29 October 2013

On the Banks

Peace and All Goodness.
I realise this whole post is a bit more New Historicist/Reader Response/narrative theory meta-meta-meta-nerd than I usually get in this blog, but bear with me here. I’m trying to get at something that is not easy for me to express, or even to admit. 

Everything in this life is story. Maybe that’s odd coming from someone whose primary lens for viewing the world has always been poetry—especially since I tend to be more of a lyric poet than a narrative poet—but that is one true root that has been given me. We are the stories we tell. To each other, to ourselves, to the rivers and rocks and tree limbs. We are the stories we map in the stars at night, even when those stars are hidden from view and the hoot of the owl terrifies rather than reassures. The rivers themselves are stories.

The stories we tell ourselves are not always true ones. Honesty is often painful, especially in the dark, alone with ourselves and our worst fears and anxieties and memories. We remember how things should have been but weren’t. We get so caught up in what we think we wanted that we forget to be grateful for what is. We tell ourselves our version of the story so often we get confused between truth and fact. We forget that we can change our story, that maybe all good stories change over time.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is quietly hear the story out from someone else’s perspective. Just because right now, in this chapter, in this scene, we might be our own narrators, we forget we might be a part of someone else’s story—and it might be about something else entirely. And it might not be as scary as we thought. I was reminded again last night, while in the presence of beloved friends I don't see enough of, how much this becomes instinct over time, this forgetting to hear the stories of others. One of the most powerful things my friend Dan has ever said to me was this:

Stop being so afraid. We do so many awful things out of fear. It seems like most of our moral, ethical, and even religious tensions are bound to a need to control what we are afraid of or do not understand. To know this about ourselves might lead us to a different response, maybe even err on the side of love.

I don't think Dan knew just how close to the marrow he came when he said that. I think he was thinking about his own story, how it gets interwoven with the lives of others. I don't think he knew how much it was also my own story. Those aren't the words we use with each other most of the time. And I know he wasn't thinking of an internal picture of our skeletal structure, with a rotten broken heart and no lungs, barely breathing, concerned, confused, feathers launched like arrows through the dark to sprout directly from our fragile chests.

Stunned, but still breathing.
It might turn out that Emily Dickinson was right, that hope is the thing with feathers. It might turn out that what we thought over and over again was the hammering home of loss was actually a story about rebirth. It might be time for the story of us to change. It might even be that the story to which we thought we were doomed was no more than the prologue to the enduring myth of love. It may just be as simple and as inexplicable as that. Maybe our whole lives here are one big tangled love story.


Bec. said...

Thank you for such moving and beautiful words, Firecat. I think you may not realize how "your story" has tentacles to other's hearts.
<3, Bec.

thefirecat said...

I think you are probably right, Bec.