In Appreciation of it All
I have spent the last 10 days in my version of heaven, surrounded by really creative people talking about writing and art and life. I feel fulfilled in the way food lovers must after a trip to a restaurant that has been on their bucket list for years, or the way a baseball fan does when she gets seats on the third base line on Opening Day. You get the point. Every conversation has been stimulating enough to prompt me to take notes the minute I’m by myself. Each idea seems new and intriguing and exciting.
For the first few days, I got to talk and write and laugh and share and advise and take advice with three of the women I met when I went back to school a few years ago to earn an MFA. Every moment with these three was rich and hilarious and inspiring and thought provoking. After that, I joined my partner in Vermont where she was finishing and graduating from her MFA program. I was just an observer at the workshops and critiques I attended, but every one made me think of something significant about what I create and how I share it with people.
Everything is alive now and nothing is to be ignored.
One morning, late in the week, I looked around the room and realized I was probably the oldest person there. It broke my heart for a moment—not to be old, really, but to know that there are so many things I want to do and that there is so little time relatively speaking. It is in moments such as these that I so envy brave young people, and that I wish profoundly that I had felt freer and more courageous when I was in my 30s and 40s. Of course I know that I would not be this particular amalgamation of experiences, triumphs, frustrations, fears and big-heartedness if hadn’t done exactly what I did.
But more than anything, the last 10 days reminds me how much I want to fill my life with more experiences like these going forward. I’m realizing that I get lazy about going to lectures, watching bad TV when I could just as easily open a book I’ve been longing to read, even connecting more with people who are creating in the world like I want to be doing. It also reminds me that a huge part of what I feel is just the power of being out in the world engaging with it as fully as possible. I understand that there is an ebb and flow to life and that there is regeneration in the quieter moments, but I want to remember how I felt during these days.
The whole time I was traveling I had that sense you get when you go outside after a long, cold, rainy period stuck indoors. Everything is practically glistening and the light touches things that have been there all winter but were obscured in the shadows. It’s on those days that the tiniest moments take your breath away. A duck landing on the water, the slant of the sun against that tree, a dog squaring off with a taunting squirrel. Everything is alive now and nothing is to be ignored.
What strikes me most deeply in times like these are the people who inhabit them. When I’m marching through my regular routine, checking items off my to-do list, I am not as quick to notice how hard so many folks work to make the world better. If I’ve got my head down, focused on the mundane, it is not so easy to see the wonders created by the people around me—the art, the music, the stories, the relationships.
That’s probably the best thing imaginable about going out into the world. My senses are awake, I can see more clearly, and my heart is open. It’s then I know that all of this is happening all the time and that it’s up to me to remember to look up and see it. There is little else in the world that renews my hope quite as much as seeing all of us so truly engaged. On the day of Jodi's graduation, lifted high by her accomplishments and the support of her fellow artists, she said, "Today I'm in love with everything." May we all remember the possibility that exists in that feeling and look for it everywhere we can.