My father used to tease me about the way I could make an ice cream cone last forever. He was right. On those lucky days that treats were on the agenda, I’d sit on the maroon bench-seat of our white Oldsmobile station wagon and nibble at my sugar cone long after the hands of the five siblings flanking me held nothing but sticky residues.
My technique with ice cream hasn’t changed, in fact on summer days when high temperatures rev-up the speed at which ice cream morphs to liquid, I find myself annoyed by the rush. I want to draw out the event, to measure the frosty chill as it envelops my tongue, to prolong the velvet sweetness and ponder the echo of taste it deposits at the base of my appreciative throat.
Most times, I’ll stare at a board listing a vast choice of flavors, and mull my options before forgoing Moose Tracks, or Banana Crème Brulee or Mulberry Glace for my old favorite, Chocolate Chip. After handing over payment, I stretch over the counter to receive the confection and turn the cone around in my hand, looking for the perfect spot to start--perhaps the place where an uneven chunk threatens to fall. When I find it, I stick my tongue in, giving a little lick, and twist the cone counter-clockwise one infinitesimal nibble at a time. If I encounter a chip, I run it along the roof of my mouth with my tongue, closing my eyes at the extra burst of flavor, the dark, gritty chocolate-ness of it, before returning to the vanilla cream.
For some reason, this method of consuming ice cream came to mind as I contemplated Middle Passages this weekend.
I’ve plugged away at this blog for well over a year now. It has played a critical part in helping me define who I want to become as a writer, though as with my ice cream, I’m slow to get to the end--a proverbial late bloomer, so to speak. Lately, I’ve been feeling that in the same way I’m the last one to finish my summer treats, I’ll find myself as a writer long after my peers have taken out the Wet-Wipes and cleaned their hands.
Writing is not a race, I know. But as I taste and nibble the flavor of Middle Passages, I recognize that so many writers I read, who started blogging long after me, seem so much well, further along. Here I am, plodding away, still taking those tiny bites.
By far Middle Passages isn’t all I write, but it’s the only place I get feedback, and, sad to say, the notes in my comment section increase at the same glacial rate that my ice cream disappears, which is to say, ever so slowly. A follower jumps on here and there, while bloggers with less time invested and fewer posts written celebrate 100, 200, 300 followers or more. Contests commemorating these multiplying numbers abound in the blogosphere and in truth, sometimes I feel left behind. Like many writers I suppose, I struggle to assess my worth and contemplate whether this, um…sluggish reader pace, is reflective of my skill.
This weekend though, I decided that from now on, when these thoughts plague me, I’m going to shake my head and remind myself of what, in spite of a limited readership, I do have--words that whirl and smooth and drip from me.
Just like with my ice cream, I do the things I like slowly, taking time to contemplate the effects--to value the experience. I let the joy of it move in, assess the space and rearrange the furniture before it blossoms in me.
Sure, I could swallow the cone whole, if you will, by friending a million people on Facebook to give my writing more visibility, by opening a Twitter account and tweeting every time that I post. My fear though, is that this would end up in one giant brain freeze. All the commenting and re-tweeting it would engender would distract me from the real value—the practice of concentrating on what tastes good. Paying attention to what feels right.
And savoring all the chocolate chips I encounter along the way.