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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

inner promptings

Robin has a cold. Now I feel I'm getting it, so since last night I've been dosing myself with echinacea tincture.

I got down to my morning notes again: A History of Warfare and The Long Summer by Brian Fagan, subtitled How Climate Changed Civilization, a book I bought in February. Even though this latter was not on my immediate list of books I am keying notes from, I realized I just felt like going into it for more notes. When I recognize that I'm having one of these kinds of urges, a hunch, I try to go with it as much as possible.

In my life I feel I have not often been a "hunch" sort of person. Rather, I have worked things out mentally, organized things, and created procedures and schedules for myself. This can be productive, but also, if one overrides inner promptings, sterile and self-defeating. Indeed, one can thereby miss one's own life.

This teaching was one of the messages in Mary Stewart's novel The Crystal Cave, which I recently recommended. The young Merlin becomes trained in how to watch for signs of his vocation, his destiny, in the symbolism of events around him. When I last read the book at the end of 2001 I opened my eyes to the signs around myself, since I was restless and dissatisfied with my work-life at the Insurance Corporation. There were a few, but I'll mention one.

While I was walking through a corridor I met a woman I used to work with.

"Paul," she said, "I hear you're leaving us."

"I am?" I said.

"You're not?" she said.

"Not that I know of," I said. "Unless you've heard something I haven't."

She slapped her head.

"Oh! I'm sorry--I thought someone told me you were leaving."

"Well, you never know," I said.

We went our separate ways.

I immediately understood this event as a message from the gods. The woman had heard something I hadn't--although not from anyone at the company--and was communicating it to me.

Within a month I had left the company, to take myself east to Gampo Abbey and the life of a Buddhist monk.

So: this morning, The Long Summer. I did enjoy reading the book, and felt there was much in it of possible use to me, about ancient weather and village life. I'm not sure what might be in it right now that will help me as I structure chapter 20, but I'm trusting that it's delivering something I need, when I need it.

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