The old joke in New England is “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”
This adage never proved truer than this past week. Thursday my kids wanted to wear shorts basking in the balmy February day.
Friday brought cumulus clouds of dewy snow which proceeded to blanket us with windswept gale forces and stiff frosting covered trees, brittle and frozen.
What a difference a day makes.
Sometimes I think we are losing our wonder about life. You know, the moments when you are sitting and wondering about how far we are from the stars and the moon? Why huge, murky gray waves arrive in a bluster of wind and churning sea only to return gliding to the sandy shore in a whipped froth of white foam. Pausing breathlessly as it surges once again swirling, ebbing and building into a another magnificent wave in all its thrashing, crashing, splashing glory.
We don’t wonder about these things anymore because, as my ten-year old son put it, “I don’t have to wonder about stuff, Mom. I can Goggle it.” Right… we can Goggle it, instant gratification, no wonder or imagination necessary. No pondering or mulling it around in your mind like the lyrics to a song you are trying to remember. Just go to your computer and Voila!
Life is a mystery filled with wonder, and magic. A mystifying journey, the discovery of life. Googling information about our perplexing planet and the deeper questions that emerge as we grow, is more about reading the brief synopsis or “facts” about a subject without ever having really experienced the subject first hand. Even worse, recitation of facts becomes the norm and actually having the experience or knowing someone who had a life changing experience, well that’s Passe. We can just read someone else’s words, opinions or facts about any given topic and, BAM!!! Now we too have knowledge about any subject, but not the feeling, not the experience.
Is the recitation of knowledge, the hearsay of information better than wonder, adventure or imagination? Aren’t there some things that are unknowable and that adds to the mystery of our existence? Some experiences that you simply must have rather than reading Wikipedia’s definition of joy, happiness, miracles, or love.? Aren’t there just some things in life that simply must be lived in your heart and imagination?
Like walking in the woods on a fall day with the leaves sprinkling the forest in a blaze of golden hues. Maybe stopping for a moment to listen to the stream sweeping the leaves blissfully downwards to the end. Where do the leaves go? What happens when the earth sleeps and hibernates for the winter? What happens when we float down the stream to the end?
All questions that take a life time to experience, share and live. The unknowable is what makes our mystical, perplexing, frustrating, mercurial, and extraordinary Universe so magical. It’s what makes us continue to stare up at the sky and wonder about the moon, the planets, the stars, and the people who have gone and left us behind. It’s what keeps us seeking, searching and asking the age-old question? Why am we here? An existential quest for answers you just won’t find on Google or Wikipedia just in the magic and wonder of our own lives.
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
This year, for some reason, I am as excited about Christmas as my sons are. Usually I am alone in a room drinking a glass of wine, surrounded by echoes of curses, wrapping paper strewn about my feet, tape stuck to my skin, and A Christmas Carol playing in the background. Yep, I’m almost always running around trying to get everything done and exhausted when midnight hits and I’m still tying ribbons, sticking bows that don’t stick, and labeling the presents with my left hand so no one recognizes that I wrote them myself. My youngest caught on to my handwriting being on the gifts a few years ago so I switched to using my left. Ah, the things I do for the people I love.
Well this year, everything is already wrapped, except what Santa is bringing and I getting ready to actually watch, A Christmas Carol. The anticipation in the air is electric and I am glad that I get to enjoy each moment without panic about forgetting someone or something. This year, I might have finally gotten this thing down, maybe. I don’t want to set the bar to high for next year.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season with the people they love most in the world. “God Bless Us Everyone.”