No Destination Required…

The summer flew by melting everything in its path and scorching the green ground beneath us. While September dawned, the acrid heat of summer lingered and fall snuck surreptitiously in the back door. The air is autumn crisp and it crackles with seasonal suspense. The winter is coming but first a display of the magnificence blazing colored leaves, dotting the horizon, a feast for the senses and artists alike. There are roads to be explored and adventures to be had around each corner. 

And so this summer began with my oldest son getting his driving permit. We practiced daily and for any reason, “out of bread? need air in the tires?”. It was disconcerting to find myself getting in to the passenger seat, watching my son navigate the roads with ease, and confidence, (it’s the confidence that scares me), and having no control. My youngest, urgently sensing the unforeseen benefits of his own looming freedom, suddenly became more interested in the mechanics and responsibilities of driving.

The sands of time had fallen one granule at a time and I found myself in the role of the wise (I’m going to leave the word “old” out for obvious reasons) sage. I sat transfixed, listening to my sons talk, unprompted, about their school, friends, hopes and dreams. If we had we been sitting at home, in our usual routines, I might have gotten a few grunts between bites of food, perhaps a head nod or two. But here in this magic car, in our own cocoon, seeking out unknown routes and looking for adventure, and most of all new places to eat, we were having conversations. We rode in comfortable silence, or debated philosophy, politics, religion, and relaxed while the countryside and it’s farm stands flew by. 

In these quiet moments of concentration, watching my sons driving, becoming young men, I sat back in silent gratitude and soaked in every moment. I prayed I would always remember this hot, hazy summer of their budding independence and hopeful dreams. The future, once far away, and out of reach seemed impossibly close, as if it was just around the next corner. I’ll cherish the memories of the smell of the freshly mowed grass as we drove by. Or the sticky ice cream cones that melted in their hands and made the two of them laugh like little boys. There were unexpected water fights, the ever-present eye rolls, non-stop suggestions, and the awkward hugs that feel more like small body slams by Olympic wrestlers wrapped in Axe body spray, than a soft place to land. 

The picture doesn’t look  how I imagined it one year ago but I do think my aunt would be pleased. I’m still looking forward to aimless magical rides throughout the seasons, on roads I have never been, looking for new adventures only now it’s with my sons. I have come full circle. No words necessary. No destination required.

In the Presence of Writers

This fall I took a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard with the legendary, Nancy Aronie, who I have deemed a “Literary Guru”. As a writing teacher she moves fluidly, dancing gracefully through her life, sorrows, pain, and joy in such a way that it invites and inspires her writers to do the same. Nancy has the uncanny ability to create the space that allows each writer to submerge themselves in their memories, dreams, disillusionment, and prayers to evoke words, prose, and stories that made me weep, laugh, and applaud with astonishment and joy. Nancy creates a safe place for each writer to slowly shed their cocoon and emerge into the brightly beautiful butterflies we are constantly struggling to become. She allows us to become the writers we have each longed to become. Every day each person was required to write from one of Nancy’s daily prompts and no one disappointed, although collectively we bemoaned, “what would we say? Could we even write about ‘that’?” “Am I even doing this right?”.

These amazing writers showed up with their humor, their heartbreak, their tragedies and they wove a web of stories that enthralled and entranced everyone within earshot. As the rain steadily pounded the studio’s windows, these unique voices, shared their eloquent prose, poetry and purpose. They told stories that made me feel honored to have sat among the last vestiges of  fall’s, leaf-colored, canopy, in the in bleak ending of November and weep with unabashed abandonment. Tissues were quietly passed from person to person as we heard stories of suffering, and so much sadness that people have endured in their lives and have lived to tell about it. Each testimonial and written word was as individual as the writer but the collective experience of being human beings trying to navigate the morass of our own childhoods, teenage angst, and adult lives made me long to comfort them in some way. The best thing I could do was to sit silently, breathe deeply and bear witness to their incredible stories and then applaud like I was at a rock concert when they were finished.

You could hear a pin drop as each one of us were preparing to read our words, tell our stories and share our hopes and dreams and often revisit the very pain that had brought us there. Each voice was as distinctive as the writer. There was a richness, a catch in their throat honesty and the willingness to endure, that allowed us to be  swept away into their worlds and into their shared moments of dreams, triumphs, successes and sorrow. At the beginning of each class I was sure that we had heard the best writing and then I would be lulled, lead, and laden anew with fresh tears as even deeper stories emerged and these brave souls bared their spirits and shared their lives with such courage, writers who were strangers to me no more.

All writers were funny, raw, theatrical, heartsick, loving, imaginative, vulnerable and unflinchingly truth tellers who sat in a sacred circle and bared their underbellies for the rest of us to see. What I heard was a cacophony of vibrant voices, experiences, and writing styles, but these were WRITERS, true artists. No one else could have told their stories and shared them with 23 strangers with such rawness, profound honesty, honor and grace. Each voice, each piece was an expression of what that writer brought to the group and it could not be duplicated by anyone else. That is what being a writer is about, I suppose. Telling a story that only you know the intimate details of and making us see, feel, and step back into the piece with the same clarity and tangible, tactile feelings that the writer sees in their mind’s eye. It is the ability to draw other people along, to envision your steps, your views and your emotions that makes someone a talented writer and an artist.

As I sat listening, laughing, and languishing in empathy, sympathy, and pain, I realized, this is writing. Each person is responsible for telling their story, their way, with no apologies. Each writer’s words and voice lent itself to the story being told and on some days I wondered how it is that we have all survived. If you’re a writer, you put the pain, sorrow, and longing on the page and you tell your story because invariably the other people reading or listening are sharing in the triumphs and losses, just as your exquisitely chosen words intended to convey. It’s like writing music, the tempo, the melody and the visionary, inextricable placement of each word delivers the listener to another world, another layer, where you are the star and we are the audience, there unseen, unknowing, and unaware of where this beautiful song will lead.

I have been changed by this class and as my favorite quote reminds me, “When I move, Providence moves with me.” Stay tuned as I write about the other revelations that have emerged from this one simple act of stepping out on faith. It turns out, getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and standing in the presence of greatness allowed me to find a bit of my own greatness amidst the crowd of writers that I now call friends.

#writers, #gratitude #inspiring