When you go to school to become a writer, they don’t teach you to write. — They teach you to read.
The voices. The colors. The timbres. Each writer’s words ring out their peerless note — dissonance or harmony — no two stories are the same.
Every writer has her unique fingerprint — even in her plagiarisms.
In high school they instruct you — The beginning! The middle! The end! The kind of storytelling that has somehow been distilled down to a series of predictable climaxes — each is noted on a three foot by three foot chalkboard. Written carefully in smudgy, cursive letters. All of which — have no meaning.
If you learned to read properly, you already know this three-pronged formula is a useless chore. — A map that leads you nowhere and discovers nothing.
If you learned to read properly, you already know that each story is just one dot on an infinite timeline. And, in the futile hunt to uncover everything, the writer’s unrepeatable dot marks, without knowing it, the unexampled treasures that she alone has illuminated.
No beginning. No middle. No end. — Just moments. — Dots.
This weekend, I packed up the last six years. Books in boxes, old notes and bills, yellowed rolling papers, dried up pens, and renegade Christmas ornaments. So many dots. Too many dots. Wonderful and tragic dots.
One, I set aside. A single page, tucked carefully away, hidden neatly in between the pages of my copy of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. — an entry, torn from my journal. I unfold it, only days away from turning six years old, it reads:
July 30th, 2009
It’s hot in Brooklyn. I’ve been sitting in front of the box fan, watching TV and wondering if I’ll miss the heat and humidity of New York when we get to Portland. — If we get to Portland.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible for me to get anywhere at all, because I’ve been sitting on a couch, somewhere in this city, just waiting for something to happen to me.
Three months until we leave this place. Home. Family. Friends. All for the wild frontier — The West. Ninety days to see what needs to be seen — To say goodbye. To worry. To plan. To Dream.
But, I try not to worry. Because, on most days, I’d like to be anywhere but here.
I read it twice. Then three times. And then, for that girl, I weep. Six years ago — and I still remember how she thought this place could save her. How saying goodbye would hurt her. How her story, six years later, would read exactly the same way, but, — she — she is impossibly different.
Today, I cannot be mistaken for that girl. I know now that — it’s true — this place did save me. And, even in the sanctity of being saved, I will still choose to leave it behind — my savior. I return to a different place, revisit another dot. An old dot that, now, I can finally allow to be new. A story I know well, but, I’ve yet to write.
In my living room, I see it written on a piece of paper. — How I’ve learned to read here. I embrace the moments where Oregon has made me into something that New York City never could have — Beautiful. Seen. Heard. The words may read the same way, but, there is a new heart here. I read it — the story that was written for his heart — before I knew my own. Before I discovered my seperate pieces. My own, little dots — strewn wildly across the Oregon dirt. The seeds I once placed in someone else’s hands for planting. — But now it’s my harvest. — I’ve grown my own fruit.
In Oregon, I learn to read again. — To read myself. — I connect my dots. I learn to hold these new things — My love. My loss. My beauty. My strength. My pain. My sobriety. — like my children, to my breast. I shoulder their weight and carry them back to where I started. And I begin again.
I see them. They mark my own timeline. — My unrepeatable dots. — A goodbye. A worry. A plan. A Dream.
Each one on its own.
Each one, a place I call home.
Photo: Allison Webber; http://www.allisonwebber.photography/
(A very special thanks to the beautiful and talented Allison Webber for inviting me to be part of her photo series: The Personal Beauty Project. A series that empowers women, allowing them to be seen in the way that they see themselves. These images capture not only my spirit, but, the spirit of my Oregon. As I return to the East Coast, I am able to take these images with me. Images that, for me, represent so much of what and who I have become as a result of being part of this magical place. I encourage you all to enjoy Allison’s work at her aforementioned website.)