Save the World by Being Alive
It’s spring in Appalachia and I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective. River has grown from an infant into a thriving soon-to-turn six-month-old. He is alive; he is life. His world is all skin–experiences finding him through every pore. He delights in the dappled light that dances across the new leaves on our buckeye trees. He appears thrilled by the sound of his own voice–part pterodactyl, part hoot owl, part baby. Brad and I find something to marvel at everyday, seeing the world anew from the perspective of our little baby boy. It helps us feel more alive, too.
But how can I write about new life–this season of spring, this sweet baby, my latest short story draft–without saying something that hasn’t already been said? This is what I mean when I say I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective. The world is full of firsts; what one of my recent Into the Flash students called “the poetry of everyday.” I believe that what we as writers and creative types do with those firsts is how we stay alive.
So many of us had our perspectives rocked after this latest election. Specifically, cultural commentary on white privilege + feminism has shifted my thinking, raising some “firsts” like welts across skin. Is it possible to feel alive and uncertain at the same time? Maybe life IS the feeling of uncertainty. Of living into it. We say ‘”these are uncertain times,” and perhaps what we’re meant to do with that mantra is meet uncertainty, skin to skin. To harness our power from this new place. To feel the world through every pore again.
In sitting with this discomfort, and in sitting for 6-9 hours a day in a rocking chair to nurse my baby, I’ve had a lot of time to think. Mostly, I think about coffee…waiting for my husband to bring me that first cup, tapering my second cup so as not to have more than the allotted 200 mg of caffeine per day for breastfeeding women…But I also think about details: the flick of the cat’s tail as she tiptoes into the nursery, the fine hair coating River’s head, or the kindness of our mail carrier bringing box after box right up to our doorstep even though our gravel driveway is off his route. When I take the time to look small, my world feels endlessly big. And isn’t that what we’re all hoping for in our own artistic endeavors–to lean into the universal, by way of something personal, something felt? It’s what I hope for, at any rate, and it’s one reason I’ll always be drawn to writing flash fiction, because it finds the extraordinary in the ordinary.
I want to tell you that all this sitting has provided me with answers. I’m not sure that I can. But what it has given me is perspective. I still relish the small; I still believe that world peace can be achieved by looking closely, by taking our time, by being kind. But I understand now more than ever that uncertainty has a place in this way of life, too, and that this may be a good thing. I’m curious: What makes you feel alive? How can I support you in befriending uncertainty? I’ll be thinking about how to incorporate an invitation to ask (and answer) these questions into my offerings and welcome your input.