Not Without. . .Rus

I’ve played that game numerous times, where I’m asked what I’d want with me if I were stranded on a deserted island. At times, my responses have been somewhat flippant, like a drop shipment of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or even a full-service, fully-functioning coffee shop with enough roasted beans to last me a good 20 years.

The people asking me to play these little games don’t usually like my responses. They want me to say something like a favorite book (which one!) or a sentimental charm to remind me of someone enjoying life a little better than I would be at that certain moment.

That’s okay. I think that if I were ever really stranded on an island, my lack of survival skills would make moot any large shipments or stashes of goodies quite quickly.

And let’s face it. Unless you are Tom Hanks or Gilligan, chances are pretty good that you should think more about what’s in the back seat of your car when you run out of gas on the most unlikely (and least traveled) stretch of road between towns.

So we’ll put the pretending aside and talk in more realistic tones about my essentials, my non-withouts, that sustain me in this thing called life.

My Daybook. I first discovered the sacred and secret powers of the daybook when I was in sixth grade. My Language Arts teacher, Jack Delaney, taught us everything we needed (and wanted) to know about the writing process and this magical little stage called drafting. He gave us license to write like crap on those first drafts. “Just get it down on paper,” he would say, and we did. And it was crap. But it was a starting point for our stories, our essays (called “themes”), and our 11-year-old views of lives lived dangerously.

They were exciting drafts, filled with uninhibited thoughts about love, magic, girls, boys, sports, snakes, sex, superstars, religion, divorce, and even death. My early drafting caught fire, and I started my first daybook journaling in an old wide-ruled Mead composition book about love and relationships, trying to understand the intricacies of being human, and how we all might just do a little better if we go through it together.

Today, 43 years later, not much has really changed. My daybooks are still sacred and secret, and I’m still exploring the realms of relationships and the tensions between death and life as we balance our walk a little more delicately in an increasingly reckless world. My daybook is the very extension of my brain, my heart, my timeless soul that carries the memories and DNA of myriad generations – too many that I have yet to know through the words I spill on the page.

My Music. Among and beyond the words I write, music frames my every action. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving to work (morning baroque music really synchronizes my cells), grading papers (Amazon Music has some serious study playlists that get the job done), or writing (I’ve created very specific playlists for my very specific writing projects), the music I listen to matters.

It’s an eclectic collection for sure. Thanks to iTunes Match, I’ve uploaded thousands and thousands of songs, albums, and soundtracks that allow me to build unlimited playlists that are available to me on any of my devices, 24/7. I’m not too jazzed about the plugged-in life, but this little offer from Apple allows me to have instant access to the music I need. I take full advantage of that for a few reasons.

First, if writing is the essence of my heart, mind, and soul, music is the blood that courses through my veins pumping life and sustenance to those words I place on the page. Music holds memories and messy possibilities as I create new worlds, breathe life into new characters, and expose the tensions in life that we experience every day, but don’t really have the chance, or the courage, to bring to light.

Second, it is simply an escape to put in my earbuds and return to calmer days, imaginary roads, and peaceful moments I can slow to a low-pulse, timeless experience, with emotions and recollections hovering over me as the music plays on. My music is my inner oxygen. The more I listen, the more I am at peace and one with all that defines me.

My Querencia. This is your space, your wanting-place that makes you feel invincible. It’s your go-to corner of the sky where you are gifted with uninterrupted moments of stillness (or even chaos for some) that is consistent with every vibe that resonates from and within you. In the past, my Querencia has been a log cabin, the sands along the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay, and the paths that stretch more than 2,100 miles along the Appalachian Trail. But now, in the hectic ways of full-time jobs, family needs, and typical getting-old challenges, I find that my Querencia is wherever I might be with my daybook and my music. Give me a dirty table one afternoon at a local cafe between rushes and I’m good. Or clear a spot on the dining room table around the incredible paintings and anatomy textbooks and I’m ready to venture into other worlds. In other words, my sojourning ways manifest into creative explorations, which eventually manifest into stories, essays, and authentic renditions of who I am, at that particular place in time.

And all because I am not without the very words, sounds, and space that serve as the essence of all I can be, in my efforts to be all that I actually am.

 

Words As… The Space Between

Words as The Space Between

There’s a saying, rendered unto jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” In drumming parlance, it’s the space between the strokes you play that can be as important as the hits you make on the drum or cymbal.

This song has one of my favourite drum grooves where space holds the song in the interplay between hi-hats, snare and bass drum. That tension exists between groove and bombast, which kicks in for the chorus.

We inhabit the spaces of our world.

We hold space for others.

We’re quick to grasp it.

We’re slow to release it.

Our mass is made up of indescribable particles that inhabit the space within the framework of an atom.

We are dependent on space.

And within that void we hold the power of story.

We all remember stories that have an impact on our lives, the books we read or the movies we saw from our childhood, adolescence and adulthood. We internalise the characters, their dialogue, their idiosyncrasies, their hopes and dreams as if they were our own.

But beyond the story are the bigger ideas, the deeper questions nestled within the text and wrapped up in the books on our shelf or in the pockets of our favourite jacket. We take them, often unconsciously, and slip them between the pages of our notebooks or hide them under our pillows or tuck them into the folds of our shirt sleeves. Into the quiet spaces.

The power of the story lies within the big ideas or questions revealed in the narrative. These big ideas and questions find their expression and meaning in the actions and emotions of individual characters going about their day-to-day business.

We, as reader, understand the narrative as a microscopic view of a telescopic realm. The narrative is a parable of meaning expressed in the actions of fictional characters we believe to be real because we understand their lives as if they were ours.

This is the power of story.

And we weave a story from a single thought.

A single word.

This is one reason why I like blackout, or erasure, poetry. I aim to find the story within the words given to me on the page, bring them to the front and then erase those words which no longer serve a purpose. Blackout poetry serves as a place of rest and quiet, of fun and enjoyment.

Words invite us to the table. To make conversation with one another. To make space in our lives for each other.

Writing creates a space for you as the individual to explore who you are, to understand what shapes and forms you, to appreciate the silences midst the noise.

Words hold that tension of calling words into being from eternity against the silence of contemplation and thought.