Friday, February 24, 2012

Melting Stars and Dancing Bears

A favorite truism I heard somewhere says:
"God gave us time so that everything wouldn't happen all at once."  

It's clever, but like many truisms, not entirely true. You've noticed, right? Sometimes, everything does happen all at once.

I write this post at the end of a two week period bracketed by a traffic accident on one end (everyone's okay) and the death of a loved uncle on the other. Yes, technically, there are fourteen or so days in between, but there were other things in the middle, and to quibble over the true meaning of "all at once"...

Okay, I'm not going to win this one, am I?

Under my breath, I repeat: "I hold this treasure in an earthen vessel. His strength is made perfect in my weakness."

I suspect you've whispered the same, because everything seems to be happening all at once, everywhere I look, and my all-at-onces are lighter than some.  A favorite teacher once told me that for the writer, traffic accidents and bereavement and all such things are material for the work, and in that way they are good.

Of course, he was right. So between the tears, I've carefully noted the physical feeling of disbelief (a sensation of distance, like a head cold), and how my body recoils each time another car comes close enough to hit.

The other day, Megan Sayer emailed a comment on Monday's Roundtable post, about the humility of, as Bonnie said, "admitting that my best ideas are always tinged with uncertainty."

Megan shared something wise, about the need to put our work out there, knowing it will never be finished, because we as artists are never finished. I thought that was very real and good. Not what I most wish for as a writer, but real and good.

I'm in the dismal camp of Madame Bovary, who once said:

Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to while we long to make music that will melt the stars.

Except that Madame Bovary blamed the language. So did Stephen King:

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings -- words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out. 

I don't think, however, that the problem lies in our words. I think the difference in the grand size of our timeless thoughts and the tiny size of our words on paper is the difference between aspiration and reality. Star melting music and earthen vessels.

As Megan noted, the temptation is to wait to produce until enlightenment beams out our fingertips. Wouldn't that make sense for those of us who wish to infuse our work with meaning? Shouldn't we wait to get the meaning right?

My uncle now has the meaning right. But no one can publish him.

On Monday I said something about being at odds with my younger self. It's true that I now disagree with many opinions I once thought un-recantable. What I have never recanted are the moments of empathy, and the moments of wonder. The veiw through another human's eyes, and the discovery of incandescent beauty when all around things are happening all at once - these are the things that are timeless. These are the things I find in the books I love best.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

"What I have never recanted are the moments of empathy, and the moments of wonder."

This is truly the stuff of life.

~ Wendy

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Perfectly timely as I write the first bits of my new WIP. I can't wait. I just need to go, go, go!

Anonymous said...

A beautiful post, Katy, from a heart that overflows with beauty.

Megan Sayer said...

Katy you give me more honour than my mixed-up words deserve - thank you. And did I ever tell you that you're one wise woman?

I think you've absolutely summed it up when you talk about aspirations and earthen vessels. I guess the trick for most of us is to accept that as not only truth, but how God created us. That's what keeps us humble before Him. And maybe it's our act of creating these imperfect works (books, art, music), in trying and failing to produce what we feel inside, that keeps us aware of our humanness before the great Creator.
I suddenly had the mental image of us as writers standing on tiptoes and reaching our hands up as high as they can to pluck the stars, and the higher we reach the greater we overbalance and end up on our faces on the ground. I think there's something very just and poetic in that...if it makes sense to anyone else.

Praying that your coming fortnight holds much, much less writing-fodder than your previous one : )

Kathleen Popa said...

Wendy, thanks for the kind words.

Susie, many best wishes for your new Work In Progress. Go go go!

Megan, yes if we reach we may fall over. Unless He holds us. Mwah!

And Sharon, Mwah!

Bonnie Grove said...

The difference between aspiration and reality is a long wide gap for me.

I hear the full symphony but manage little more than Chopsticks. And King has it right about admitting our deepest emotions, of pinning them to words when we--in our right minds--know there are no words for this alchemy. Only too deep groanings.

That's why we have story. We need the way it shows us our life and repositioning it in another angle so as to make the day visible, and the night tolerable.

Words do none of that. But story does.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

As I was writing a very difficult opening (and thinking "Am I REALLY going to open with THIS???") it took so much effort to "get it right". But then I remembered that I just need to write it. I can make it right later.