Monday, December 24, 2012

Orbit

When some brooding, heavy-with-consequence thing falls upon you, pinning you to the floor for the moment, unable to rise, you struggle into the process of accepting the loss.  No question about it, the incident is in some way or other an actual loss or the recognition that something you'd once had is no longer with you except in the cluttered pockets of crumpled receipts and memory.

You think that thing or condition or person is gone, in its place the awareness of its loss a memo to you.  Now, the memo informs you, you will have to mend yourself, find some roll of duct tape or some tube of super glue, half-used and crumpled, then begin to repair the places where the loss lived.  Your first goal is to repair well enough so the loss is not outwardly noticed by others. Then you want yet another protective coating so that you do not notice the repair.  The more you notice the repair, the more often you'll be back, attempting to touch-up or paint over, which will remind you again and again of the original need for the repair.

By this stage of your life, there have been enough associations with loss and the subsequent need for repair to have made you a handyman, the knowledge cold comfort, nevertheless comfort.

In small bits and pieces, the lost things, the vanished individuals, the displaced memories filter their way back home without you noticing.  They have described an orbit of being away from you, but as orbits often do, they return as small chips of awareness that call themselves to your attention when you are composing.  A character begins to remind you of someone long gone or forgotten, someone with whom, too much in love to go to sleep, you'd driven to the desert with to watch the sun rise, then buy breakfast melons from a farmer's stand, run by the farmer's wife, who smelled of sudsy eucalyptus shampoo.  A detail, as in a plastic whistle from your early years, suddenly, inexplicably gone, turns up in a story, prompting the memory of confession years after the fact from your sister, who had actually begun to worry she'd impacted your interest in music.  Rachel, your real life mentor, urging you to write down details to make sure they would return when you needed them to breathe life into a scene that needed ever so much more than mere plot.

Samuel L. Clemens, your imaginary mentor, telling it as though speaking directly to you to make sure you got the import of it:  "The almost right word is really a large matter--it is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning."

How old does one have to be before lost things begin orbiting back?

Old enough not to care about such things as tenure or merit raises or even on-the-job promotions; old enough to live in the world of one's own senses instead of trying to diagram and somehow master someone else's seeming perfect recall, old enough not to be envious of the ease or vision or voice of a much younger writer who is getting it all so early in career, and most important of all, old enough to have formed the habit, harrowed out the neural pathways of repetitive behavior that forces you to write something every day or suffer the consequences of withdrawal.

Old enough to think it matters, but not young enough to think anyone else will of necessity care.  Old enough to understand that if you do want anyone else to care, the burden is entirely yours.  There is plenty of material out there already for people to care about.  Someone waving his hand and saying, I know, I know, call on me, works through about grade four or five, after which, knowing the answer is no longer enough.

Post a Comment