The Things I Carry

Angels In A Small Crowd detail.300ppi
Angels in a Small Crowd (detail) by Cat Fink

There is a book by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, about soldiers in Vietnam during the war.

I only know this book through another book, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg.  On page 127 of my hardcover copy, there is an excerpt from Tim’s book.  And then Natalie’s words, talking about this and the truth of a life, and saving yourself through writing.  I’ve marked this passage with pencil,  and folded over the top corner of the page.  What Tim wrote sticks with me.

So now I am wondering, what do I carry?

This is a huge question.  My answer could go any direction.  I decide to frame the question.  As writer and artist, what do I carry?

There is the obvious reply.  Paper, pens, pencils.  But I want to go underneath this question.  What do I carry that no one sees, until and unless I choose to show them?

I am thinking of things that are invisible, intangible.  I cannot say weightless because these things carry great weight.

The biggest thing I carry.  Awareness.  Looking outward into what surrounds me, my moment-to-moment environment touched through my senses.  Looking inward.  Feelings.  Thoughts.  Memories.  Recording what has been received.  Then being aware yet again, in a different way, as I marry outer and inner awareness, and create word and image.

Curiosity.  Curiosity is forever with me, perched on one shoulder or the other.  Permanently five years old and interested in everything.  Her favourite questions.  ‘What is that?’  ‘Why?’  ‘What can I do with it?’  Curiosity lets me experience as the child I am inside.  Lets me come to my life with heart and mind open, allowing, and fascinated.  Lets me experience differently.

Imagination.  Inward play sparked by outward seeing and by Curiosity.  Sparked by the questions Curiosity asks, especially ‘what can I do with it’.  This question is a playground for my imagination.

Creativity.  My ever-present need to make stuff and share it.  Imagination is the playground.  Creativity is the laboratory, petting zoo, and test kitchen.  Experiments happen here.  The ‘what can I do with it’ becomes ‘what if I try this, then this, or this’, continued ad infinitum.  Think pi with its never ending, never repeating play of numbers beyond the decimal point.  That is my creativity in action.

I carry something Natalie Goldberg says is her great talent.  Strong determination.  Twenty years ago, the Director at the Victoria College of Art looked at my student admission portfolio, then at me, and said, ‘Stubborn.’  I said to him, ‘Determined.’  He said, ‘You start in September.’

Finally, I carry love.  For myself, for others, for my world, for what I create.  Love is at the base of everything I am and everything I do.  Without love, passion, none of this would exist.

Tim O’Brien’s characters carried things that kept them alive, more than just physically.  Things that gave a small degree of joy, kept heart, spirit, and mind alive in a place of overwhelming chaos and sudden oblivion.

What do I carry?

I carry things that ensure the writer and artist in me survive.  The things I carry keep away chaos and oblivion.  They ensure joy lives in the whole of me.

Paper.  Pens.  Pencils.  Awareness.  Curiosity.  Imagination.  Creativity.  Strong determination.  Love.  And that is enough.

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In this post:

Tim O’Brien, book The Things They Carried, Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Natalie Goldberg, book Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, Bantam Books, 2000.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Today Is A Writing Day

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I dreamed the wind and danced its edges. (Chantel)

This gives me joy—today is a writing day.

Five words.  A declaration and an intention.  A pen with dark pink ink and a stack of loose leaf paper.  An open heart and a hungry mind.  This is all it takes to give me joy.

I can write anywhere.  My joy is portable.  How cool is that?  It is easily called and easily, instantly created.

I could make this difficult, make my writing feel like work.  Be all serious and ‘this has to be good, this has to be perfect, this has to be outstanding, a twenty out of ten on the Writing Scale.’  Putting my focus on the product, the outcome, how my writing will be received.

Ick.  No.  That is the job of my internal critic, who is sleeping right now.  There is no need to call her.  She is grouchy when woken up.  Truth, she is grouchy all the time.  No.  I don’t need her here, being bossy.

I am putting my focus on creating.  Being in action.  This is play.  Writing my blog post is play.  Jumping into words like they are the biggest ball room at the playground, and I get to wiggle into the middle of all these words and find the ones I love best today.  Try this one or this one.  String together these ones.  Nope, not this one.  Choose the one over here instead.

Joy.  This is joy.  Imagining.  Being curious.  Experimenting and finally choosing which words I want.

This is how I played as a child.  No expectation.  Just diving into the ball room of my imagination and letting myself go wherever I wanted, for as long as I wanted.

Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist.

He is right.

I am a child today.  I am playing with words and pen and paper and my imagination.  I am in joy.

Today is a writing day.  There is nothing better.

________________________

Mentioned in this post:

Pablo Picasso, artist, 1881 – 1973,  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/pablo_picasso.html