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Lions Roar : September 2013
PHOTOSBYPAVLOSREKAS/ISTOCKPHOTO(L)ANDRANDEARCHER(R) “HURRY UP!” shouted the cicadas. The whole island rang with their celestial clamor, the endless choirs of them sounding like a million stopwatches being wound in front of a million microphones. “You’re alive! You’re alive!” they clattered at me. This island was famous for these chorusing insects, as it was for its honey, which Herodotus himself had acclaimed. But I knew of neither when I’d agreed to come. I had work—work that had nothing to do with this place—that I desperately needed to complete. It was my tenure year. If I didn’t publish a book, I would lose my job. Still, who could turn down a month in Greece? So every morning I sat with the blue shutters latched closed, hunched in a darkened room beside the unseen sea. There I tried to summon the Bronx, where my book was set. Discipline had always been my strong suit. Yet I couldn’t help hearing, through the air conditioning, the serenade of the cicadas. It grew louder and louder—at their peak they could rival a blowtorch—and then, in an instant, fell to a stage whis- per. Always, though, they maintained that distinctly upsetting urgency, which also possessed the rooster one town over who screamed his guts out as if we were asleep while our houses were on fire. “Cock-a -doodle-do!” he screeched all day long. “It’s day!” Didn’t we hear? But I did hear! Yet I couldn’t tell what it meant I should do. Did it mean I ought to devote myself all day long to my manu- script, which was all that stood between me and being fired from a truly excellent job the likes of which I would almost certainly never be offered again? Or did it mean I should get out and live, at least for a month, as if there were no tomorrow? “You’re alive!” came the maddening scream as I sat at my desk, and I shook my head, flummoxed. Every day, I felt like I was liv- ing the day wrong. At three I stepped out. The Greek sun flooded the white walls and floors and carried the scent of the sea. I immediately felt like an idiot. All this was going on, and I was in my cave, playing with shadows. This is reality, the sunlight seemed to say. Look! It was a radiance purer than any light I’d seen—purer than the sheen of Florida, the stark, caliper-precise air of Maine. I could have been Outside there’s a radiant Greek sun, cicadas singing, and wild thyme in the hills. But inside there’s work to be done. What happens when BONNIE FRIEDMAN opens the shutters? In a Room Beside the Sea BONNIE FRIEDMAN is the author of The Thief of Happiness and Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction, and Other Dilemmas in the Writer’s Life. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 69