Saturday, March 20, 2010

Clarion, Meet Dallas...

He sat at the computer, brow furrowed, just a little short on sleep, wondering what he was supposed to say. There was a questionnaire he could fill out, some guidelines at least. A skeleton to hang the flesh and the skin of his life on, if he cared to. It would be easier that way. Safer.

He thought for a moment. Stared at the empty box on the screen he was supposed to fill with introductory material. Who was he? Why was he doing this? What did he want? What would he be leaving behind? All good questions.

He stopped to make a cup of strong coffee. It was cheap stuff, a memento from his time in Florida, best when sweetened a bit and drunk without paying too much attention to the flavor. He tapped away, lackadaisically, while it percolated on the stove. On the headphones, Charlotte Gainsbourg gave way to Willie Hutch, postmodern dissonance dissolved in the butter-cream smoothness of blaxploitation funk.

Who was he? Just some guy who'd always wanted to be a writer. Who'd taken it up and put it back down more than a few times over the years, first because he had nothing much to say, later because life has a way of intruding on dreams. But it had always been there, this thing he knew he wanted to do.

Eventually he started writing a book. A book made of brambles and rhizomes, that wouldn't stop growing in every direction possible. He fought and he hacked at it, Hercules against the Hydra. He buried it in a closet, deprived it of the sun. But its tendrils refused to release their hold on him, and so he returned with a torch, an angry mob of one, and burned the whole god-damned thing down. He gathered the ashes, then, and sprinkled them on the ground in the space he'd created. Gently, carefully, he began to coax forth new shoots, husbanding them more deliberately this time.

Why did he want to be a writer? Because he was a reader, a text addict whose eye was drawn to words wherever they appeared, whose gaze caressed the curves and ligatures of letters and phrases the way a hand might caress the curve of a hip or a spine, whose love of language and the things that could be done with it blossomed in the secret garden of his inmost self in such profusion that it grew into and among all of the other botanicals, its roots spreading and pushing under the foundation stones of the walls, toppling them in places and opening up to the vast horizons beyond. Because such worlds had been opened up to him by the works of others that what was best in life seemed to him to be this: this strange magic between writer and reader, these mystic incantations and the filament-worlds they could weave in that magical space.

What he longed for most was to learn to work that magic himself, to write something he'd want to read, to give to others the wonders that had been given to him. To open those worlds and explore the logics and suchnesses that made them just so. To chart a path through them that others might follow.

What did he want? To focus. To learn. To be pushed. To have his best efforts torn to shreds that his skills might improve. To be taught his craft by those who had mastered it, whose work he knew and admired. To be sunk in a community of peers devoted for this small time to the cultivation of that craft and the life that went with it. To finally become the thing he'd always wanted to be.

What would he be leaving behind? A good life. An interlude of sunshine in an overcast land. The alternation of solitude, writerly and otherwise, with periods of intense entanglement in social networks and communities of friends and friendly faces. The bar where he'd worked for so many years, a community in itself, where he was loved and respected and not infrequently hated on (he does not suffer fools gracefully, for time is too short, and so can his patience be). An orbit of known faces and the places in his heart that they occupied.

Soccer on Mondays and ultimate frisbee on saturdays. Circles of friends and the unpredictable ways in which they intersected. A city vibrant with urbanity, with culture and music and gustation and art, yet cozy enough to feel like home. A community of creative souls and critical thinkers, of people who follow their dreams and can still hold down a job.

Love: the sweetest he'd ever known, the smiling girl who made it so much better. Who made him so much better. Who wanted him to be what he'd always aspired to.

These things he was leaving, they were good things. They made him happy. He was blessed and he knew it.

But he'd always been a restless sort, poorly wired for contentment. And though he was happy with this life he had made, there was more that he desired, work yet to be done, steps along the path that were yet to be taken.

The things he was leaving would be there when he returned, to build the life he desired. After all, every quest is a circle, a return to the place from which it began, though the wanderer who returns is rarely the same as the one who has left.

Obscurity had been his friend. Solitude his ally. But he could only teach himself so much. The time had come to seek the company of others, devotees like himself and the masters who would teach them.

Eyes turning southward, he began to gather those things he would need...

No comments: