Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Badger Muse

I recently finished reading The Last Station by Jay Parini. It's an historical novel based on the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life. It's a wonderful look into the life of one of the world's most famous writers, his family life and his writing life. Tolstoy was a horsemen who rode up to the last weeks of his life. One passage alluding to this particularly touched me. I'd like to share it with you. His daughter Sasha is speaking:

In the thickest part of Zasyeka, Papa's favorite haunt, is a small trail that leads to a spring at the bottom of the woods. A pool of clear water has formed in one spot, and the horses drink there. We call it Wolves's Well. Nearby, a family of badgers live like kings in a dusty hillock. They burrow into deep dens that branch into a maze of connecting tunnels. Papa occasionally brings his favorite dogs-Tiuplan and Tsygan-here; they are crazy for badgers, scratching away at the hillock with a wild hope of unearthing them.
Papa says that writing is like that: you keep scratching away at the dirt hoping a badger might run out. But it rarely does.

And so it seems that even a muse as tenacious as a badger sometimes eluded they great Tolstoy. I'm not sure if I'm comforted by that or if that feeds my fear of being trapped in a vacuum where the words never come. Apparently, badgers can be quite elusive, appearing most often at dawn or dusk. Which might explain why some of my best writing comes at those times. During the winter they remain mostly inactive. Tucked away in their burrows for about a month.
For the past month I have been burrowed away from my writing. The couch has been my den of inaction. But I'm beginning to sense a presence. I'm hoping it's hungry for words. I want to get back to writing fiercely and I think the badger is just the muse for that. Badgers are mostly solitary animals, but they are fiercely protective of their families and dens. I think they can inspire to passion and fierceness. I like their "I'm not taking your crap" attitude. Badgers are like words, they can pack a wallop in spite of their smallness. That's how I want to write. I want my words to bite and nip at my reader, to leave a lasting impression.

I have experienced periods of inaction, lethargy in my life before. And I know they pass, but this one seems to be taking its sweet time in leaving. I'm ready for the Badger Muse to run out of his burrow and nip at my heels until I get up off the couch and write fiercer than I've ever written before.

Rebekah for the Poplar Grove Muse and our wonderful Amy who is in China preparing to bring Tessa McKim, Warrior Princess, back to us.


  1. Rebekah,
    I love this column. I love the image of the badger and his "take no crap" attitude. May your inner badger be not long in showing itself to you...then I will get to hear your fierce words in class!!

  2. Not to worry my dear friend. With this blog piece and its wonderful analogies you are obviously nosing your way out of the den. Just think of all the creative activity that's occuring in the fallow field.

    Visiting your real den will take on a different meaning for me from now on. hehe


  3. And what does Badger mean in the Animal Cards?