I talk. Lots of people do. We talk about all kinds of things. Mostly the weather but it changes now and again so the topic can be pretty fresh.
We all…no wait, I’m not going to speak for all. That’s folly. I have things that burn in my brain, that are desperate to get out, to seek page, audience, recognition. How often I dismiss them as being the ravings of a lunatic, the words that have no place in polite society, the ideas that are barely formed, idiot children of a misguided and insane director.
How unfair is that? To treat my own thoughts and ideas as though they have no validation.
But I have never, beyond english in high school, studied literature, taken a writing course, learned about sentence structure and creative writing. I use brackets indiscriminately, fill sentences with commas, make things possessive when they shouldn’t be. I don’t think I’ve ever even used a semi colon; until now. Who the fuck am I to suggest that I could write a book? (because that’s the only form of writing there is? What?) That’s for people who are talented. Passion will only get you so far. Dedication and discipline are important too.
Besides there are countless writers out there who are way more gifted than I. So I should just what? Give up and find something more suited to my mediocre, mundane, sometimes pretty funny but not consistently enough to be a walking clever magnet capable of filling the world with delight and creativity self?
I say fuck you self-deprecation, and not in the good way.
So for a long time, I have written simply for my need to write. I write, blogs, rambling sentences, poetry, short stories that are super dark, articles I never send to magazines, a cavalcade of somewhat started and never finished essays, editorials and eloquent excerpts. I cast them out into the universe to fend for themselves, never really to consider them again, except in passing. Always hopeful that the next thing I write will be the thing that changes it all. The thing that adds substance to intangibility. That creates a dream world from out of the void. That creates a something so perfectly apt one cannot imagine how it didn’t exist before.
“If she did not exist, we would have to invent her.”
(I’ve stolen this from Promethea by Alan Moore, but is a variation on a quote by Voltaire about god. It illustrates the feeling of creating something that didn’t exist except in the recesses of my mind until I had the courage/strength/wisdom/experience/talent/passion to bring it forth)
I have this desire to be filled with something meaningful.
I think that is quite common. For some, that meaning takes the form of a single celled organism that evolves and grows to prefer blue over red, blueberries to cherries, Roald Dahl(obviously blue) to Henry Miller(obviously red). And it’s a beautiful thing. Life propagating life in a cosmic circle of procreation and yummy fruit.
For others, it might be something like a spiritual essence that fills their cup to overflowing. Something great and intangible from outside personal control, something beyond the trappings of the corporeal form, which has limits. The delicious taste of sky cake can be anything, anywhere at anytime and that is really intoxicating. Especially when one considers the baker of the sky cake as having made it just for you.
There are many more things to be filled with than babies and religion of course, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at those two (at least in my mind) extraordinarily obvious choices. For me, neither of those things are really a choice. Yes, procreation is important to perpetuate a species (maybe not as much as before there was 7 billion people kicking about, but biological imperative is a powerful thing) but not for me. Yes, there is a certain degree of spirituality in how I view the world, but not in a blind faith living beyond this world into the next one kind of focus.
I believe wholeheartedly that Totoro is real and that the property I live on is filled with the tiny forest spirits like in Princess Mononoke because I hear the sound they make every time the wind blows through the blinds in the living room. I’ve been called an animist and once I found out what that meant, had to concede that it does most closely adhere to the view of the world I carry around in my head all the time. But it’s not something separate from me, it’s not something to give me solace or a sense of meaning/purpose. It just is.
For me, the thing that fills me, the thing that has the most meaning is words.
For some reason I almost cried when I wrote that, which suggests to me that it’s true. I am filled with words and for so long I have, for lack of a better term (ironically) spewed them forth from myself in the hope that the next batch that comes through will be the right ones. I constantly have to write, even just snippets of ideas that never come fruition because there’s only so much space inside of me and what if the ones taking up space are the wrong ones? So I write, without any concern for consequence or culmination or closure. This is a never ending project, never a moment when I thought, ‘at some point I’ll stop’ because it never occurred to me that I would be able to. And I don’t want to.
