Three weeks ago I was in the Collegeville Institute for a week of writing. It was a beautiful and restorative week, and I made some headway on book project #3.
Although the schedule in Collegeville was mostly unstructured, the group did get together in the evenings to talk writing: art, craft and business. One recurring theme was imitation–the tendency (conscious or unconscious) to emulate writers we admire. Consensus seemed to be that imitation was an inevitable part of the process of finding one’s own voice.
One morning I listened to a podcast in which Brian Doyle read from one of his novels. A character, close to death, was asked, “What mattered to you?” He proceeded to offer a litany of ordinary and extraordinary pleasures. I decided to imitate that format as a warmup exercise later that day, and here’s what emerged. I offer it to you unedited.
The crinkles around my husband’s eyes.
The shower as hot as I can stand.
The thin pink insole that slides into every brand-new pair of running shoes.
The dimple on my oldest daughter’s cheek.
The rainbow-colored array of cat ears sported by my middle daughter.
The color blue on the walls in my study.
The coarse earthiness of my son’s tousle of hair.
The hot sun slicing through a cold breeze.
The plop of almond butter into the smoothie.
Real butter melting unapologetically on the muffin or biscuit.
The word “Yes” from my mother’s mouth.
The assurance that we get better.
The bounce of patio chairs.
The words that come, sometimes haltingly, but reliably.
The sacred text that will never stop revealing something new.
The clank of the race medal placed around the neck.
The unrelenting comfort of the training.
The grunt that’s required to get out of a sweaty sports bra.
The grapefruit half, gleaming like a rose window.
The acoustic dampening of a layer of snow.
The comforting heft of a lead apron at the doctor’s office.
A row of canoes and kayaks.
The snap of a swim cap.
The text messages that pick up again no matter how much time has elapsed.
Any green-blue body of water.
A boarding pass.
Books, and books, and books.
The new New Yorker.
Sunrise on the Lincoln Memorial.
The good question.
The fragrance emitted when the bread is broken.
Views from any high place.
November, which begins with a riot of color and ends with subtle brown beauty.
The weathered Dutch oven that never leaves the stovetop.
The crowd in airport baggage claim clothed in hijab, dashiki, sari, turban, flipflops, tattoos.
A dead tree, splayed open in an autopsy of decomposition.
What matters to you?
Peace, Joy and Yes,
This reflection was sent to my email newsletter last week. To receive pieces like this straight to your inbox, subscribe.
Photo taken in Collegeville and posted to my Instagram.