Learning How to Balance the See-Saw

September 10, 2009 at 1:03 am (Uncategorized)

Just when I thought the excitement was over, what with Sirius getting laid and the dog calming down and all, I came skipping out the side door after blogging yesterday and ran straight into a snake. I was barefoot and on my way down to the pool house, planning to get changed for my run. I was about to take a step down when I thought, “Oh, there’s a hose on the steps.” This all happened in a nanosecond, but my following thoughts were these: “That hose has a head. And eyes. And that’s a snake.”

Not for the first time yesterday, I really wished Jenny was here. She’d have been able to identify the snake immediately, because she’s eerily talented that way, and I wouldn’t have felt so panicked. Actually, let’s face it. I’m scared of snakes. I totally freaked. It lifted its tiny head and gazed really serenely at me, swaying in greeting, I’m sure, but because I didn’t know if it was friend or foe (this country is alive with venomous creatures, and I’m a city girl born and bred, completely out of my depth and, frankly, ignorant), I shouted, “Snake! There’s a snake!” and fled back indoors trembling. I ran down the hall to the only other person in the house, JB, and together we came up to the big windows overlooking the pool area, searching long and hard for a glimpse of our long, thin green friend. I thought of Jenny, and already felt not only foolish but also sorry. As I said to JB, I no doubt scared the poor thing half out of its mind. A shrieking woman towering over it before running away was probably much more frightening than what it presented to me, which was a narrow, curious face sliding gently up the steps.

Once I calmed down and stopped shaking, I knew enough about its appearance to know it was probably a tree snake, and therefore harmless. Jenny, if you’re reading this, I did feel like a proper dill, and I mainly wanted to see the snake again so I could wave down a little apology for being so rude. Behind me, JB looked up a few snakes on the internet, and it turns out the one we looked at first was ultimately our girl. Somewhere along the line, we decided she was female and JB named her L’Emerald. I went for my run, my heart still thumping in my chest, adrenaline still pumping. While I was gone, L’Emerald returned, this time coming past JB’s room for a bit of a look-see. That’s how we know what kind of snake she is – JB got a good look at her as they calmly regarded one another through the glass. She’s apparently gorgeous. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled since, still hoping to be able to see her properly, but so far, L’Emerald seems to have decided she’s seen enough.

The run yesterday was great, really productive. I had a breakthrough train of thought about my ending, and I came up with a way of describing to you guys what this process has been like for me. I don’t know if it will be true of future manuscripts, but certainly with this one, it’s been a bit like trying to have a go on a see-saw. When I first had my character, she plonked down one end of the see-saw and just sat there. Dum de dum. She jigged up and down a bit, but there was nothing doing. It didn’t work. She could not get up in the air. Thud. Lots of other characters strolled past the see-saw, and she could see them, and occasionally she waved them over and tried getting someone to sit on the other end, but no one wanted to stick around. Then there was this one guy who came right over and sat down on the other end of the see-saw. The first time, they just had a brief ride and off he went on his merry way. Time passed. This character eventually came back, and she was so excited to see him again and to realise that he was the missing part of the see-saw that she let him take over the whole operation, and he catapulted her right off her end. It was no longer her see-saw. Once she was thrown off, he too came crashing back to earth, and they both ended up a bit battered and bruised. She licked her wounds, and warily limped back to the see-saw.

“This is my see-saw,” she said.

He apologised.

“You didn’t seem to know it was your see-saw,” he said. “You didn’t know how to make it work. I’m sorry you got pushed off, sometimes I don’t know my own strength. I got a bit carried away.”

She shrugged.

“That’s okay,” she said. “You’re the only one who stopped to play with me. And I can’t make it work without you. But it’s got to be my see-saw. As long as we’re clear about that, I’d like it if you stayed and kept on playing with me.”

He smiled.

“I don’t mind whose see-saw it is,” he said. “I’m just happy to come along for the ride.”

And so they each slowly slid onto an end of the see-saw, and she gently pushed up, and they’ve been going up and down, up and down, up and down the past draft, and now they’re wondering if it’s possible to keep the see-saw above ground, if they just cooperate well enough, working together to achieve a brief but happy balance before night falls and someone comes along to close the park. They’re never sure when that’s going to happen, or how much time they’ve got left to try balancing the see-saw, so they keep at it, with an urgency and effort that says this is something quite apart from play.

When I got back, I scribbled some notes about my ending, went for a swim, had some lunch, and then wrote my 13th synopsis. The girls think it’s a goer.



  1. Pete said,

    Sounds promising. I like the see-saw metaphor (with its balance and tension and playing and so on). As for the snake – eek and well, glad you made friends with it. Looking forward to reading the book.

  2. litlove said,

    I loathe snakes. I would have stayed indoors and never gone out again, so you see, you are brave and fearless really.

  3. kate4samh said,

    I loved this, particularly the see-saw bit! Keep up the good work!

  4. davidrochester said,

    I really like the see-saw metaphor as well. Plus I like snakes, so I enjoyed that part of your experience for you, since clearly you weren’t able to properly appreciate it. 😉

  5. piereth said,

    The section about the see-saw did it for me on several levels. It lived. It breathed. The characters interacted. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, and you carried me along in the description. There were no bum notes.

    Hell, girl; if this is the way you write about your writing I can’t wait to see what your writing’s like!


    • doctordi said,

      Piereth, you are too, too kind. It’s weird – I find writing about writing a whole lot less stressful than writing fiction, it’s a nice way to vent, because this shit is HARD.

  6. Lilian Nattel said,

    I loved reading the see-saw analogy. Did you ever see the snake again?

  7. doctordi said,

    Thanks, everyone – I’m so glad you liked the analogy, because it really seemed like a good way to describe what’s been happening to me, or rather, to them. No, sadly there were no more sightings of L’Emerald, although Jenny dreamed the snake was watching over the rest of us in her absence, and that’s a pretty nice end to the story too.

  8. woo said,

    Hi there! I’ve just popped across from your comment on my blog and boy, am I glad I did!

    Loving the see-saw analogy – especially in that it mirrors life in a larger way, in the search for balance versus imbalance and the need for a partner both to get things moving and to counter-balance ones own weight and force.

    Having moved to Australia two years ago I live in a fairly constant state of disappointment at not having come across any snakes yet. This country is supposed to be crawling with them… or, well, you know, not crawling so much as undulating… 😉

  9. doctordi said,

    Welcome, Woo! Really? Not one? That’s kind of surprising… I guess it depends a bit on where in Sydney you’re living, but head to the nearest national park and your luck may very well change. Plenty of slithering going on there, I assure you!

  10. jactaylor said,

    oh heavens above, lady. you know you can call whenever you have a snake-related drama. trust me – i’m a herpetologist.

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