But I also never thought of myself as being someone who would ever write something of import. (Bitchy insecure brain still doesn’t think so, but she’s fucking crazy so whatever..) The things that fall out of my brain are rambling at best, incoherent at worst. My lack of discipline is amazing (every so often I think I should take up martial arts or something, I think I would like aikido, if only to learn discipline and passive asskicking..or maybe become involved in a sexual relationship that involves dom and sub roles…another form of discipline that could be fun…though that would probably end with someone saying get on your knees and me saying, um my knees are really bad from skateboarding into cars in my misspent youth so, no. shortest lived career as a submissive ever..) and while I have great notions of being ranked alongside those writers I admire (such as Dahl and Miller) I have yet to find the focus to just sit down, ‘shut up and get on with it’ which is how Helen Simpson translates Gustave Flauberts’ quote “Faire et se taire”.
This is the struggle I have lived with mostly companionably for a really long time. I write words, they mean little, maybe one day the words that mean much will show up and we will have tea, grow wise and take delight in our daily visits from Totoro and the forest creatures. So, how happy was I to manifest the tiny cabin at the end of the road, next to the ocean at the end of the lane (when I call my little pondlake that I’m totally stealing from the title of Neil Gaiman’s book because I love him, the book, the title and the possibility that there is more than one ocean at the end of more than one lane but if it turns out I live down the road from the Hempstocks I will be so fucking stoked all day long) where I can sit in joyful repose and wait patiently for those words to show up.
But still the same patterns of write it and forget it were happening. The cup floweth over but the taste was not any sweeter than usual (the taste is always pretty sweet, in my opinion). It did not taste of success and bounty and a future filled with inspiration and focus and discipline and posterity and a creativity that has meaning. Also? I know it’s only been a couple of months since I’ve been here. It took Thoreau 2 years, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days (apparently) to write Walden. The arrogance that I would be imbued with the gifts of the goddamn magi within an 8 week period is a little crazy even for me. But I needed to go crazy, get scared, go festivaling to Ymir, understand that Ymir is not home right now for me, go festivaling to Victoria, understand that the island is not home to me right now, come back here, go for a damn walk through the damn forest and finally understand that where I’m at, is so fucking obviously home it would break my heart to ever have to leave. Damnit.
It’s been aeons since that happened. Since I found a place that makes me feel that way. Not even Powell River, or more specifically Lund, but this tiny cabin, this tiny lake. My heavily honeysuckled habitation, my smurfing sing-song shangri-la shelter, my blue bayou’ed building of bliss, my amply and ably alliterative abode.
Which sadly has just been put up for sale, so, real estate gods? If you’re reading this? I might need some help in the near future. If you could just ensure this place is sold to someone who is ecstatic to have redhaired barefoot girl who writes (hereby known as the party of the first part, aka Trish or me) and a small black swamp fox border collie who frolics (hereby known as a dog uninterested in contract law, aka Gala) live here at the same rate of rent, for as long as they so desire, which might be forever and might be slightly less long, that would be great, thanks. I don’t even care if that person is me, which would mean you’ll have to conspire with the lottery gods on that one, methinks.
Ok, major digression. The point is this. I have been writing and letting go of everything forever. That’s my m.o. Always has been. Saw no end in sight.
Enter lady poet. With amazing hair. That was the first part of her I saw. From the back and I had a moment when I thought, when I am older than I am now (because right now I have red hair so it’s going to have to be a future plan) I shall have hair like hers. I shall have lived and loved and felt joy and pain and embraced the things important and not so much to the degree that I will have earned hair like that. The moment was way quicker than it took me to type all that but that’s why we have moments and not paragraphs. But this is the crux of it. I didn’t even know she was a poet at the time. All I knew was I loved her hair. I almost told her. But she was talking with my friend Shawn Stephenson and I didn’t want to interrupt. By the by, Shawn is likely one of the most talented musicians I have ever encountered. If you ever get to see him live, do it. Whenever he plays Carla’s Reach it totally ends me and I feel utterly hopeful for true love to save the goddamn day every time.
So, anyway, this woman with her amazing hair gets up in front of us that night and there is this fire in her eyes. I have no idea who this is but I already love her, and not just for her hair. And she begins to speak, this lady poet and I am carried away to an extent I never was before. I have been moved by poetry, I have screamed and laughed and cried and been overjoyed to hear words spoken in such a way but I have never before been electrified the way I am right now. Fortunately for me, I am friends with another delightfully incredible poet(ess?) who goes by the moniker Magpie Ulysses,(everyone should be fortunate enough to have a friend with a name cooler than jazz. Even when Miles Davis plays it. That’s right! I stand by my damn opinion that Emily Lamb’s nom de plume is cooler than jazz. Deal!) who kindly saw through my bubbly internal screaming and asked if I would like to meet this grand lady of the spoken word scene, which I totally did. Oh yes. Because I had no idea what was about to happen, but I knew that if I didn’t jump in and allow that river to carry me away, I would regret missing this adventure forever.
