There is a chill here today. The sky is overcast and the room is darker than usual. I lift my coffee to my lips, hands wrapped around warm white pottery. I drink with some sweet kind of reverence. Thank you for this small grace. Melancholy piano keys offer melody and a sultry voice delivers lyrics with the ache of loss and hope of redemption. The air is inexplicably tinged with the scent of wood smoke, summoning a memory of dark green trees and the perfect slow slide of a summer sunset. The world tugs at me, speaking in a language I don’t quite remember that I once spoke. I am restless.
My eyes raise. I see around me lives and relationships and heartaches and bliss. Beginnings and endings and the monotonous days in the middle when future is uncertain and the present begs escape. I see the way the lamp illuminates his skin and wonder about the dark circles beneath his eyes. I hear the sound of her hesitant laughter. I watch them eye one another, both too cautious to do more than warily approach the idea of their inevitable coming together. I smell jasmine and night air and my longing is stirred for some reason I do not yet understand. All of this matters. It is all a part of the story.
As a writer, my main task is to observe. To bring presence to my moments and attention to my days. To pay homage to what filters past the notice of most. This attention is the starting point, the place it all begins.
I bring focus to the sacred; find it by teasing back the layers and reaching just beyond the surface of the relentlessly mundane. It is all fodder for art. I absorb and empty, messy scrawl on blank page. When I am hollow I am only ready to be filled again. And so it goes.
What do I know? This is the question that is at the start of everything. What do I know? This is where the words must always begin.
And after what I know comes that which I do not know. That which I may never know. That which piques my endless curiosity. And then that which I long for, reach for, fear and shy away from. All of this is ushered to the surface of my body, to the tips of my fingers, to the place where they connect with the keys and the flow begins.
The man in the blue plaid shirt across from me at this weathered table. I wonder about him. He runs his hands absentmindedly through his hair, inhales deep and lets his head and shoulders slump forward. He is young but he has done battle. I can tell. His losses hang like curtains in front of his green eyes. I wonder who it was that he loved. What he has lost. Where does he find the beauty that sustains him? Who does he call home?
Every mornings we open our eyes to a day that brings birth and death. Sex and breakdown. Meditation and tantrum. Prayer and profanity. Every epic tale we have ever known is right there, within the texture and fabric of our ordinary hours, waiting to be told.
The dark red lipstick mark on the perfect white coffee mug holds an entire story. So does the breeze from the open door behind me. The mortar layered between the bricks to my right was laid a half century ago or more, by hands that held babies and made love to strangers and hurt people so badly they did not recover. And the way the sunlight is making her hair glow like a halo as she turns to laugh and decides to spin in circles like the freedom found in the center of the spiral. Right there. That moment. It could hold an entire novel.
These stories all swirl in the air around me, mingling with my own, becoming more along the way. I draw my sweater around me and shiver – as much from the possibility inherent in the blank page before me as from the chilly air. My coffee has cooled. My ears are filled with a song that makes me think of new worlds and ancient love. I am awake. I am paying attention.
It is time to begin.
Do you want to write? Have you long known that there is story in you and all around you, just waiting to be told? Are you reading to start paying attention? Get in touch and tell me all about it. Beginning next month I will have openings for three lovely and brave souls with stories to tell, who are ready to work one-on-one to bring their words to the surface and offer them to the world. I know you have a story, and I would love to help you tell it.