I began to look for them day and night. Sometimes I would see ripples suddenly start beating from the creek's side, but as I crouched to watch, the ripples would die. Now I know what this means, and have learned to stand perfectly still to make out the muskrat's small, pointed face hidden under overhanging bank vegetation, watching me. That summer I haunted the bridges, I walked up creeks and down, but no muskrats ever appeared. You must just have to be there, I thought. You must have to spend the rest of your life standing in bushes. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and you've had your once.
Dillard is obsessed with muskrats. She stalks them around Tinker Creek. Her heart flutters when she sees ripples and bubbles on the surface of the water. All summer, she creeps along creek banks and bridges, like some guerilla naturalist, searching out the muskrat. And the muskrat remains a frustration. Almost mythical. A unicorn or Yeti.
I know a few things about obsession. This past week, I have been focused on one thing: my Christmas essay. Of course, it had partly to do with deadlines, but it was something else, as well. I literally couldn't think of anything else. When I was working, driving, taking a crap, I was working through the writing in my head. I think I drove my wife a little crazy.
But that's all part of being a writer, I think. If I'm not obsessed about my subject, I can't write about it. Now that I'm done with my Christmas essay, I will be obsessing about my Christmas poem. After I'm done with my grading for the semester. As you can tell, my life is a series of obsessions broken up with moments of pizza and sleep and Bailey's Irish Cream.
After I'm done posting this morning, I will be throwing myself full force into grading. I am not looking forward to it. My goal: to have everything done by Wednesday night. Essays. Final exams. Finished. Then I can concentrate fully on the holidays.
So, Saint Marty's next obsession: a red pen.