Sheri D Wilson, how the fuck did I never know who you were before that night? I saw her three times that weekend of Tiny Lights and each time the stories she told of her life blew me away with what a similar trajectory my life had tried to follow, but for distractions and derailments, forked roads and tongues, pookas and pantomime. I felt a kinship with this woman to such an extent that now I believe our encountering each other, whether it had been at the early 90’s at Naropa, later (earlier?) in Paris or in the middle of 2014 at a festival in a tiny kootenay town, was an inevitability.
There is every probability she knows what she gifted me with that weekend (mostly because I wrote her a long email filled with phrases such as “OH MY GOD YOU CHANGED MY LIFE BECAUSE YOU ARE SO DELIGHTFUL AND HILARIOUS AND AMAZING AND I’M SO EXCITED BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH HAPPINESS IN MY BODY AS A RESULT OF THE PERSPECTIVE YOU OFFERED ME!!” and more like that) because I’m sure there are people in her life she feels this way about. Just to be clear for anyone who wasn’t in the room on sunday for the three hour writers workshop she did, this is what happened.
I discovered my ability to speak. Not to talk, I do that all the time. But to speak. To have a completely new way to use and own words. Own them. Not in the sense ‘those are mine, you can’t have them or use them or whatever, peh!’ Not to covet them, but to have them be a part of me so intrinsically …haha! just like that, see what happened there?
have them be
a part of me
And suddenly I found myself filled with poetry head, which, when she asked us to define it, I thought meant too many words and not enough pen. Which is again, the crux of my issue. I have all these words but I don’t have enough pen to write them down. Well? When I do write them down? I forget them, let them go, lose them, cast them into the ethers, never to be considered again. How fair is that? When the fuck have I ever really owned anything I wrote? How many of my poems have I ever memorized? None. And there are some I’ve written that I really like. A lot.
I honestly don’t know why it never occurred to me to have a writers’ voice that is vocal. Immediately upon leaving the workshop I went to my friends’ house and decided to read the poems I had with me, out loud. I have never done this before. Facing the window into the back yard I readied myself and saw, coming through the grass to jump on the fence post and sit attending me, a black cat. I read 4 poems to a cat. I tried to use the advice I’d been given so recently, to inhabit the poems, make them part of me, gestures, emotions, I’m not just reading them, I’m living and breathing them. The cat stayed for all 4 poems. I thanked him for coming and he jumped off the fencepost and continued on his way.
It was one of the greatest moments of my entire life. So far. Right up there with surprise singing At Last by Etta James at a friend’s wedding and have it turn out really well.
Spontaneous. Glorious. Inspirational.
Sheri D gave us a homework assignment. We would memorize, embody, carry with us, within the next 6 months, 2 poems. Flattered upon flattered when a great friend who was at the workshop, Isabelle, asked if I would share one of mine with her to memorize. Wow. Totally ecstatic to do so.
Then turned my thoughts to whose poems will I memorize? Neruda? Lorca? Crozier? Parker?
It still didn’t occur to me that the poetry I should be memorizing is MINE!!!
Silly. Old habits die hard.
But with practice, they do die.
So I’ve started. I’ve almost got the whole of one (314 am my time) and definitely the start of a couple of others. And suddenly the whole world is rich with prose. It’s white car syndrome, poetry style. I hear it everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with the purge, with the words that spill forth to make room for other words, thoughts, ideas. But I’m starting to learn that there is space, there are parts I can keep and carry with me and even share out loud with others in a voice that is uniquely mine.
And for igniting a fire I didn’t know needed to be lit, I thank you Sheri D Wilson. Also for your perfect story about interacting with Apollinaire in Paris, which then led me to him as well. So many wonderful voices I’ve as yet never known in the pursuit of what I never imagined would be my own.
But as Guillaume Apollinaire himself said, “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
And so I am.