“We almost always can point to that hundredth blow, but we don’t always mark the ninety-nine other things that happen before we change.”
-Maggie Stiefvater, All The Crooked Saints
Years ago, I heard someone say “change happens very, very slowly, and then all at once.” A few weeks ago I heard someone say “a lot of quiet changes happen beneath the surface before it’s easy to see that something’s moved.”
Stiefvater’s line comes after a little description of a barn. The wind nudges it ninety-nine times, and on the hundredth it falls, so it could seem like the hundredth was the one to blow it over. Since reading I’ve been trying to see back to all these hundreds. For instance: in working on my book, sometimes I’ll rewrite a scene without looking at the last draft, and it will be as though it was new. In some ways, it is. In lots of others, it isn’t. If I look at the two drafts, I can see what I was building between them, see what was gathering, see what I was brushing away. For instance: this week I might have made a new friend, but it wasn’t this week that we made each other friends. We said hello for the first time months and months ago. We talked a few times, in passing. We listened. We waved. This week the little paths of almost-being-friends that we’d both been building from where we were came close to each other, somewhere in the middle.
Growing up, I thought a lot about that hundredth blow. I thought about the dramatic actions that changed things, the clever tricks that reversed how a situation was unfolding. Walking around, now, I want to keep on seeing hundreds: I want to ask, what breath, and what breath, and what long dream of breathing is carrying me here?