All Out Of Ink

October 20, 2011

Broken Butterflies (or, When Words Don’t Matter)

Filed under: Pieces of Life — Laynie @ 10:39 pm

Butterflies have always symbolized hope to me. They are like little pieces of comfort, assurance of peace, reminders that God has His hand on us. The butterfly on my front lawn last Monday was different. My parents stopped by to visit, and afterward, I walked them out to the driveway. I was standing barefoot on the warm pavement laughing about something when I noticed a butterfly fluttering in the grass.

As my parents drove away, I sat down in the grass beside the butterfly. Flapping desperately, it couldn’t fly. One wing was missing.

Beauty and grace, hope and assurance, frightened and caught. Broken.

I cupped my hands and nudged the butterfly into them. I picked it up. I thought to put it by the rose bush, not sure why, maybe beauty with beauty, but that was not a good place for the butterfly. He was even more frantic in my hands than in the grass, so I set him back down. I just stayed a while, quietly knowing there was nothing anything or anyone could do. It was worse than seeing something dead because there was pain with no hope. Lifeless calm would have been better.

The butterfly didn’t know I was there. It was alone, I realized, even with me. I couldn’t comfort it. I don’t speak butterfly.

In the end, I left the butterfly in the grass, struggling in fear, because I couldn’t bear to sit beside it any longer. I went inside, feeling as if I had betrayed something priceless, something divine and innocent, and I wept bitterly.

Beauty and hope should never die struggling and alone. And our hearts should break if ever they do.

This hasn’t got a thing to do with writing, except that maybe I’ll write about it someday. (This doesn’t count.) Or maybe I won’t. Some things never settle in the mind well enough to wrap words around them.

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September 4, 2011

Reflections of Myself (or, Staying Inspired)

Filed under: Inspiration,Pieces of Life,Writer's Block — Laynie @ 12:34 am

Lately, when I manage to blog or journal about writing, I spend most of my time exploring the idea of maintaining my inspiration or further defining autonomy in the course of life as I live it. Day after day, I pursue good things for my family. I arrange our lives so they compliment and cooperate with one another. Logistics of a household, wellbeing of each family member… these and similar pursuits consume most of my time and concentration.

Tonight, I read a wonderful blog by Tim Floyd on his blog Life Aperture about eyes, and I began thinking about one morning about four years ago when I looked in the mirror.

Life events had carried me far away from what I’d grown up believing I would one day become. I knew I was missing essential parts of myself, and I was sad they were gone. But one day, something happened when I walked by a mirror. I was a visitor in the home, so it wasn’t a mirror I was accustomed to using. Was that the reason it looked unusual? Was it the transition of my life what allowed me to see something different? Whatever it was, the result was stunning.

I was in the middle of a phone call, discussing my uncertain plans for the future, and the image took my breath away. My friend’s voice faded into the background, asking if I was still there, but my mind had shifted from the conversation to what was before me.

My fingers touched my face. “I have my mother’s cheekbones,” I nearly whispered. “And my father’s eyes in a different shade.” I turned, noticing the profile of my nose, the shape of my ears, the contour of my lips. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of my appearance. For that moment, I found myself beautiful. You could say my eyes were opened to something that had been right in front of my face (or more accurately, right on my face) but that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The night of my eighth grade graduation, I looked at myself that way, searching my own eyes and looking at the precursor to what the grown-up me would look like. And now, with the grown-up me in the mirror, I could say to that child, “You’ll be proud of the person you will become.”

Through your eyes, your body swallows everything around you, takes it in and turns it upsidedown. Your thoughts arrange themselves in and around it, turn it another direction, and it changes you from the inside. You come to contain something you didn’t previously possess. Now, it’s something you can offer. You take your pen and that’s exactly what you do. You offer it.

You offer it in verse. You offer it in memoir. You offer in in fiction. You offer it in a journal or a letter. Let your eyes swallow something today. Let them see something they’ve never seen before in the common sights of your normal day. Let them swallow something new in the midst of all that doesn’t change. Look at the pattern of your dishes as a stranger would, someone who has never seen them before. Notice the glare of the sun through the windshield and how you squint in the light, see the way the color of the road changes with that light on it. Or in a moment when you happen to be near a mirror, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, setting something on the dresser, look at your own eyes. Swallow a bit of yourself as if you were not you. Let the beauty in. When you turn away, you will contain a small part of yourself that wasn’t yours before. Now you can offer it.

May 20, 2011

“This Ain’t No Dress Rehearsal” (or, Make the Words Count)

Filed under: Inspiration,Pieces of Life — Laynie @ 12:58 am

“How are you today?” I asked the man as I began scanning his groceries.
“Fine thanks, and you?” he responded.
“I’m doing alright,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “Because this is your life. It ain’t no dress rehearsal.”

I was in a drama group that summer. I spent a lot of time practicing and performing a long play, so I was quite familiar with rehearsals. We did plenty of them. There was about an 8-week window during which I worked at a grocery store as a cashier. I interacted with lots of people. I don’t remember most of them now. In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot about that summer at all. It has become a bit faded in my memory, along with a few other large chunks of my high school years when I was getting very little sleep. (Yes, lack of sleep affects long-term memory too.) Out of all the people whose money I handled and whose food I touched, I remember that man. He only bought a couple of items. He was there less time than most. Those were the only words I remember exchanging, though I probably responded agreeably and wished him a pleasant day. Yet, it was that man who voiced the wisdom I needed most.

I can’t talk like that. I can’t use “ain’t” and “no” one right after the other without sounding like I’m making fun of someone. I kind of wish I could. “This is not a dress rehearsal” just doesn’t have the same effect. It sounds more like a teacher giving a book-learned lecture than a man who’d lived life and come by the wisdom honestly.

While I can’t talk like that, I want to write like that. I want to write words that carry wisdom and meaning far beyond the capacity of the letters and spaces. I want to join experience with expression so one can carry the other. There’s an authenticity I crave in my work that doesn’t come from being a writer. It comes from being a person, living life, seeing others do the same. I desire to impart knowledge as that man did in the checkout line at Winn-Dixie some random summer afternoon to a girl he’d never seen before and would never see again.

Did that man know he was saying something I’d remember 15 years later? I doubt it. I wish I could tell him. Then again, it’s probably best I can’t. I’d have to also admit I didn’t listen until a long time later when I finally realized I’d made far too many “safe” mistakes. Now, though, I know there’s no waiting to see how it turns out so I can make better choices next time. I really do only get one shot at this.

I need to take the chances that create the wisdom that makes me different.
I need to take the time to write the words that mean the most.
I need to live the life that’s worth the space those words take up.

“This ain’t no dress rehearsal.”

I need to make it count.

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