Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Writer's Life

The other day, I was driving home from a shopping trip with Organic Mama, when we started talking about language. We’re English teachers, the two of us, and putting us in one place for longer than, oh, ten minutes usually results in some sort of conversation about language, so this, in itself, isn’t really newsworthy. I bring it up only to illustrate to you, Dear Readers, that language is something I think about quite often, It’s part of my everyday existence. I live it, think it, breathe it.

One of the things that I love to do is to collect language that inspires me. There are songs that I love just for a series of six or seven words in them that make me think that there’s much more under the surface of those words. I have a notebook next to my bed in which I put quotes from books I read that speak to me. These quotes don’t have to be anything earth-shattering; they don’t have to represent a truth or reveal the inner workings of the Great Spirit - though, most often, that’s exactly what they do - they just have to work. They have to embody more than just the words on the page. They need to be poetry in the truest sense of the word; a collection of language that transcends language and offers a glimpse into the endlessness of thought and knowledge and belief. It needs to be magic.

Am I making any sense?

Here is some of the language I’ve collected:

“Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible” (Expecting Adam by Martha Beck)

“The closer I’m bound in love to you, the closer I am to free” (“Power of Two,” Indigo Girls, Swamp Ophelia)
“I believe that cultivating compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives worthwhile” - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Eclipse of the moon when the dark bird flies, where is the child in his father’s eyes?” (“Soul Cages,” Sting, The Soul Cages)

“I have found a wish ‘till things happen. The very atoms I’m made of come apart in a kind of sparkle. A cloud of sparkle propelled by will” (Ahab’s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund)

“ it just that the world unwraps itself to you, again and again, as soon as you are ready to see it anew?” (Wicked, Gregory Maguire)

“I know now what trouble can be, and why it follows me so easily” (“Shackled,” Vertical Horizon, Everything You Want)

There are many, many more, but I’ll stop here. I told you all of this so could tell you I found a bit of language worth collecting last Thursday over at Feather's place. She wrote:

Sometimes I'm homesick
-- physically homesick, bone-achingly --
for a place that I haven't found yet.

Just imagine what lies beneath the surface of those words.....


Anonymous Tense Teacher said...

I love, love, LOVE this post! I think you've hit the nail on the head as to why all English teachers become English teachers.

And I love, love, LOVE that you quoted Sting. He is the finest modern poet living, in my opinion. Some of my favorite lines come from his song "Ghost Story," and they conjure up such beautiful imagery for me:

"The moon's a fingernail and slowly sinking
Another day begins, and now I'm thinking
That this indifference was my invention
When everything I did sought your attention
You were my compass star
You were my measure
You were a pirate's map of buried treasure..."

November 26, 2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger organic mama said...

I love this topic and have been thinking about powerful, startling realizations that occur when you hear a song and recognize palapable truths in simple, stunning languge. Since talking to you about it, I have become inspired to write down these lines, these snippets of higher clarity, to stay more present with them. When I do, I will take a page out of your book and blog about it myself. Thank you for sharing these!

November 26, 2006 9:09 PM  
Blogger feather said...

I am overwhelmingly honored to be included in this list. Really.

I love that line from Wicked.

I, too, am regularly preoccupied by language, and I have lists of good sentences and paragraphs scattered throughout my notebook, but I'll have to think about them before picking out any to share.

November 28, 2006 4:07 AM  
Anonymous nhfalcon said...

Here's one for your consideration...

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

The poem recited on ER by the Alan Alda character Dr Gabe Lawrence.


When despair for the world grows for me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests,
in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things,
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,
I come into the presence of still water,
and I feel above me the dayblind stars,
waiting with their light,
for a time, I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

I admit to not being a big poetry fan, but when I heard Alda recite that poem on "ER" it moved me, and it has stuck with me ever since.

November 29, 2006 8:55 PM  

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