The Madness, Rack, and Honey of It

2 July 2018:

Now we have July—the thinnest blue above the mountains and all the mountains still shining green. We have firework stands on the town’s outskirts and freshly mowed lawns. This far north, just past the summer solstice, we have 5:00 a.m. sunrises and a night that doesn’t relieve the sun, truly, till after 10:00 p.m.

Long days, short nights, and all the two enclose.

I wake on a Sunday morning and read Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, which is not only the name of her book but also an apt summation of the writing process.

She tells me about distractions. How we need to allow our distractions to distract us. Because, she says, most of the time what distracts us has no calculable usage in the world, we must, somehow, become free of what distracts us, so we can focus on our distractions.

Right, yes, of course.

She tells me about wasting time, too. Since time is so precious, we must waste it “with all our heart.”

It’s been an hour this morning here with this desk-and-window quiet I try to keep as much as possible. A serious waste of time taken seriously. I mean, this whole waste of time is serious.


Yes, there are the insane efforts of the writer to get anything down, the insane focus that pulls him or her from the world, the insane frivolousness of the whole matter that matters so much. The window, the desk, and who? Mary Ruefle.

Yes, the madness and the rack. The stress of metaphor and connecting everything together. The pain of suddenly remembering anything, or worse, forgetting. The pencil-and-paper torment of a simple life passing by the window. A man of eighty gathering up the years and walking them around the block.

The madness, rack, and the honey of it.

I am reminded of an old R.E.M song—how after all we lose, all the strife, how still “the sweetness follows.”

Something like that. Something like that, after all the rack, spills gold and shiny in the sun.

Here’s something else Mary says: “…I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.”


Yes—madness and rack, and the honey that follows, spilling down the page.

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