Friday, November 2, 2018

Where Writers Live

Let me tell you something about writers that you may not know. And by writers, I can only speak for those of us whose main commodity is human emotion. Other writers—those who deal in history, or intricately woven plots, or fantastic, created worlds, or other goods—are certainly appreciated neighbors, but for my purposes today and what I’m going to tell you, I’m speaking of writers whose primary and main obsession is people, and what they think and feel.
We live in houses, all of us. The houses were built by blueprint, or piecemeal, by necessity, and the framework of each is comprised of memories and stories. Note: these two building materials are scarcely discernible from each other most of the time. We can hardly tell them apart ourselves. They’re both strong, though, and keep the roof over our heads. Our houses have windows, of course, but we can only look out. You can try to look in; you can put your face right up to the glass and strain, and you may catch a glimpse of something shadowy, but that’s about it. We like the windows but sometimes forget they are there. In fact, we may shut the blinds for hours, days, weeks at a time. We like the dark in our cozy house. We are fine; don’t worry about us.
You may have noticed that every so often, we swing the windows open, propping each with a piece of wood chiseled from the frame. We let some of the musty air from the house out; we take some of the fresh breeze into our lungs. On special days, sunshine streams into the windows so brightly, we have no choice but to dance. Often we need a period of closed windows after these events.
Next to our houses runs a creek. Yes, next to every house, all of them. The official name for this creek is Melancholia—that’s what it was called long ago when such things were named—but I’ve heard it called Sentiment, Sadness, Sorrow, and many other names starting with other letters too. Our friends and loved ones may whisper “Crazy Creek” to each other, but we know they mean it with love. It’s a gentle creek most of the time. Within our houses, all the time, you can hear the low murmur of rushing water, a sound we usually forget is even there. We like the creek, though, and feel it even when we don’t know we are. On occasion, we confront it straight on. We go outside and get our feet wet, step right in and let the cool water up to our knees, our waists. Sometimes, we lie on our backs and let the water rush over us; we like the way the world looks through this blur of watery movement.
Once in a while, a storm comes, the water rises, and the creek floods into our houses. We’re used to this and in some ways, welcome it. You can still visit during these times. You may not want to, and we understand that too. If you do come by, we’ll welcome you right in but you should be aware that we may be busy rushing from room to room, filling buckets. We may not have time to talk, or much to say. We do appreciate you stopping by though.
Why did we settle in houses next to creeks that flood? You might as well ask why some choose to live in the forest where wild animals dwell, why this old woman prefers the hot desert and that young man the boisterous city. Without the creek, we wouldn’t appreciate dryness nearly as much. Without the creek, we wouldn’t feel connected to people in other houses, next to other creeks, or even to the man in the city, or the woman in the barren desert. We like the creek. We like to rest in our beds at night, hearing its music, imagining its path, surviving its chill. And then we get up and try to remember all of it for those of you in the forests, next to farmland, in high-rises, where perhaps you can’t hear water at all, or have forgotten to listen.

"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka