What We Carry, What We Leave Behind

When I moved from the city, I left my umbrella with the night manager.

He called out as I ran after my taxi, “But won’t it rain there?”

It has rained.

I have never used an umbrella since I left that apartment.

Not all the things we take with us are physical.

Often our characters, in life and fiction, start their stories with the big move or the radical event that forever changes everything about them.

I have always wondered at those changes.

The past is not as easy to discard as an umbrella.

We leave pieces of ourselves with every person, every place that we have traveled.

We carry always the sound of rain against a window in winter.

IMG_0637A sound and a morning carried

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Blowing in the Wind

I like to catch the seeds of the fireweed as they drift past my face.

I let them land on my palm, as deceptively delicate as silk spun from titanium.

We have few words in our language to speak of the strength of soft things.

Of things that pass gently, without violence or agitation, but whose journey is all the more difficult and treacherous for the fragile shells they inhabit.

We are all fragile at our core.

It is the ability to rise above our weaknesses, to catch the current upwards, that makes for stories that persist long after we have vanished into the atmosphere.

I sometimes think of fireweed when I write.

I think of holding their seed fluff against my skin.

I think of raising my hand to my mouth.

I use my softest breath to send the strongest fragility out into the world.

IMG_3562The packages of strength

Can you hear me?

The Wizard behind the curtain is not always an evil.

Indubitably, the obfuscation of one’s central identity can be traced to a wanton disregard for the effulgent articulation of the psyche, the abrogation of the id.

That was probably not the sentence you were expecting.

I hear the words I write.

This tone, this cadence- these are the measures by which the words flow.

This is a crude opening I have given to you.

But the words we choose, the way we arrange them, create the tones we hear, the flow of our thoughts and ideas.

I write to be read.

I do not always write the same way to be read.

When we peer behind the curtain at the Great Wizard, it is not the tiny man we should be amazed by.

It is the sheer depth of change and creation that can arise from a tiny figure, frantically pulling levers.

A good voice is invisible.

A better voice carries you on a journey that amazes you at every golden step.

We do not need to see the levers or the pain of their creation.

We do need to see the path before us and hear, always, the voice beckoning us forwards.

IMG_5221Follow the road, even without yellow bricks

A Joyous Day

We are not born afraid.

Life teaches us fear, often of the new and unfamiliar.

Writing is transmutation.

When I write, that fear shifts in front of me to the joy of discovery, of the magic that exists just out of the corner of my eye.

I cannot remove that fear from the world or even from myself.

But through my fingers, I can rise above the gravity of uncertainty that holds our feet so firmly to the ground.

I can reach upwards and fly towards the warmth, the world above me.

You can come with me.

All readers can come with me.

We can live, for a moment or an hour or a day in a place of joy.

I want to create, one day after the other, a day without fear.

A joyous day.

IMG_5063A joyous day

 

In the Time Before

We start just before sunrise.

The tides are not with us.

We are efficient, even when we prepare in the darkness, even before we start hiking in the pale, rising light.

To pass the cliffs, the timing must be absolutely perfect.

To do otherwise is to join the bones resting in the crevices of the cliff face, smashed by the force of the waves.

When I write, the cliffs rise before me.

Those pieces of story, so delicate and so dangerous, on whose timing rests the success of the whole.

I think of that preparation, quiet and dark.

None of that was visible to the four-wheelers that passed us as if we were standing still.

By the time the cliffs are reached, it is already too late to prepare.

When we reach those jagged edges, those moments of fatal timing, the effortlessness of our passage must carry the shadow of that darkness.

We must carry those earlier hours, and move surely onwards.

There is never a guarantee in life or its telling that we will not make a fatal misstep.

But standing beyond the choke point, watching the world unfold, there is a magic nothing else can deliver.

There is no glamour in the darkness.

The ease of our magic is always rooted in a hundred invisible hours before the rising of the sun.

IMG_5421Where we start

Entertain Me (Act III)

 

Act III

There’s nothing like that moment of silence, every eye on me, when even the beer shuts up for a minute.

They came to hear the band, not the poetry, but I’m who they are going to remember.

Not because I’m better than the band.

The band’s pretty awesome- great drummer

Because I’m going to give them something they never expected.

I remember this feeling, every time I start writing.

