Yesterday it all officially began again: the season of lights, comfort food, laughter, family, gifts, and giving thanks. We joined hands at our table last evening with family and friends to celebrate the things we are grateful for in our lives and remember our privilege in being able to sit at a table creaking with the weight of its feast.
There is much for me to be grateful for this year: biking through Portland’s seasons, a birthday in Seattle, a cross-country train trip, a new home, the rain, the rain, the rain, beautiful visits to a city I love, hiking the Wildwood Trail, trips to Eastern Oregon, camping at a bluegrass festival along the Columbia River, starting a new job this fall and embarking on a trip to the coast in the first week, the change of every season…
Last year I hoped to embrace the unknown and let these experiences wash over me. And my writing would be proof that it all happened. Well, I certainly did a lot of writing this year. On this blog, at workshops with Write Around Portland, and in the quiet of my own room. I am grateful for the bouy that writing is for me, how it builds me up, how it helps me see more beauty in the world.
But this year, I have questioned the validity of my art, a practice that any creative person should do. Why do we write? Why do I write? I have asked this question of myself many times and with the help of Pina Bausch and Brian Doyle, I have come to realize some semblance of an answer.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, I recall the Summer Solstice this past June. On a balmy summer evening, I biked to Powells to hear Terry Tempest Williams speak. This event was a pilgrimage of sorts to me, akin to seeking out Mary Oliver on my birthday in February. To be in the same room as a writer who deeply inspires you is a hope that some of their poetry will rub off on you. I had just finished reading Terry’s Red and remember breathing a sigh of relief after reading the chapter entitled “A Letter to Deb Clow.” In these few pages, she laid out her life’s purpose. She told her eager writers why she writes: “I write to discover. I write to uncover.” “I write to honor beauty.” “I write because I believe in words.” “I write for the surprise of a beautiful sentence.”
…and so she continues. Engaging in a practice of finding meaning in her life’s work. To try a put words to something purely visceral and heartbreakingly spiritual. We try to put words to beauty every day. But to try and put words to why we seek clarity through language is a dangerous but enlightening practice. So today I give thanks to words, to touch ever so briefly the unexplainable joy of writing.
Why I Write…
first and foremost, for myself
because I won’t be paid for it
as a tribute to imagination, as silky as a kitten’s fur, as slippery as water, seeping from a sieve
to capture the world in snapshots because that is all we’re left with, memories
to immortalize, to remember the things I’m terrified to forget
to immortalize myself
to remember those whose words continue to make them immortal
to make sense of the nonsensical
as a spiritual practice: my hand and my mind, sacred
to share excitement!
to be in awe
to live out a childhood aspiration
to s l o w d o w n
my friend Maggie says that our job is to describe commonalities in ways they have never been described before
to expose ourselves, to meet our vulnerability, as exhilarating as seeing someone naked for the first time
to be seen and heard even though we’re afraid to be seen and heard
for the love of pens
for the love of paper
to fill a blank page
to capture emotion
to hide our emotions under the guise of metaphor
to experience community
to hear words like music, the world needs more music
to create something out of nothing
to shout, to rant, to rave, and be angry
to empty my mind
to share pain, to explain pain
to question, to wonder, to marvel
to be human, to be most myself
t0 highlight the pieces of the world that shine the brightest