Thank-you for taking a moment to visit this place.
‘What the heck are you writing about?,’ you may ask.
The first thing that came to mind was a line from Leonard Cohen’s song, ‘Famous Blue Raincoat,’ suggesting that, “I hope you’re keeping some kind of record…”
Yes Leonard, I actually have been. A record of musings, events, experiences, encounters, upsets, mysteries, loves, revelations, fragments, intimations, glimpses, remembrances, wonderings and ponderings consisting of well over 100 small pocket notebooks, a box of journals, innumerable scraps of scribbled paper that lie about everywhere and some 2,000 pages of Word documents that I have grouped loosely together under the heading of ‘Raw Materials.’ And that’s exactly what I have- a whole pile of raw material.
Which brings up the second thing that comes to mind which was in answer to a question a friend shared with me from a workshop she had been taking, “What is your passion?” The answer that arose immediately and without thought came in the form of two words, ‘Interpretation’ and ‘Translation.’ In that order. I was surprised by that, and yet the more I think about it the more sense those two words make.
All added up, these writings over the decades do indeed qualify as ‘some kind of record.’ Not just any kind of record though. It was never enough to simply record the events, dates, who, what and where of my journeying. Those are the outer forms, the outlines. But the living essence of a thing, the deeper story layers of a given experience or a memorable encounter are held within those outer forms just as water is held within a glass.
The ‘raw material’ of an ‘outlier’ kind of experience to me is like the visible ten percent of an iceberg- which does indeed form a kind of record, a kind of story of our life. But what has always intrigued me is the story that is not so obvious, not so visible. The forming story that is beneath the surface and is not so readily seen and cannot be so easily conveyed.
An element of discernment is needed to guide the work of interpretation and translation as I approach this heaped jumble of raw material- as I try to explore what can’t be seen so easily from the surface. Not unlike being a kind of prospector, gold-panning along the living streams and river banks in the unmapped wilderness of one’s own life.
The third piece, which has really come as a form of guidance for me began when I came across the quote below by Douglas Coupland. He had put into language exactly what I had been doing all along without really knowing it;
“My mind then wandered. I thought of this: I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments- we hear a word that sticks in our minds-or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly- we share a hotel elevator with a bride in her veils, say, or a stranger gives us a piece of bread to feed the mallard ducks in the lagoon; a small child starts a conversation with us in a Dairy Queen- or we have an episode like the one I had with the M & M cars back at the Husky station.
And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months, we would see certain trends emerge from our collection-certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether, one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real- this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story making events of our lives.” (my italics/bold)
(Douglas Coupland from, ‘Life after God’ P.254-255)
This came as a revelation to me- the magnitude of which is difficult to describe. All that time I had been ‘keeping some kind of record,’ it had been something that I felt compelled to do without really knowing why I was doing it.
There was a sense that it somehow mattered but beyond that I didn’t have much insight into the ‘why’ it mattered. But when I came across the Coupland passage above, a light went on. As if I had looked down at my feet, as if I had looked behind me through that light and glimpsed a path for the first time. It was just a glimpse- but one that changed everything. I had not just been bumbling blindly along here, there and everywhere. Some part of me had been following ‘something’ all along. Some part of me had been creating, had been treasure hunting, had been intuiting, had been noting the outliers from the ‘normal’ bell curve of experience all along.
And all along, I had been marking a kind of rough route, a crude kind of path the whole time. Only by looking back, in moments when the fog of ‘everyday’ cleared for long enough could I really see that.
The title ‘Raw Materials’ is an appropriate one for most of the writings I have done to date. I have this image of a cleared area on a piece of undeveloped land with forest, the blue of water and open fields all around. There is a huge pile of building materials there that has been accumulating over many years. Pieces of lightning blasted granite carried down from the mountains, smooth water rounded stones from the river nearby, touchstones, symbols from distant lands, old growth timbers harvested from the fallen giants of the forest, wood found storm washed up on the beach, a mound of gravel from a gold bearing stream, salvaged windows, doors and ceramic tile. Metaphorical materials that have endured- that have withstood the tests of time, change and doubt.
In short everything needed is now there to build something that will last, that will stand the test of time.
My creative task now is one of both interpretation and translation. To get in touch with and converse with these things- these voices that have been trying to catch my attention, that have been trying to speak with me- and then explore that conversation, that journey, these questions, these intimations through my writing.
It’s like creating a very complex jig-saw puzzle where I have no idea what the finished image will look like. Where there are no straight edges, no obvious corner pieces. What I do have is a sense of what some of the individual pieces might look like and therein lies the challenge. To carefully and intuitively craft each separate piece from the raw experiential material using the tools of interpretation and translation. That’s what this blog will be about.