Friday, November 07, 2008

Word Gardeners

This whole thing about communicating is overrated. Life was good once, when there were publishers and editors who knew what they were doing. The days of books, and newspapers and trained language professionals who care about punctuation, grammar and tenses, those were the days. 

Those days aren't completely gone by any stretch, but they are muddied by the vast amount of permission we've given each other to think ourselves worthy of thought and justified in our opinions. We are, all of us who write anything as permanent as a blog, present webspace included, guilty of taking permission but not always with the responsibility that goes with it. In part it's because there's been a narrowing between the parallel roads of "immediacy" and "permanence". 

Breaking the wall for the moment (which is, after all permitted since this IS my blog, whatever "my" means), I find myself suddenly on a quest to take more lightly ideas expressed casually.

I am keenly aware of what happens when I read something written in haste for whatever reason. "Haste" is the word of the day in this instant publishing of blogs, IM's, SMS, Tweets and other microblogs. So why the hurry? Sometimes it's the post-it note mentality driven by easy to use technology. What used to be a quick reminder to self, stuck on the cupboard, is now publicly viewable, and has impact on those around us. Sometimes hasty words happen because we don't have the margin to think, so we process out loud. And of course, as witnessed a while back when I saw two teenage girls texting each other at a movie from opposite ends of the row, we shoot hasty words sometimes because we "can".

In the end what keeps coming back to me is that there's one element in all this that is the most human of all. Trust. I feel comfortable with someone seeing an "impermanent" idea of mine, because if they are my reader, they're trustworthy. I am bolstered by the myth that what I might say in an electronic transfer, will be taken with a grain of salt, because we all know there was no "editor" or "publisher" involved. It was a casual comment. Or was it?

I'm more aware than ever that nothing I write is really impermanent. Not any more or less than harsh or kind words I speak. I can change a person with what I say to her. I can make him do the impossible, or create for her an impossible self image with simple conversation. And even more so, through "inked" words. The reader goes back over and over the text and, for better or worse, feasts on the meaning. Permanence. They are changed and so nothing said or written casually is truly fleeting. (With the exception of the likes of a shopping list or party greeting: "hey", "how's it going?", etc)

And so I'm trying to weed out those idiotic tendencies from my garden. It's the editors and publishers I miss most. Those professionals, the ones who know gardens, who can take one look and say, "you know, a little fertilizer on those over there, and if I were you, I'd prune in the next week..." Until then, may I learn at least to know what's important enough to explore, and what is best left stuck to the cupboard door.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name, you are mine.
Should you pass through the sea,
I will be there with you;
or through rivers, they will not swallow you up.
Should you walk through fire, you will not be scorched
and the flames will not burn you
You are precious in my eyes, I love you
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

Book of Isaiah

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The rain was heavy today. That's not to say it was heavy rainfall. It was heavy, as though the drops had been eating and not exercising, laying around on their couches for months watching football and drinking beer when there comes a knock on the door and they get up, grumbling and a little annoyed as they try to button their pants. The knocking gets more persistent. "Alright, alright," the fat droplets say, "hang on..." When they finally reach the door, the bell is now ringing and there's a shouting outside, an unfamiliar voice yelling, "EVERYBODY OUT!" while the lazy, plump plops shove a handful of chips in their pouty mouths and reach for the door...

That's the kind of drops that were falling today as we walked in the forest an hour's drive from our house into the Sierras. Those same drops, seconds after turning the knob were demanded out of their slums, falling helplessly alongside millions of others who had, apparently, enjoyed the same easy living until the knocking became unbearable. Heavy drops. My whole body became full of them, and heavier were my steps because of them.

The rain can do that to you. It can expose darkness and light. Some rain is silky and refines your joy. Todays rain was heavy and cold. Walking the forest road, spilled and pooled, puddles more like a loch with hidden dread, the water's weight in my coat, seeping to my skin called heaviness from my heart. It knocked incessantly and rousted me from the comfort of my own forgetfulness. That's fat rain if you're not being careful. 

This trail will be ten feet under snow in a few weeks. That first white sheet will start blur the lines between the large rocks that cobble the road. I won't be there. But if I was, perhaps that snow, pulled flake by flake from the clouds would be the peace that comes from the averaging that only deep snow can provide. Rain brings out your darkness or light. Snow is relief from pain and the silencing of critical voices and regrets.