I remember opening my mouth and giving them a poetry that matched their energy and interests.

Every time my words come out my mouth or my fingers, I pull that knowledge with it.

People walk into our words, our stories, and expect the safe path, the gentle path through the woods.

I respect that.

I will not lead you on path that will betray your trust, not take you to the other side.

But I’ll show you a woods you might not have seen, a view from the trees, not the road.

Are you entertained?

DSC01412A view from the trees

Act I is here.  Act II is here.

Now (Act II)

 

Act II

Beer is flowing, the front row is rating their favourite extreme sports, and the band is waiting to get on with their set.

I’m going to read them a poem.

Most of the time when I write, I’m not afraid of broken glass.

But there, in the back of my head, I make myself remember that feeling.

An audience has to be here, now, with me-

Or I am speaking and writing to myself.

When I write, I ask myself, always-

Can you hear me?

Here?

Now?

I look at those words and see if they carry.

If their voice amplifies enough to break through indifference and hostility.

I stand on that stage, use the voice that carries into the mic.

“Can you hear me in the peanut gallery?”

I stand on that stage, wait for an answer.

I shame even the big guy in the back into silence.

You’re going to be with me and I’m going to take you for a ride.

IMG_5166Glass, not breaking

Act I is here. Act III is here.

Here I Am (Act I)

Act I

I once stood in front of a hundred people at a metal band and open bar fundraiser and started to read poetry.

This is not the beginning.

We open on an invisible stage.

When I first walk out into the spotlights, everything slows down.

Ten, a hundred, a thousand people- it doesn’t matter.

There is a trick with spotlights.

They hide the world beyond them.

There are shapes in the darkness, flashes of movement and noise, but-

unless I’m at that hundred person poetry reading being held during a metal band/open bar fundraiser

-the watchers might as well not be there.

The other trick is that as soon as they disappear, I have to rebuild them.

When I look out into the darkness, I have to create the faces of my judgment.

I have to create me.

There is a joy, true and genuine, to performing for myself.

But that moment when I build the audience in my mind, for the story I am to tell-

That is the moment my words have power.

That is the moment my pen, my voice combine to look into the darkness, to say-

Here I am.

IMG_5453Beyond the lights, beyond the glitter lies the story.

Stay tuned for ACT II tomorrow!

The One About the Elephants

How do you get an elephant in a car?

Humour is the biggest security breach to ever allow us inside a person’s head.

Open the door and let the elephant in.

When I write, I am conscious of humour with every word and every sentence.

How do you get two elephants in a car?

Sometimes the story’s humour tells us more about the writer than it does the story.

Open the doors and let the elephants in.

But in the hands of a writer who understands how laughter speaks…

How do you get three elephants in a car?

Tell me what a character laughs at and I will know them before their smirk has faded.

Open the doors and let the elephants in.

Do they laugh at the pain of others?

How do you get four elephants in a car?

Do their jokes hit above them or below?

Open the doors and let the elephants in.

Do they share their humour with their closest companions or with everyone they meet?

How do you get five elephants in a car?

Are their jokes of the world around them?

Open the trunk.

Are they nonsensical?

How do you get an elephant to drive?

When we laugh, we share our pleasure, our nervousness, our raw excitement with the world around us.

Give him the keys to the car.

We can ignore the elephants underneath our words, but only at our peril.

How do you get an author in a refrigerator?

Drive a car full of elephants through my story.

IMG_5089My jokes are a-maize-ing

A Flash in the Darkness

There are only so many ways you can explain why you are carrying a hacksaw, a thermometer, and a shovel.

I didn’t even try.

If I saw anyone watching me while I was trying to keep the sawteeth away from my legs, I would cheerfully wave my thermometer at them.

Or maybe that was the hacksaw.

What story have I told you?

A trailed off voice, an uncomfortable silence, a flash of light in the darkness.

What we don’t say tells as much of a story as what we do.

I have had a life filled with moments of strangeness.

I honor them by letting them stand on their own.

These stories within stories, these moments with neither end nor beginning, appear and disappear within writing.

We are all story-tellers at heart.

Taking these threads I have given, you have told yourself something.

As I approach in the darkness, thermometer flashing, I will tell you that your story is better, a less boring explanation.

I will walk off, juggling my hacksaw, into an unknown future.

IMG_5242A boring explanation