Giving Thanks / Why I Write

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.

Cascade Locks, near the Columbia Gorge Bluegrass Festival

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.

Summer Solstice 2012, from the Burnside Bridge

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.

photo by Lyanda Lynn Haupt and her the Tangled Nest blog

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 organize

to strategize

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

to pay attention

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

..the things that shine the brightest.. Photo credit: Microsoft Office

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10 thoughts on “Giving Thanks / Why I Write

  1. Hi Katie,

    Another great blog entry of yours! This is really so poignant and heartfelt. It’s got a conciseness that really works well with the topic.

    It was fun too to see what I think is a mention of my friend Lyanda Haupt’s “Tangled Nest” blog in the caption of a photo. Any way you could make that a live link so that she might get some hits from it? Lyanda lives in the same neighborhood as I do and also plays in the West Seattle Orchestras, so I get to see her pretty often.

    Thanks again for your excellent writing,
    Trileigh

    • Trileigh, thank you for your words of encouragement! It is always great to hear from you. I was referencing Lyanda’s blog! I love it and all her books. I have made the photo live per your suggestion…thank you.

      Is there a chance you will be in Seattle the week before Christmas? I will be coming to visit some friends and have always wanted to visit your Lincoln Park. If you are in town, would you like to go on a walk there and reconnect?

  2. Ah, Katie, this post left me feeling so good! I love your musings on the power and strength of words. From creating to emptying, exposure to hiding..you have really captured the versatility of writing.

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