LET INGA TELL YOU:
Everyone has a creative strategy, a time when you can really let your mind go wherever it wants in pursuit of problem solving or the unleashing of artistic energies. Olof’s is mulling. Mine is wombing.
Olof’s prime mulling time is in bed at night before he goes to sleep. Now that he’s retired and can work on programming problems to his engineer-heart’s content, he will position himself on his back and just stare off into space. For an hour. Sometimes two hours. Occasionally until two in the morning. When he’s found the solution he was looking for, a satisfied smile creases his face and he flips off the light.
Years ago, before we were married, Olof offered to replace a section of six-foot fence on my property that had fallen down. I immediately suggested hiring him an assistant. But no, he said, there were some difficult engineering issues to solve and an assistant would interfere with mulling. And indeed, he would just stand out there, leaning on his post hole-digger seemingly in a trance. But a few minutes later (sometimes a lot of minutes), he’d nod his head and proceed. I know to never, ever interfere with mulling. The house would have to be on fire first.
Meanwhile, I have always done my best thinking by going back to the womb. You make the bathroom as dark as possible then curl up on the floor of the shower like a pretzel letting the nice warm water cascade over you. Close your eyes. Let your mind go. Regress. Remember the good old days.
It used to be that the only limit on the length of time you could spend in the womb was the size of your hot water heater. But that was before the drought. It became politically and environmentally (and especially financially) incorrect to waste that much water even in the cause of creative pursuit.
So I had to find a wombing substitute. Fortunately walking works pretty well, too, especially if it is on the beach. Even more fortunately, I live near a beach as this would have been a less successful strategy in Omaha.
I’m hardly the first to appreciate the creative powers of walking. There is a wonderful Latin expression, Solvitur ambulando, meaning “it is solved by walking.”
Let me take a short detour here to mention that in high school I studied Latin for four years and still have a huge fondness for the language. Well, the first two years of Latin anyway. Third year Latin (Julius Caesar’s description of the Gallic wars) was that a total snorer. But then I’ve never been into war stories anyway. Sadly for my high school sensibilities, chick lit was in its infancy in Caesar’s era.
Fourth year was Vergil’s epic poem, the Aeneid. More war stuff but at least it had a big fake horse and a hot babe (Helen). Sadly, 54 years later, I can quote all of the first three words: Arma virumque cano ... “I sing of arms and of a man.” But that does kind of sum it up (lots of arms, and a man, Aeneas).
Already weary of the Aeneid’s ponderous dactylic hexameter a month into the school year, I was delighted to discover that Vergil was a fall birthday — Oct. 15, 70 BCE, to be exact. Keenly aware even at this young age that chocolate is an antidote to pretty much anything, I got permission from our Latin teacher to throw Vergil a 2,034th birthday party during class time. I figured everyone deserves a party even if they’ve been dead 2,000 years. Yup, that’s the photographic evidence right there: Inga stuffing chocolate in her face at Vergil’s bash.
The phrase Solvitur ambulando is said to have originated from the Greek philosopher Diogenes in 4th century BC, and the concept of walking as a freer of the mind has been espoused by many notables including Thomas Jefferson, Nietzsche, Ernest Hemingway and Thoreau, among others. It allegedly helps combat the effects of aging, although I’m afraid in my case that ship has sailed.
Still, my best writing is done in my head as I saunter slowly down the beach with the waves as white noise in the background. A paragraph that I was stuck on slowly resolves. Great lines that the La Jolla Light will never print ricochet around my brain like ping pong balls in a lottery cage. The resolution of decisions that had been plaguing me seem to suddenly become clear.
While the drought put a damper on wombing, now that it is officially over, can I start wombing again? Yeah, probably, but one thing that ISN’T over is astronomical water bills. So I can womb to my heart’s content if I’m willing to pay Tier 4 water rates and turn over my Social Security check to the water folks.
I think I’ll just keep walking.
— Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org