Tag Archives: inspiration

So Reckless and Opulent a Thing

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

What we seek we do not find—that would be too trim and tidy for so reckless and opulent a thing as life.  It is something else we find.

Susan Glaspell

“So reckless and opulent thing as life”!

That phrase when I read it caught my heart . . . and held it.

Reckless and opulent, both.

How many hundreds of my mother’s eggs were cast away to make one me?  How many millions of my father’s sperm?

And yet here I am, alive, breathing.  I’ve been alive and breathing for eighty years.  A true miracle.  A reckless and opulent miracle.

But that’s the way life is.  Both reckless and opulent.

It works both ways, of course.  My son died at the tender age forty-two because nature’s opulent recklessness imbued him with a hidden flaw that played out in a neurological disease.

How often have I said it to myself?

“Nature is careful of the species, careless of the individual.”  “In any pod of peas, there will be an imperfect pea.”

Peter was my imperfect pea.

My oldest grandson, Peter’s oldest son, carries the same dark gift.

And yet my son’s three sons exist, each in his own way making a difference in the world.

Life, reckless and opulent.

Some mornings I am so filled with life’s opulence, its magnificent excess, that I rise into wonder.  Some evenings I crawl into bed weighed down with that same excess, overwhelmed by the day’s recklessness in all its light and dark manifestations.

But even when the weight is heaviest, looking out my study window at the superfluous abundance of the maple in my neighbor’s yard lightens me.   Sharing a home with someone I love beyond any telling of it comforts me.  Living, day after day, into the reckless gift of a brain programmed to do so much more than just keep me alive delights me.

What possible use does nature have, after all, for words shaped into meaning, into music?  And yet here I am!  How can I be anything but grateful?

Then there is the rest of the quote.

“What we seek we do not find . . . it is something else we find.”

What have I sought?  Safety, I suppose.  Above all else, safety.  I learned at my father’s knee that life is unfair, unreliable, even cruel, and my first instinct is always to move toward safety.

What have I found?

A world that makes no promises yet bestows the most profound gifts.

The gift of a son who dies.  The gift of a daughter who lives into the most graceful womanhood.

The gift of a career incapable of guaranteeing even food on my table.  And yet that career delivers . . . everything.  Purpose.  Belonging.  Satisfaction.  Joy.  Especially joy!

And food on my table, too.

I did not know enough even to search for what I have found . . . but here it is.

A world filled with reckless opulence!

Nature’s Imperative

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

The only imperative that nature utters is: ‘Look. Listen. Attend.’

C. S. Lewis

Where does Inspiration Come From?

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

But it is the same story, over and over in many ways, you know. I’m always obsessed with the same things, and I think that most writers are. You get a couple of themes and if you’re lucky, you can keep on turning it and shining different light on it, but it’s always that forgiveness and redemption and friendship and hope. So where does the inspiration come from? I always have a notebook with me, I eavesdrop, I write down what people say. It’s very rare that one of those things will provoke a story, but I think that that kind of paying attention all the time, and keeping everything open, lets the stories come in. But where they come from is still a mystery to me.

Kate DiCamillo

Going out…

Photo by Filip Kominik on Unsplash

“. . . going out, I found, was really going in.”

John Muir

Writers Need Other Writers!

One day, back in the years when I taught writing in various adult-education venues in my home community, I opened my back door to find a young man on my doorstep.  He was one of my students, and his face was creased with concern.

“Marion,” he said, “how long does it take to write a novel?”

I might have laughed except it was so serious a question.  He was working on a novel, had been working on it for some months, I knew, and his girlfriend, his parents, his friends had all ganged up on him.

Aren’t you finished with that thing yet?  What’s wrong with you?  Why are you wasting your time?

I invited him in and assured him that his process, the length of it, the difficulty of it, was absolutely normal.  And when he left, I held him and his bewildering isolation in my heart.

Writers need other writers!

At whatever stage of our careers we find ourselves, poking a toe into the cold water of a first manuscript or polishing a story for an impatient editor, it is too easy to drown in the isolation our work demands.  And the truth is that most of those we love and live with don’t get it!  They don’t have a clue about and sometimes even resent the way we spend our days, and if we try to bring them into our circle, their eyes have a way of glazing over.

I remind myself from time to time that there are many others who can’t share the details of their working day with those they live with, often because their work is so technical that other folks wouldn’t understand if they tried.  But most of those people have co-workers around them during the day, others who do understand their process, who appreciate the significance of their work.

They don’t spend their days alone in a room rummaging through the contents of their own minds day after day after day.

I’ll say it again.  Writers need other writers!

Over the years I have satisfied that profound need partly, of course, by searching out other writers and keeping them close.  But because writers tend to be scattered, I have also served my need for legitimization, for understanding, for authentication by teaching.

Teaching developing writers keeps me in touch with others who love writing.

I have taught in many different venues, including my last and most satisfying position with Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.  When I left VCFA, I was ready for retirement and glad to be able to focus entirely on my own work.  But while I continued to value my freedom from the demands of an MFA program, isolation crept back in.

Is there anyone else in the world doing this thing I am attempting, day after quiet day?

That was until my good friend, VCFA grad, and National Book Award finalist, Debby Dahl Edwardson, came to me with her dream.  Debby lives in Alaska now, but she grew up in Minnesota.  And she used to spend her summers on Elbow Lake in the pristine wilderness of northern Minnesota.  That place became part of her writer’s soul, and she has long wanted to share it with other writers.

LoonSong

Debby’s dream came to fruition as LoonSong, a writer’s retreat, and LoonSong has brought me back into the company of writers, writers talking writing.  What a blessing it has been!  This coming September, from the 6th through the 10th, we will gather for the third time, and I can already feel my energy rising as I move toward the event.

The retreatants come from every part of the country and represent every level of experience.  The faculty is always stellar.  (Check the website, www.LoonSong.org.)  And the conversation—oh, the all-day, all-evening conversation!—is nurturing and challenging and the best way I know to break through writerly isolation.

Come join us.  It’s a very small retreat, a boutique experience, and there are still a few slots left.

I would love to meet you there.

I would love to sit down and talk with you about this unique, blessed, complicated work that occupies our lives.

And then we will carry one another home in our hearts, banishing the isolation for another year!