All That We Don’t Understand

 What’s nice about the writing life is you’re never really alone in it. Yes, you may start out alone carrying your armful of fuel down the road in the form of the images you use and the stories you tell, but then suddenly here comes this nice other person who offers to help you carry the kindling all the way to the hearth, as fuel for your ‘fire.’ 

What I’m trying to say is that that person is your reader, and your reader meets you halfway on any road, coming with his own fresh take on things. He or she sees what you’re trying to say, sometimes more clearly than you see it yourself. I think this is why telling what happened to me, telling what ideas burbled up in my mind can act as such an antidote to loneliness, leading me forth out of the stuffy closed room of my mind.

I wrote the other day about how my young grandchild seemed to have somehow lodged himself inside the Play Place structure at McDonald’s and was sobbing inside it.

I had no clue what to do and that was the story I thought I was telling here Tuesday.

It wasn’t until I got to the end of my telling that I suddenly saw the whole event as a metaphor for parenthood: Our kids go where we can’t follow and so on. And ll of that was me carrying my fuel alone on the road. But the everything changed when this one reader name ‘met’ me on the road and added his own interpretation. In the comments section here he wrote, “Perhaps [your little grandson] was not so alone in that tube but rather quietly listening to another guide, in addition to you of course, who pointed the way back to you.”

‘Another guide’! Another Capital ‘g’ Guide! See? A wholly fresh take on the same event. 

My little grandson’s  predicament had suggested just two ideas to me. (1) I fall short as a caregiver and 2) We can’t go before the children we love, taking joy in their joy and quelling their fears. The time comes when they will go where we can never follow.

But now here was a whole look at the event, that acknowledged  what else might well be happening in this world every day, in fact, realms and realms beyond the understanding of  us bossy grownups, who are so smug in our belief  that we are the ones who move the world. Another Guide indeed! Thanks, fellow traveler. Thanks for helping me see that this child will never be alone, truly.

God Bless the New Friends

I’ve felt weirdly sad over the last few days and was about to offer some new droopy tale or other here today – until saw this post that my new friend and fellow blogger Brian Moloney wrote, saying how he’s been writing for exactly a year now and mentioning me in the course of his remarks.

He also quoted an excerpt from Salinger’s Franny and Zooey that brought back everything I so earnestly hoped and dreamed that I might do with my life, even back in junior high. It’s what came to me when I finally stopped obsessing about how funny-looking I was with my chapped lips and my too-short bangs.

You can read his whole post here but I’ll just say it begin by describing how a year ago now he was wondering if he really could go on puttin’ it out there every day when he came upon my name somewhere.  He says he wrote me on a day when he was ‘on the verge of chucking the whole thing’ – and it seems I wrote back, promising that I for one would read him every day and that the two of us would be go on to be friends forever.

“And surprisingly, nearly a year later, we are well on our way to being just that: forever friends,” he says.

“Even though I have never met her –  you know, because of the restraining order,” he adds in his jokey way.

“I have never mentioned her or thanked her before on this thing but I thought this was a good time to do it,” he goes on. “I won’t go into a lot of details but the truth is—if it weren’t for this lady with the odd Boston accent, I probably wouldn’t have made it to a month…let alone a year.” (Nice man! And he’s right too: I do have an odd Boston accent, as people keep telling me when they come across that little video I once made.)

He says we’re different because I’m more forthcoming about myself in what I write but still: we have in common the fact that “as difficult as it can be on any given day to put something worthwhile down on a page, we do it for the fat lady sitting on the porch swatting flies.”

That’s the Salinger reference, which I think means we do it out of some mystical blend of faith and general Agapic love, the kind we all hope to learn to give in our lives.

He recommends we all go to the last few pages of Franny and Zooey to see what he’s talking about.  And then we should go to the first page and read the whole thing, something he says we should have done long ago.

I did read the book long ago and was completely knocked out by its message – before I forgot about it for almost 50 years.

It just goes to show you that old theory about life is true: You really can’t see yourself. Emily Dickinson knew this. “The Mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly,” is how she put it. You  can’t know what effect you have in the world. It takes some kindly watching Other to do that for you.