Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference: 'Automatic Writing'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Frozen Cumberland, c. 1930, Amelia Garretson-Persans
  • "Frozen Cumberland, c. 1930," Amelia Garretson-Persans

[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]

The morning’s frost gave way to a brilliant spring day, and Joseph Avens’ talk on wildflowers had made me eager to try my hand at listening to them. I found a patch of early dandelions and violets to sit amongst. Light rustled around in the drawers and curtains of the forest and the field as if it were looking for something. Though the field was lately the scene of some distress to me, I felt protected with the sun shining sternly above. I opened my composition notebook with the thought to flatter the flowers (and thereby loosen their tongues) by drawing them.

A warm day in early spring is a precious, stolen thing. The heat of the sun made me forget the chill in the earth underneath me, and I could almost hear bees buzzing. I set my hand to tracing the leaves of a coquettish violet. It bowed low with false modesty in a sudden breeze that startled a few clouds into action. I finished the leaves and started on the stem. As a cloud moved closer towards the sun, the buzzing I’d felt on the periphery of my hearing increased in intensity until it was all I could hear. My pencil felt hot and my natural impulse was to drop it, but instead my hand only gripped it tighter. I watched with dismay as the pencil drew haphazard circles on top of my unfinished violet drawing. The wind flipped the page (a little too late in my opinion), and the pencil began to write in a script that was not my own:

“Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow, [the word filled an entire page of my notebook before whatever was communicating with me moved on] snow, snow, snow. There is a man who looks like a hunter, but he doesn’t have any teeth to tear meat with. He is camouflaged in whites and greys and blacks and darts around like a snow hare. It is almost always dusk here, but sometimes it is early night. The sky changes from blue-grey to pink-grey to white-grey. There is always something pushing in on it, like an animal caught in a deerskin drum. Sometimes the edges of the sky are loosened and I can see shadowy movements behind it. I can never really see what’s back there though, because the sky always mends itself before too long. It is always snowing but it is not cold, or anyway I can’t tell if it’s cold, and the drifts never seem to change height. There is one sound here, and the sound is like a giant live wire sweeping and crackling. I think I see the hunter — he is hiding behind a black and barren tree and his face is painted white to match the sky. I can only see him because of his shining eyes.”

Here the communication ended, and I cracked the knuckles on my liberated hand. The buzzing had stopped, though I’m not sure when, and the sun resumed its vigil. I looked through the pages of my notebook and saw that before that morning’s missive, I had very little writing to show for my sojourn at the conference. It was with some satisfaction that I closed the notebook and reasoned that if my hand had written it, it must belong to me.

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