On a good day, I would arise before the sun, make myself a cup of Lady Grey, and sit quietly in my cozy studio nook to write in my artist’s notebook with a flourishing pen and effortless hand for page after uninterrupted page. The ideas would flow, eloquent and fully-formed, from the tip of my pen, like a fresh spring melt rushing down the mind’s mountainside.

On a good day, the concert pianist next door would start his morning with my favorite sonata, while the city’s pulsing whirl kept time below the swaying green canopy outside my lofty window. The day would float by in a slow waltz of words, a new day’s variation in my long pas de deux with the Muse. “My soul would sing of metamorphoses,” of passion and beauty, of grace beyond measure. I would capture every story with loving care and give it wings of truth and fire to greet the world.

On a good day, I would rise from my desk at six o’clock, tuck the day’s pages snugly to bed in a tattered French folio, and retire to my tiny rooftop oasis to dine with soft day-end breezes and smooth pinot noir. The waning hours would carry me with queenly content to the shabby comfort of my favorite wingback chair, perched fireside, of course, with blanket and book for company.

I would sleep to dream, with the sweat-sweet contentment of a good day’s work, and arise at dawn with eyes clear and bright, my mind like a window hinged open to the morning and wet with dew from the earth, ready to birth new stories into light.

On a good day, I would feel the words arc with a thrill of electricity from the tips of my fingers, lightning fast and feverish with intent.

On a good day.

On a good day.

On a good day.

* * *

And what about today, you ask?

Today, I make tea in a dirty cup. I yell at my husband before he shuts off his alarm. I eat a greasy breakfast to drown my grouchy mind. I open my notebook and close it again. I cringe at the scratchy pen in my hand. I plow through the entries in my blog reader like an addict, obsessive and compulsive, avoiding the blank white page with its blinking cursor that beats in rhythm with my heart.

Today, I sit shivering at this cold, hard desk, dousing myself in hot caffeine and other people’s words, waiting for inspiration and wishing for a better start. A new chance. A good day.

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

She came barreling down the aisle with her black woolen hat perched cockeyed on top of wiry, gray hair. “What time have you got?” she barked, her voice gravelly but Southern soft on the edges.

“I’m sorry,” I said, glancing down and miming at my wrist. “I don’t have a watch or a phone.”

With a huff, she rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and thrust her cart through the narrow opening beside me. I backed out of her way, knocking packages of mascara tubes to the floor with the hem of my winter coat.

Where was she going in such a hurry?

I returned to the shopping list in my hand and walked on, searching the next display rack for the right shade of concealer, which I can never find.

Five minutes later, I crossed the store looking for my husband, who had given up waiting on me and taken the cart in search of household cleaning supplies, which he can never find. And there she was again—I spotted her dark woolen hat bobbing along in front of me. She moved slowly now and weaved back and forth down the aisle, like a child learning to ride a bicycle. Straight lines grow crooked with age.

I veered off the main aisle to pass her, weaving my way through racks of toddler clothes, and wondered if she’d think I was following her. You can never be too wary, I remember my grandmother saying.

Later I stood waiting with my husband in the checkout line, laughing together at the results of our last-minute shopping attempt before the Super Bowl: all chips, no dip. I looked up to see if the other lines were moving faster, and there she was, standing alone and scowling at the cashier three aisles down.

When was the last time she smiled? When was the last time she laughed?

I lost sight of her as we paid for our items and carried our bags to the car, and I forgot about her as we rushed home through busy traffic and grand plans for the evening.

But today, I remember that little old lady in the bedraggled black hat, and I wonder if I was kind when she asked me for the time. Did I look her in the eyes, or was I distracted, lost in my own world of thought?

Everyone has a story to tell.

Where did she come from with that misplaced Southern drawl?

Where was she going? Did she make it on time?

And who was there to greet her when she got home?

I hope they made her smile.