Okay, come on, really–who are we kidding? Was there even a question about what word I’d pick for “w”?
Well, (I’m almost embarrassed to admit this) actually, there was a question, and it even lingered. Yesterday, when I realized “w” was the next letter, I tried thinking of a word, and I couldn’t. I thought this would be another a-z post where I’d have to get out my dictionary and start flipping through the “w” entries, waiting for the magic word to shimmer and float off the page. Late yesterday, that was the plan, and that was as far as I went.
Then, on our walk this morning, I thought I had a brilliant moment of insight: Walk! Of course, I’ll write about walking. I say that dog is one of my primary spiritual practices, and walking is an essential…wait…what?…my practices? What are they again? Oh, yeah: yoga, meditation, dog, and WRITING. D’oh!
Here’s my explanation, my story for why “writing” wasn’t immediately obvious to me: if you ask a fish “how’s the water?”, it will answer “what’s water?” Writing is so essential to me that it’s become automatic and invisible in that way breathing or my heartbeat are things I don’t “do,” they just are.
And when thinking about my practices (writing, yoga, meditation, and dog), writing is the one that won’t leave the others alone, won’t keep to itself. It imbeds itself in the others, is tangled in a way that it can’t be separated. It tries to interrupt the others, asserting its need, its desire. And yet, it needs the others to function, to continue to do what it does. It would be nothing, empty without them.
Sitting on my cushion, phrases form, ideas and answers arise. Even though it’s not recommended, goes against what you are training your mind to do, (you should label it “thinking” and return to the breath), sometimes I can’t help it, I have to get my notebook and write something down, and that something might lead to something else, and a half hour later, I still haven’t returned to my breath.
My writing is embodied, my body a partner in my writing practice, in the process, and there is a merging of movement and manuscript. In this way, writing is also happening when I practice yoga or when I walk my dogs. Things I’ve been struggling with become clear and new ideas form. I notice things, see patterns and make connections, relax and soften to what is, allow it to touch me, to catch up.
On our walk this morning, when I was trying to think of that line I just used, “merging of movement and manuscript,” I couldn’t think of a “m” word that meant writing to pair with “movement.” As we neared the small wooden bridge at the back of Wood Duck Pond, it came to me–“manuscript!” I celebrated, but I was alone in it. The birds were too busy singing, the clouds too busy floating and shifting color, and the dogs think writing is the dumbest thing ever. For starters, they can’t read. They also think it’s a waste of time to write, to standing in front of a box, push buttons and click keys, or to sit and scratch a pen on the paper–dumb. Especially when you could be playing or patrolling territory, or even napping.
Last night, Eric and I were watching the most recent episode of Glee (well, I was watching it, Eric just happened to be in the room with me), and when Finn was talking about not knowing what his dream was, Eric said “I never had a dream.” I smiled, because we’ve talked about this before. I leaned in and whispered “I’ve had the same dream since I was in the second grade.”
And as I have told you before, kind and gentle reader, I also had writer’s block, on and off and to varying degrees, for at least the past 25 years. I’ve told you before that this yearning to be a writer was something that I kept secret, locked in a box in the very, very center of my heart. It was a tiny bird that I fed lovingly, kept it warm holding it close, tight in my hands, whispering all my secrets to it, but utterly unable to let it fly.
But I finally released it. My heart cracked open with grief, my love was unbound by form, and I let it go. Now my mission is to write wildly and poorly, all the time. The magic is that somehow, out of all that, something beautiful sometimes happens. It must be like fertilizer is to a garden. There is only my tender, open heart, raw and brave, desiring to stay awake. On my writing desk, the tulips my dear friend gave me the other day are as beautiful almost dead as they were in those first moments. They remind me that there is enough time, but time is short.
Writing this blog, knowing that you are sometimes there listening, has been such a blessing to my writing practice, such magic, such medicine. Each post is the beginning of an essay or the whisper of a book chapter. I take part in a larger conversation, with this space acting like my kitchen table. I cultivate connection, community, and compassion. I make a record, a map of the landscape of my experience, the territory of my heart. I feel a deep knowing, a confidence as I string the words together.
Like everything else, we learn by doing. You can only talk about riding a bike for so long, study it as an object only so much before you have to start. And you do so knowing that there’s a risk you will crash, fall over, break bones and draw blood, get hurt–but that feeling you get when it works, when it happens, like you are flying, is so worth it.