Of Grinding Pepper, Banalities, and Seeking That Which We Yet Understand…

Working as both a wife of nearly 29 years, and mother of 3, has prepared me in various ways to accomplish the work of a fiction writer.

Working as a wife and mother requires a lot of what an Islamic Imam described as grinding pepper.

Grinding pepper, from the perspective of the imam encompasses those activities that we here in the west describe as comprising the bane of our existence–mindless tasks, that we view as disrespectful of our intelligence and that devalue our worth as a person.

The world banal implies a lack of uniqueness.

Something that is banal possesses no originality.

It is like the wheel that begs for no reinvention, rather more unique and original ways of bringing a deeper level of presence and attention to the task(s) at hand–tasks that when practiced with a presence of mind and heart sharpen our skills and artistry in all areas of life, yield an original creation, and transform us as individuals.

Many activities in the life of a family, and children reflect this characteristic.

Cooking food, washing clothes, combing or brushing our children’s hair, cleaning the chicken that is to be cooked, sweeping the floor, washing linen, taking out the garbage, etc. are all necessary in maintaining home, and yet possess little, if anything, in the way of stimulating creativity except in perhaps devising ways of doing them more efficiently.

The road of anticipation and discovery lies before us.

And we, in our hubris set out writing fully expecting to push through any obstacles we encounter involving character, plot or both, with but a whiff of thought.

I think therefore I am.

And so it is.

Writing novels and stories comprise the necessary and banal tasks of revising, re-writing, revising, re-writing, and revising and re-writing some more.

We all know the excitement that accompanies writing those opening lines of a new novel that we have either outlined or simply started writing.

On approaching the middle of our novel, that dreaded place that enshrouds us like the dark night of the soul, we withdraw from the battle stations of our self-confidence and contemplate why we ever began such a perilous journey.

To be sure, planning a novel and providing a road map to guide our journey helps immensely.

And yet nothing can prepare us for weathering the terrain of remaining true and present to the visceral experience of physically getting up each day, going the computer or desk where we either place our fingers upon the keyboard or lift the pen and bring its tip to the blank page.

This is the banality of writing stories–the dull and boring part, the, if you will,  grinding of pepper in the art of crafting and refining fiction.

Over time the beauty of your spouse–that spiritual other who, upon first encountering him or her, appeared the perfect prince or princess–fades.

The king or queen in to whom we have grown gains extra pounds, loses hair, and what remains turns gray.

We like to imagine that we have not changed. But truth, so close and clear in the mirror in which we view ourselves each morning, resists denial.

As a mother or father, we repeated ask our children, and sometimes husbands, to “….pick up the clothes in the bathroom…not leave dishes and food sitting in the sink, [but to] instead turn on the faucet, drain food into the disposal and wash the dirty dishes.”

Don’t leave your shoes sitting on the stairs at the base of the staircase. We say.

Brush your teeth. We urge.

Take a bath. We coax.

It’s time to do homework.  —Awww, mom [they say].–Don’t mom me. Let’s get started. (Sad face.)

Take them up to your room of leave them by the front door through which they entered.

Do they listen?

Of that I am not certain.

Their actions, or lack thereof leave much on which to ponder, and to oftentimes conclude that they did not.

I spoke.

I know I spoke, and told them what I wanted them to do.

Then one day… they grow up, our children, simultaneous to our growing old, older, and hopefully wiser.

And you see that by some miracle, that you child or children are actually doing some, if not much of what I, you, we, their parent(s) have exhorted throughout the years.

Novels and stories are like people. They also chronicle people.

And likewise we, the people who write them, grow with them, even as and while we craft them.

Grinding pepper.

So much of writing fiction requires patience, asks that we not give up so easily, nor abandon our dreams on encountering the first or the second of demons obstructing our attempt to slay that which separates us from the truth of our soul, the integrity of our intent, our quest to become the person we know we are.

Grinding pepper.

The mixing of dark and light, yin and yang, that which is understood, and that we have yet to encounter, but seek to know.

Grinding pepper.

What is the pepper of your life, the story you seek to write?

How might you begin to grind it?

What demons lay in the darkness that on grinding pepper you develop the strength to face?

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4 Responses to “Of Grinding Pepper, Banalities, and Seeking That Which We Yet Understand…”

  1. joylene Says:
    March 29th, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing this incredible post, Anjuelle. It made me think of my parents, particularly my mother. I hope she knows all her hard work wasn’t in vain. I wish I could say one last “Thank you.” I remember everything she ever said to me now. I pretended I didn’t back then. If only I could sink at her feet and beg for forgiveness. I was such a brat. Thank you, Anjuelle, for helping me to remember why everything happened the way it did.
    joylene´s last blog post ..STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD

  2. Elle Pedersen Says:
    March 30th, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Hmm – it’s funny how time passes but we tend to stand still? My friend’s marriage – one built on great love – had been on tenterhooks because they were both running their business. They had plenty of money but not much time for each other. Anyway they ended up in serious financial difficulty – which virtually made them broke – they were right back where they started when they first got married. They bought a nice little home in the wopwops and started a mango orchard. Many hours were spent together in this orchard and now they’re as happy as they were the day they got married. I figured they were both in a rut and were probably miserable that they spent very little time together, but didn’t have time to reflect on same because of their business. When the business went broke, their marriage was put to the test and so was their adaptability to change – take a risk on something new and different – they did and it has made them both happier. We all have bleak periods where everything goes stale and our enthusiasm dies. I get more out of life when I create something – like me commenting on yer blog Anjuelle – Art brings me back to life. Poems, paintings or a brilliant novel inspire me – like I was breathing the same air or ‘injecting’ the writer’s/artist’s blood into my veins. Good conversation or a good argument releases life into me. Loved this post 🙂

  3. Anjuelle Floyd Says:
    March 30th, 2011 at 9:16 am

    What a wonderful story!!!
    And that it truly happened makes it even more powerful.
    Thanks so very much for sharing.
    And I am so glad that my blog stimulates your creativity.
    Imagination is the key to freedom.
    The artist’s job is to cultivate and nurture her or his imagination…and that of others.

    Again, thanks so much for commenting.
    Much peace and many, many blessings.

    Ag

  4. Anjuelle Floyd Says:
    March 30th, 2011 at 9:22 am

    You are quite welcome.
    I am so glad the post resonated.
    As for your mother knowing how much you appreciate your kind, generous and wise words, I am certain that your writing has made that clear a thousand times over, and has done for others what your mother’s comments did you for you.

    Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment.

    i hope your writing is going well and that you and your family are thriving and enjoying each other.
    Much peace and many, many blessings.

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