What is it inside our imagination that keeps surprising us
at odd moments
when something is given back
We didn’t know we had had
In solitude, spontaneously, and with great joy?
~ Charles Wright
I love the smell of just cut green grass. Not the camel, gold, and sage grasses of the desert where I live. The smell of cut lawns. So rare here where water is precious, and where smells die in the dry air with nothing to hold them. On my walk the other day, before every trace of moisture evaporated with the rising sun, just as a mental grumble over the roar of the monster mower at the park settled in, that smell of cut grass hit me. I calmed, and noticed the mower was moving further away, to a different section of the park, the sound becoming buffeted by trees, felt less grinding. I leaned against the huge tree I visit each morning, and took a long breath. We smell grass, I told her.
As I walked on, I wondered when I fell in love with that smell of freshly cut grass. A question I’d never asked myself before. I’d only paused, basked in the pleasure.
A conversation with poet James Nave the day before was the prompt for my when & where question. ‘Knowing you,’ he said, ‘I’d ask you about pencils. When I was a kid, I loved the pencil sharpener. . .’ Tho I can’t remember now exactly what his remembrance was, I feel how much I LOVED his question. Because I immediately jumped to the old fashioned, now ugly, tarnished metal crank desk pencil sharpener I’ve had for 40 years. It’s gone across country three times with me. I don’t think I will ever get rid of it, because it’s perfect.
From the moment I pull it out, flip the level that lifts the rubber pad on the bottom, creating a vacuum that holds it tightly to any flat surface (brilliant!), I anticipate the long sharp point, and the ease, cleanness, and beauty of the line I’ll get. A satisfaction that no other pencil sharpener has ever given me. And I realized I’m taken back to myself. I’d never thought about that, either. Only felt it. Like I felt the pleasure of the smell of that grass.
These experiences bring me back to my writer Self. This is how we write what we know. How I can write from the POV of a 10 yr. old boy, not being one. Or experience the meaning a cello holds for a woman, not ever having owned and loved such an instrument. This doesn’t mean we don’t do our research. I played a cello. Noted how it felt in my arms, and the weight of it against me. How the notes vibrated thru my body, filled me and pulled me with them. It means we find the place where we meet, human to human. Connection. What writing is about. First with ourselves, heart to mind, mind to page, then with the reader.
It’s about observing and living with awareness, something all good writers do. The awareness of noticing how something fits in the context. The rarity of the smell of cut grass in the desert. How something holds more than the object in hand, leading to values and meaning. A sharp pencil. How these awarenesses can expand, take us deeper into ourselves and creativity.
We can shift awareness in the real world when the hard stuff assails us. We can see the multitude of what’s before us, including choices. Which is what story and creativity are about!
We’re in a dance with creativity when we write. We’re expanding the dance floor! Taking it to the edges of possibility.
James Nave has a favorite story I’ve heard him say many times. When he was young, his mother quoted lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses to him. She changed the I to You, making it a message he carried with him. I’ll say it like his mother said it to him:
You are a part of all that you have met
Yet, all experience is an arch
where thru gleams that untraveled world
whose margin fades forever and forever as you more.
We suspend belief each time we write and the words come from the heart and the imagination, and all that is part of us.
What do pencils bring up for you? Tell me in the comments.
(Photo: Alistair Macrobert)
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
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