Cheryl A. Rice

The Flying Monkey: How The Creative Mind Does or Does Not Work

I often enjoy hiding important items from myself to either stumble on at a later date (after I’ve purchased a replacement), or suddenly recall the location of in that twilight hour before I rise, when all is clear and predictable. The journey to finding my bathing suit, however, was not such a familiar process.

What I use as a bathing suit is a pair of swim shorts combined with a Beauty & the Beast tank top, since finding one suit to fit my disparate proportions is basically impossible. The last time I wore it was at a pool party in July. I contacted that host, who had not seen it there and is certainly the type of person who would have reached out months ago if she had. I rifled through all the usual storage places: under the bed, in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and various totes and bags that hang all over the house. I even checked the car, which would have been an awful place to find an unwashed bathing suit last worn two seasons ago. No luck.

I dragged my manager into the drama, virtually, and her amusement only heightened my desperation. My house is small, and there are few places to store things. I’m also working hard to
discard the proverbial ‘that which no longer serves me,’ so what’s left to sift through in search of a particular item has been greatly reduced. I tried to rely on visual memory, a vague sense of where I had commonly kept the bathing suit before. Since none of the individual elements could be found, I at least knew they were all together somewhere. There was faint hope.

Why there was this sudden desire to locate the bathing suit in early February in the Hudson Valley, when swimming at the Y is a hit-or-miss affair and the old Holidome is no longer open to
us locals, is a mystery for another time. I often develop a sort of tunnel vision when a notion strikes and will continue to be vaguely restless until that notion is satisfied. The items could be replaced in some fashion, of course. I perused the website where I had gotten the tank top in the first place (on clearance, natch) and saw similarly themed items, but not the one I already
owned. I could come up with a substitute if need be, but like life from minute to minute, it would never be the same.

One day, a week or so into my exploration, I was moved to search the bottom of my closet again. I keep a basket there where things I should have discarded years ago, and probably will soon,
reside quietly, taking up otherwise useful space. I dug to the bottom of the basket, and there, in a plastic bag of the kind outlawed by New York State years ago, was my bathing apparatus, complete with water shoes and the goggles I bought for the serious laps at the Y I was committed to for a moment. All together, washed and dried, waiting for another party or perhaps a lakeside jaunt. There. Where in a bigger house not I, but my descendants, would find them as part of a purge of my property before sale.

Because I anticipate swimming somewhere again, someday, I can’t imagine why I literally buried these things at the bottom of my closet, under hangers, extra scarves (I have a LOT of scarves,
but you’ll rarely see me wear any), other items I may never use again. The inner workings of my mind are as much a mystery to me as to the rest of you. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing poetry
so much.

My poems usually start with a phrase or notion, then move on from there in directions I can’t consciously predict or dictate. As I get older, those random pathways become smoother, wider,
more easily accessed by my poet’s brain. Going from Point A to Point Z in the course of a few verses has become a delightful surprise. I am a lot freer in my associations, and the results are
satisfying. Am I starting to slip? Is that free movement a sign of eventual disassociation from logical thought? That would only concern me if I became an inconvenience to my loved ones.
My Beloved has done more to keep me breathing in the last year than I could have asked for in a lifetime.

I don’t feel like I would be too concerned myself. If I can keep writing, and keep making time for this free flow of words to occur, I could not ask for much more. I see the edges of both lands and drifting off some days would not be the worst thing to happen. Especially in my Beauty & the Beast tank top.