When I see light hit the tree branches during a December sunset on a particularly calm day, and it reminds me of the way life is fragile and hope is present even if for a fleeting moment, I try to translate it into words.
When my husband is lying on an ER table during a heart attack in the middle of the night, pale but joking with nurses, and at the same time asking to talk with our oldest daughter on the phone (“just in case”), I want to translate it into words.
Maybe it’s because words help me: to make sense, to share, to save any given moment. I know friends who do this with photography, “capturing” life. For me it’s words. It has always been words.
A few years ago, I read an article about Love Languages in which the author, Dr. Gary Chapman discusses five different ways that people express their love:
Acts of service
It’s no surprise that for me, it’s touch and words.
If I give you a hug, I mean it. If I tell you I love you, I really mean it.
I surround myself with them. Collecting books like lost photographs in an ancestral album. Together they tell a story, even as they each have their own voice. Separately, they are a gift to be treasured.
Words are like leaves at the bottom of particularly delicious cup of tea (for me, a cup of Fortnum & Mason’s Russian Caravan, black). If I love them, I look into them, trying to see beyond the story, beyond the living characters, beyond the beautiful sounds, into the poetry that lies at their heart: the magic of the words.
Children understand the poetry, the magic. I’ve watched my three as I read to them, cherished stories or new adventures. I love when we discover the magic together; it’s one of my favorite things in all the world. It’s the reason my next book was written for children.
So as we begin a new calendar year, I find the urge to look back with words. I am always aware of “how much has been written.” But this isn’t about “how much.” I’m not placing each word to be weighed on the Goddess Maat’s scale. The answer to that would be: not enough. There are always more words to be written.
The stories are there, the character clamoring for attention, but the last year, 2011, was heavier with life than written words. Some years are like that, and though I wish I had made time for more words, I understand that sometimes life happens. Sometimes new babies are born, heart attacks happen, blueberry girls must be blessed, family members in crisis happen, pillow forts occasionally need to be built, and towers of doom must be played with. There are times when we need to put the pen aside to be present.
And yet, there were still words. Here on the blog, on facebook, and on twitter, I have a way to record moments and share them. I still have my notebook for story fragments and plot ideas, but the internet has created a community that wasn’t possible for a writer who would likely spend much of her time in a room, or perhaps out walking, or maybe sipping coffee in a café…alone. Marvelously, the internet has brought many of us who would be solitary together, so that we can be alone and also connected.
So late one September evening, when my husband was in the hospital after a heart attack, I didn’t really want to talk, not even to my father who sat beside me in the waiting room, but I could send out a few tweets. I could shout out a moment of fear and heartache. The miracle of twitter and email and facebook, was that people responded. Friends offered to come by or call, but their messages of support were enough, those words across time and space were exactly what I needed. Thank you to everyone who sent prayers and energy.I thought about Twitter a lot after that, because it’s such a strange creature, something my generation did not grow up with and many have resisted. Some friends love facebook, others text constantly, or skype, or tumblr. We all seem to adopt different technological tools depending on our needs and personalities.
I still prefer the online journal because it allows me to meander, and I am coming to appreciate tumbler as it lets me collect different bits, but I like twitter best. I’ve come to the following conclusion: Tweets are like dehydrated fruit.
Rotten grapes make rotten raisins, but the best fruit—robust peaches, sweet apples, and other juicy delicacies make delicious dried fruits. Twitter can be like that. Much of it is forgettable, most of it is ordinary and that’s ok. Some of it is terrible, but occasionally it can be wonderful.
Words. Carefully chosen words:
Happy. New. Year.
Three words to hold so much, like a tiny tweet.
The year has begun. It’s a new page.
Happy? What makes it happy? What makes you happy?
Whatever it is, I hope you find it. I hope that you fill your new page with words ripe and juicy and bursting with potential.