By Paula Damon
Gingerly progressing forward, placing one foot in front of the other with high-stepping expectations in tow, I carefully make my way to a new writing spot in the park. As though proceeding in a wedding march, I inch along. A concrete walk serves as an unadorned runner beneath my feet, leading me down the aisle of what I hope to be sanctum place – an open-air sanctuary. Skyward is a cathedral ceiling where Blue Jays, darting among pine and poplar spires, shriek joyously.
Looking around, I am surprised to be free from the confining walls I have left behind, where my brittle thoughts are warped by deadlines and duties.
A cloak of warm air wraps its flowing arms around my worn shoulders, kisses my cheeks and then playfully tufts my hair a bit.
Sounds of life float past. Assemblies of hungry robins hop and flutter in a mating game of tag. A raspy deep-throated cough emerges from behind a grove of trees atop the hill behind me, making me want to abandon my rendezvous in this place. I steady my fears with what I hope to embark on – the exercise of constructing kernels of stories.
But how with a pestering fly noisily interrupting my otherwise peaceful state and dual sirens shouting a distant clarion call, reminding me that someone’s life hangs in the balance, while mine serenely occupies this wide open space.
How will I capture the honesty here, harness its flowing proverbial beauty with a humid breeze running its transfiguring fingers over my arms and stark September sun warming my face?
A car door slams, more sirens blare, a woman’s laughter recklessly carries on and a cell phone conversation fades in and out – all pay me wordless visits.
Clutching the tools of my trade – a notepad and pen – and pushing aside intruding guilt over such self-indulgence far from rigor and rigidity, I sit down on a park bench and begin to write.
Forcing my pen across the page– I struggle to open a floodgate of uncensored, unedited and uninhibited thoughts, as I endeavor to free write – an awkward activity in a writer’s life - an imperfect exercise of fits and starts.
A scary tonic of sorts, free writing requires taking leaps of faith to endure the heavy lifting of composition: chasing down people, places and things in their preexisting hollow forms, some dramatic, others quite benign, and doing the work of shaping and molding them into discernible, memorable images.
With great effort, writers try to make sense of it all by assigning voice to silence, giving meaning to insignificance, making what’s broken whole again.
It’s been said that at any given time everyone is fighting for an inch more of something: money, gratitude, guts, love, closeness, distance, cooperation, consent, food, water, shelter, healing, forgiveness. Writers included. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are fighting for one more inch of text – a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph to open, transition and close our stories.
With stories always simmering, writers stir about in fast and slow circles of cautious expectation. Sometimes with relentless exuberance – at other times with pained trepidation – we address life’s tenuous affiliations: love and hate, good and evil, happiness and sadness, lost and found.
Rarely are we unswervingly confident in our craft. Trust and truth push and pull at lines of purpose in our lives, kept taut by our love affair with words.