In the years before my father died, nobody went to our old country cabin anymore except him. He drove over there every once in a while to check on it.
One day, he called me after spending an afternoon sitting on the screen porch listening to the trees whisper. He told me about driving down the dirt path to get to the cabin, and becoming tearful at the sight of the azalea bushes blooming all around the house. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were,” he said. “It just seemed so amazing to me, that they were blooming like that, even with nobody there to see them.”**
**Sorry if you’ve heard that part of the story. But it’s worth repeating, right?
Yesterday, I stood in my backyard looking around because I’m trying to do that more often – just look around and find loveliness or at least something interesting in my immediate surroundings.
I surveyed my fierce and fabulous magnolia tree, which I call Hail Mary because I pray to it. I took in its extreme height, maybe 100 feet in the air, though I’m no good with dimensions. At the very top, I saw a speck of white. It’s a bloom, I realized, a perfect magnolia opened up to the sky. I can imagine the lemony scent wafting around that branch, the brightness of the velvet petals as the sun shines on them. No person will see this bloom up close. Probably no one but me will even notice its existence. But there it is, covert perfection, nature’s art, a piece of beauty created by my tree because my tree wouldn’t be itself without doing this hard creation work.
I have been writing since I was a child. Even when I wasn’t being a writer, I wrote – during the time I worked on the Mississippi Queen steamboat, I often wrote long narrative poems about the odd happenings and weird crew members on board, and distributed copies (somewhat) anonymously.
I still write. When I’m not literally stringing words together, I’m doing it in my head. I create paragraphs as I’m driving, and invent storylines while I hike. You might find this hard to believe, but at this exact moment, I am foregoing a CrossFit workout to write. Writing for me is not quite as essential as breathing or coffee, but certainly more necessary than chocolate or showering.
Words are my art form, my creative outlet, my method of processing life and its idiosyncrasies. It’s a natural tendency to want to share art; that’s why I’ve kept this blog for 13 years. Sometimes people read what I write, which is nice. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s fine.
Writers often dream of hitting it big. The New York Times bestseller list? Yes, please! But, true story: real writers only want to make it big so they can quit their day jobs and spend all their time writing.
My new friend Coy Hall spends all his time painting, and every Saturday he sets up a tent at a little farmer’s market to show off his work. Sometimes people buy his art, and sometimes they don’t. But either way he’s proud of it, and he loves it, and he’ll go home afterwards and paint some more. He blooms. We both do. Hail Mary.