disclaimer: This post was originally written about three weeks ago during a trip to florida. There are no seagulls in Marietta, but there are ferns, with fairies in them.
With me here are three boys all devoted to their particular interests: the oldest is engaged in repeatedly pouring sand onto the concrete patio and smoothing it with a steamroller to make a road; the middle son has stripped off all his clothes and is sitting quietly in a wading pool filled with water that is probably too cold even for me to brave; the youngest is sitting next to a container of small toys which he pulls out one at a time, inspects, tastes, then throws aside before moving on the next. As he works, he squeals quietly to himself—it’s his way of carrying on a conversation. He’s the first of the boys to do that.
I used to write a lot.
I’ve never been too keen on fiction, but I wrote. Creative non-fiction, I guess you could call it. And I wrote poetry. It was beautiful. Well, beautiful to me, anyway. I strung together words I found aesthetically pleasing like an accomplished chef tosses ingredients into a pot to make something delicious. I knew a lot of words back then. It didn’t always make sense, what I wrote, but every so often someone would read one of my pieces and get it, and that was the very best thing in the world.
I wrote for myself.
I told my husband last night that my writing muscles have atrophied. We were sitting outdoors with our coffee, the fire blazing in the chiminea making the front of my legs uncomfortably warm, in an atmosphere that, in another time and place, might have spun a web of words in my mind that I couldn’t help but put down on paper. Now the proverbial wheel doesn’t even begin to turn.
In a few months is the tenth anniversary of my Terrible Mistake. That may seem melodramatic, but if you’ve been asking yourself quietly, “What happened to the poetry?” or “What’s the point of all this?” then the Terrible Mistake is your answer.
January 2015 was the second semester of my junior year of college. It was the semester I took Creative Writing.
It’s a good idea, right? You love to write, so you take a class on it. A chance to grow your skills, to exercise your muscles, to compare notes with your fellow students who fancy themselves Poets, to learn from them, to learn from the expert Professor, to learn everything you are doing wrong.
Art is such a funny thing. There is a right and wrong, but then again, there is no right and wrong. There’s a proper way of doing things, but then again, aren’t most of our most treasured artists are prized for breaking the rules? I don’t think having a class where you learn a good and a bad way to write poetry is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe the professor’s attitude was too myopic, his taste too narrow. He seemed to have a penchant for free verse but not much else. Maybe if I weren’t such an over-sensitive person, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But somehow, one way or another, the lesson stuck, and I stopped writing.
I am extremely protective of my photography–my chosen outlet–now. I don’t follow any photographers save a handful I know personally and one I find incredibly inspiring. I don’t read how-to’s and I don’t belong to any photography forums. I do my best to perfect my craft while shutting out the elitists, the “you’re-doing-it-wrong”-ers, the Dr. P’s of the world of writing with light. I learned my lesson in the Terrible Mistake.
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critick’s share;
Both must alike from Heav’n derive their light,
Those born to Judge, as well as those to Write.
Strange companions I must name them
Strange to see their friendship blossom
When she hated little persons,
Or–at least–the ones that toddled.
Long his brother she avoided,
Once he set to crawl and holler–
Once his interest fixed upon her–
Never mind his gentle nature.
But the younger one she shadowed,
Sought him out wherever he rested,
Longed to partake in his rituals,
Photobombed his monthly pictures.
She was here for years before him,
Watched his heralded homecoming.
Many months he passed in ignorance,
Without knowing she existed.
Now he sits upon the carpet
Busy with his toy-inspection;
She will be his close companion
Even though he fuss, and push her.
How is it her patience lingers
While he pulls her tail and whiskers,
While his hands are full of cat-fur,
Laughing at the way it tickles?
Faithfully she waits beside him–
Or sits on him, if he lets her–
‘Till his Mama comes to get him,
Takes him upstairs for his naptime.
Do they know the bond between them?
Can each understand the other?
Does she know when he’ll return, and
Does she miss him while he’s napping?
Does he realize he lacks
Her furry, feline, loyal presence?
Does he hope, while sleep is coming,
She’ll be there when he awakens?
Softly down the stairs he’s carried,
Sweetly starts excited babbling;
Swiftly from her seat she hastens,
Just to sit beside his Boppy.
Solemnly the hours are passing
While they sit and smile together,
Theirs a love that’s fit for lasting–
(‘Til he learns to crawl and holler.)
-e g allis