Islands in the Stream
Most of the time, I feel 35. Maybe 36 on a bad day. Not long ago, I celebrated a birthday that made 38 sound awfully good. One summer, I dealt with a flooding disaster in my home, and recovery lasted nearly a year. But I survived. Today, when my son decided to go with Comcast instead of AT&T, I was overwhelmed with change and felt I was standing on a tiny island with the river rushing by on either side, helpless to do anything about it. Like the old song by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream” – that is what we are, how can we be wrong? The lyrics symbolized the youthful, rebellious spirit I normally enjoy. Having recently met a kindred soul of the male persuasion, I realized that when I’m with him, it feels like I’m swimming downstream and life is lovely. When compared to a lifetime spent struggling against the current, a few hours spent splashing around in safe water with carefree laughter is a change I could get used to. But, even there, I find myself composing dialogue and testing the waters.
It’s delicious when words cascade down the mountainside like they’re supposed to, but the deeper I dive into writing, the more I shy away from the baby pool of words and meanings.
Looking back, I find that some of my deepest writing has come while struggling against the current—the fun stuff when I’m on dry land, observing. Like the novel about an aquatic (alien) creature washing up on the shore at Galveston. I created the circumstance, maneuvered the characters, and shaped their destinies (and my own). Although some of me was woven into the story (it always is), there was no storm to threaten my existence, no cesspool of the past to wade through in order to get to the truth. Some people never publish their past for all the world to read. But as a writer, once you graduate from the wading pool to the deep end, you change. Your writing changes.
It takes a maniacal kind of courage to jump in the deep end, especially once you’ve very nearly drowned. And a grim determination to test the water, even when you must invade memories more powerful than Niagara Falls and pull the words to the surface, dripping and tremulous.
It’s hard to get back in the water. Yet, often that’s exactly what’s demanded of us. To put pen to paper for those who can’t or won’t. As writers, we can’t be afraid to get our feet wet.
Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.