|Flowering of imagination in winter|
The self-imposed structure of silently interviewing myself every two weeks to find out what was on my mind has yielded a rich harvest. I would post on Monday, then mentally wander for ten days, just observing what language was rising to the surface of awareness. On the Wednesday of the following week, I began to write, lost in a forest of words, not really knowing where I was going or whether I would find a way out. Sometimes, I'd comment on our treading polluted water in the political cesspool. Sometimes, I'd meander through the dreamscape of faded family memories. Often, I would engage with the subjects that are most present for me....mortality, spirit, the meaning I make out of my one small life. By Monday, I delivered an essay or memoir piece, sometimes with labor, but other times like those women who give birth in the back seats of taxis on the way to the hospital. I'm wondering now what it will be like to be a writer without that structure, a human body without a skeleton to hold the gut and the heart in place. I don't know the answer to that question, but the continent of unknowing is clearly where I'm headed, which is true of many of us at seventysomething.
A very gratifying aspect of the journey to date has involved curating the art of other older writers and visual artists whose work I've been posting on Facebook. The virtual community of gifted painters, photographers, ceramicists, writers of prose and poets that has emerged, lifts me out of the slough of despond and lights the way in and out of the shadows. Many people in the last third of their lives are doing remarkable, boundary-breaking work. Thrilling work. Recently, I discovered that a friend in Boston bought a painting from an artist in Toronto she knew only from seeing the painter's work on seventysomething. I was the schadchan, the matchmaker, a new role that thoroughly energized me. In this transaction, I was in it and not in it, there and not there. It reminded me of the way it felt when I served as a hospice chaplain, when I became an intermediary between a patient and her understanding of holiness. It resonated with that self-emptying that allowed me to enter other people's lives without getting in the way. This aspect of seventysomething has been magical. Please contact me if you are or know of an older artist you'd like to introduce me to.
When I think more deeply about self-emptying in the service of entering other people's lives, I realize that what I'm doing is tiptoeing shyly up to the gate of enchantment that leads to writing fiction. I've made some forays in the past, but this time I feel more ready. Still, I will need a good deal more spaciousness to pass through that gate, less glibness, more willingness to fail, less self-judgment. I will need to get to know the people I am conjuring up in all their quirkiness, their humor, their anxiety and courage. I will need to understand that these characters are both me and not me. The very thought of inhabiting the consciousness of someone who is in some ways not me fills me with trepidation and desire. Yet, these are the conditions we all live in, writers and non-writers alike. This is what it means to live in this world and be part of the saga of interbeing. Writing fiction might be extending that condition more intentionally, exercising the capacity for empathy, using the tools of language to carve a golem of one's own invention. Wish me safe travels. I promise to send postcards from truck stops along the way.
seventysomething has its own Facebook page. I will be posting poetry, prose, photography and other work by wonderful older artists there. Please Like the new page.
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