For years I had been in the habit of carrying a notebook, a catch-all where I collected bits and pieces of things that interested me — quotes, observations, facts — all notations that begged me to return to them.
Then I read The Memoir Project, A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life, written by Marion Roach Smith. In her book, she shares with the reader something that is so important for people, writer or not. I think of it as the act of noticing.
No — not art. Act.
Because what she advises requires action. Here let me share with you in Marion’s words:
I am no more Zen, enlightened, or realized than the next person, stumbling into and through little moments of realization. But I do catch some of these moments in my notebook or on my handy index cards. What frequently happens to me is that some odd aspect of an encounter amuses or disturbs me, and when I’m in my car or walking home, I’ll jot down one image, or a piece of conversation, which I’ll start to think about and worry like a set of prayer beads. What was that I saw? I’ll ask myself. What just happened there? Like those after-bubbles from a camera flash, they’ll stick around only so long, so I write them down, having learned that what at first might seem tangential frequently expands upon consideration.”
Of course, she has far more to say about it and includes a marvelous example, but you’ll need to buy her book for that. If you write, even if you don’t, hers is a jewel in the book crown, for it is as much about living as it is about writing.
Marion’s description of the “little moments of realization” blew open a whole new level of noticing for me. I think of that revelation often. It was such a gift.
Although I have had moments that would more than likely stack up to days, if not months, where I just wasn’t ready to write about something, it is never lack of content that prevents me from sitting with the page.
No, my lack of showing up in an immediate sense, more times than not, houses an emotion that is too close to the bone. The act of noticing, then recording, provides me with a path back.
Last fall, we brought our son, Kodiak, the middle of our three kids, to school. Once there, we unpacked the truck, set up his room, ran errands, ate lunch, checked in with him, all things any parent does until they are satisfied their child is settled.
Later, after we said our goodbyes, Jimmy and I watched as our son-turned-man strode off toward his new life and rather than the contraction I expected, my heart swelled with joy for him.
My grief over his departure hit me days before we pulled out of the driveway for school.
It was early in the evening. Kodiak and I stood next to the large armoire in the master bedroom, we were talking about his imminent departure for college. Although I hadn’t seen it coming, the emotion I had been stuffing down over his leaving rose. Hugging him, I said…
I feel as if I am finishing the last pages of the most amazing book in a series, I am so attached to the main character I can’t let him go. Of course I know there is the next book to look forward too, but I can’t think of it, not yet. Instead I am lingering over each page, savoring every last word, as if doing so will mean the story — as I have come to know it — will never end.”
All these months later, my son is well into living his second volume — the one where his father and I are more on the periphery.
In my notebook, I have written: Kodiak and me, armoire.
Now, in the stillness of this room, I see us once again. It is as if we are tucked inside a wrinkle in time, one where the heart rests between beats. And there we stand permanently anchored next to that armoire — a mother and her son.
We harbor love, joy, sorrow, grief, light, dark, a veritable reservoir brimmed with all our life experiences.
All of it is there wedged in the split seconds that make up all the little moments in our lives. Each a droplet in the pool of realization, they remind us, upon closer examination, just how precious life really is.