the sculptor. That one turned out pretty good, if I do say so. She really captured my essence.”
“You know the sculptor?”
“Well, of course. You don’t think you’re my only client, do you?”
“Um, I guess I never really thought about it…. um, well, now what?
Arvilla sighed and put down her file. “Good grief, do I have to do everything? Get out your notebook and start brainstorming.”
“But what? This is why I brought you here– so your pump can get primed.” Arvilla stood up and looked into the distance. “Uh-oh. I gotta go. There’s a poet having a meltdown in the Walmart parking lot. I need to do some consoling. See you later.” Arvilla vanished.
“You never ‘console’ me,” I grumbled as I pulled out my notebook from my backpack.
As my pen started moving through the journal, ideas started pouring faster than I could write them down. I considered the images. I could use many of the photos I shot simply as they were— as photographic compositions. I definitely could use most of them for reference in creating drawings, watercolor paintings, and elements in digital compositions. Then poetic phrases started forming in the back of my mind as well as themes for essays on creativity, spirituality and environmental activism. History, theology, philosophy, and ideas for funny short stories all presented themselves in momentary glimpses across my mind’s eye. I scribbled notes in the book until I finally slowed down and stopped. I felt light and refreshed.
I clicked my pen shut and shoved it and the notebook into my bag.
“Now…” Arvilla’s voice seemed to be coming from the terracotta bust. “…go home, take one of these ideas and create something”. I nodded.
“And if I find you screwing around on the internet, I will knock out your WiFi for a week.”
“You know I hate it when you do that!”
ljg 2019 Today’s Ragtag prompt is “stalk“.