Raw Journal Passage: On Saying YES!

While visiting cemeteries in New England, I was absolutely taken by the different forms of this winged head on headstones, along with inscriptions like this one: “View here thy transient state / Life is an empty show / See mine how short the date / How soon may yourn be so!”

“Today I have been visiting the Atlantic Ocean on the Connecticut shore. I’ve visited Stonington Borough and Mystic and now I’m on Eastern Point Beach in Groton. I am sitting on a sand dune smelling the salt and chill of the sea, being kept company by dozens of seagulls—white and gray and dappled brown.

This morning we found on the breakfast table at the Tolland Inn, a copy of a Hartford newspaper with Osama Bin Laden’s face and the headline: Osama Bin Laden is Dead.

I listened in the car to a Boston radio show called “Matt and Ray.” Two sports guys stopped their regular broadcast to talk about America’s news. They interviewed an FDNY firefighter who was on the ground when the World Trade Centers fell in 2001. He was very emotional as he talked about that day and the closure that comes with this [Bin Laden’s death] for so many people, particularly military and firefighters. Many called in with the same line and feeling: God Bless America!

I spent a cold morning in a New England cemetery conversing with ghosts who died two centuries before I was born, and wandered into a meadow where I tromped through a carpet of fallen oak leaves and acorn caps.

I smashed an ant by accident outside of Mystic Seaport. Really, I just wanted to flick him away, but my fingernail perished him.

And I just keep thinking. Are we not all the same?

I’ve seen so many loved ones turn to their final homes, their graves this year and life is so fleeting and precious and rare.

The ocean laps the shore. It crash, crash, crashes in and goes back out. The driftwood and sea-glass dot the beach. These scallop and mussel shells lie empty, their house-guests now gone, and some day we all die.

All that’s left to us is to say YES to each moment we are alive.

Yes to:

    • The salt smell of ocean
    • The blaring horn and ding that rings in answer off DuBois Beach on Stonington Borough
    • The woman (0r man) living beneath a bridge in North Boston, the curled form buried under a pink blanket on a lounge chair and a bicycle guarding bags of belongings beside it
    • Free ice cream in Boston Common
    • The gull diving in shallow ocean for black wormy food
    • Black sea ducks skimming the water in flight, less than a wing’s breadth above the waves
    • Driving alone up the coast on Conn 1 and I-95
    • The cold damp of the sea air that freezes the bubbles of my bones and chills the hands that grip this pen
    • YES! to the lighthouses at Groton
    • Yes! Yes! Yes! to climbing the stone spiral steps of Stonington lighthouse and gripping the iron ladder in fear as I climbed through to the top BECAUSE IT SCARED ME!

And oh, the sight I saw as reward! The ocean beckoning me into her arms. The waves curling and calling. The homes on the shore and the V of sea ducks overhead. The embrace of the endless ocean, Old Man Sea, around the finger of the Borough stretching out into the ocean with me, reaching out as if we two touched God today, and climbing back down with fear behind me, flown, burst through the lighthouse glass as a blaring beacon, a signal light to ships in the harbor to say: Come! See what I have seen and do not be afraid to live, or living be afraid to die, but come with me and let your fear burn blue and green as the driftwood it is, and CRACK OPEN WIDER, Welcoming Sorrow and Pain and Anger. Invite it all to burn in the blaze of who you will become. Someone new will fall down these stone steps, the you you thought was you, gone, shed like old skin. Newborn. Like a Phoenix from the flame of your fear.”

From my green journal, Dated May 2, 2011. This is still part of my goal for life. The opening. The welcoming of EVERYTHING inherent in living, the YES! YES! YES! to this life I love.

Raw Journal Passage: On (Not) Writing

“Why do I choose not to write?

  • Because I feel like I don’t have enough time for it.
  • Because I worry that my ideas are stupid, that I’ll never be good enough or have anything worthwhile to say.
  • Because I fear my own inability, my mediocrity.

As long as my ideas for poems and stories and essays remain in the realm of ideas, I can still believe in their beauty. I can convince myself that I am (or will be in the future) a brilliant and successful and talented author. I don’t have to own up to the fact that I feel like I’m wandering around in a cold, damp basement maze in the dark with my arms cut off.

If I don’t face this awful, awesome task of writing, I don’t have to face up to the fact that I don’t have and fear I’ll never have the skill, the words, the ability to take this precious, overwhelming, beautiful world inside me and find some way, any way, to make it real.

Writing is a way of grounding my rich and wild (and, frankly, schizophrenic) inner life in a reality. It’s taking what is in my head and attempting to make something real out of it, something others can touch or feel and love or hate or use or ignore. It is scary. I fear that nobody else will care or that they will hate what I have to say or how I’ve said it or that they just won’t get it.

It’s more than that. Writing means taking the spirit of my inner self and ideas and giving them a body. And once they are fully formed, body-spirit-soul, I am out there. I am, in my writing, a body that can be bruised, broken, hurt, raped, hungry, thirsty.

The art of writing is much like the act of giving birth. It is a choice to pull something pure and beautiful and spiritual into this dirty, difficult, physical realm. It means to clothe intelligence, that airy creature, in flesh and blood, and expose it to the world, which is not always a good place. Only I am not really taking another spirit, snatching it from the ethereal realm and gifting it with a body. I am taking pieces of my self, tearing them again and again from the place where they live and throwing them into the cold and the fire.

Writing is like tearing my fingernails out one by one and giving them away in hopes that someone else will make them into gold. Then, I stare at the bloody stumps and watch, wait through the pain in hopes that more fingernails will grow back whole so I can do it all over again.”

Taken from my green journal. Dated May 28, 2011. As true to my feelings about writing today as it was a year ago. Writing is hard sometimes. And yet, it is as vital a part of my being as breath. Even when it’s difficult, I can’t not be a writer.