Trying to figure out which Anne it was…Dillard, Lamott, Patchett, Frank? There are a lot of literary Annes. It was Dillard:
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
– Annie Dillard in The Writing Life (this time cut and pasted via Goodreads)
That’s hard. Not saving it for later. I need to work on this. I set out to write 100 Appreciation essays and #100 will be something about the number 100. And yet, looking back, these are hardly the 100 most important things, or most interesting. My lists go on and on. And I avoid some of the big topics. I am reminded of the last lines of Nick Adams in Hemingway’s “A Big Two Hearted River”:
He looked back. The river just showed through the trees. There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp.
Maybe. Right? That “plenty of days” business is a tricky one. I’m left with a list of lots of things that I could write about, and if I continue to write these appreciations I am likely to write more about:
The movie Arrival, the musical Hamilton, the facsimile edition of the first edition of Dickens A Christmas Carol, as well as the web series The Art Assignment and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and the website Great Big Story. And I couldn’t begin to list the podcasts and radio shows and picture books without going into detail upon detail. And every book in the Bible. And each Chronicle of Narnia. And half the menu items on the planet.
And yet, I notice a lot of the topics are a way of avoiding the bigger things, the things that are hard to say, or hard to get at. In a line from Hamilton: “There are moments that the words don’t reach.” And yet, as a writer, it seems that part of the job is to try to get words to reach those places. I must fish the swamp.
The small things are nice too. Here are a few lines from a rather insightful video about small pleasures from the School of Life:
Appreciating small pleasures means trusting our own responses a little more. We can’t wait for everything that is lovely and charming to be approved by others before we allow ourselves to be enchanted.
– “Why Small Pleasures Are a Big Deal” (at 3:53ish)
And in that spirit, I do have a lot to say about: mushrooms, Biblical dendrology, knots, jungles, the dull men’s club, deserts, snowy mountains, 1984, spending a year with a typewriter, Golden Chantrelles, not using Facebook, scientific names, taking notes, 3X5 notecards, using the little Czech and/or Chamorro I know in a surprising setting, foreign currency, passport stamps, deja vu, juggling metaphors, reading a book in one sitting, using a candle for light, believing you are sitting next to Gary Larson on a Washington State Ferry, not having library fines when you think you should, photographing children and lightning and squirrels and rainbows, and naming things, and having the ability to choose what you think about.
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