Someone told me once that the more you read, the better a writer you become. Maybe someone was right about someone, but they’re not right about me. When I read too much, I lose my voice; I fall in love with their stories and cannot find the beginning of the spool of my own. That’s all well and good, until I realize one day I am holding my breath and my chest stings with sinewy tension from holding my unrealized words at bay, which I never even decided to do.
Kathryn asked me what I was going to write. We have been friends for lifetimes. Our skins bear remnants of the ashes of each other’s fires and the salted circles of each others’ tears. “I don’t know. I have no idea. That’s why I write.” We laughed- a shared reality, both funny and slightly bitter at the backend. She is a writer, too.
Never in my life has anything looked like I thought it would. Never. Not a single thing. No painting, no essay, no book, no child, no marriage. They’ve all been better, greater, deeper, more painful, richer, breathtaking, harder…when juxtaposed agains my feeble imagination and the impetus leading me to pick up brush or pen. Always.
Silhouetted against the inky night glass, Kathryn asked me what I am afraid of. “Sharks.” She snickers. Our conversations are years old. I am knitting quietly, outside the circle of amber light cast by the low lamp, but my fingers and the roving know this rhythm and their tightly woven patterns seem to free my mind to wander and find the real answer.
I try and find the thread, that tiny place where there is a real answer to her question. She will laugh with me, but really she is gently coaxing me to look where I am afraid to look. She says nothing while I run the soft yarn between my fingers. She is holding space, protecting my margins, while I reacquaint myself with the dark.
I am afraid of the thousands of tiny moments of light and brilliance that make up the life of a person being lost, and forgotten, and swallowed by the breach. I am not afraid of dying; I am afraid of our stories— our precious sparks of madness and glory— being forgotten.
My hands are still knitting. My heart hurts, and I swallow hard. This is my truth. This is why I am a writer, a steward of some, a protector of others, a champion of myself and those I love. I am a writer. I must write to figure this out.
Kathryn nods quietly.
Another day, it will be my turn to hold her space, to use my light for her.
(p.s. I’m not very certain of many things, but I am very certain the Icelandic alterna-rock band she had playing in the background had their album picture taken in snowy woods.)