For the past few years I've been working on a collection of essays that explore spirituality and the power of place to bridge the gap between worlds visible and invisible. I haven't written much about this kind of thing online, but it's a huge part of who I am and what I do.
I'd been thinking about how to share pieces of this with you when serendipity showed up. Helen, of the oh-so-lovely website Dixon Hill, asked me to contribute to "Changing Places," a guest post series about the power of place to change us. I was thrilled to contribute.
I'm being a bit facetious in the title of this post when I call my place-based, spiritual-seeker writing my "real" writing, because that implies that the other writing I do (here and elsewhere) isn't real, and that's not true at all. I put pieces of myself into everything I write. I care about all of it, and it's all real. It's just that this other stuff -- the stuff I haven't shared much online -- sits at the center of my being. It's not exactly more real than other things I write, but it definitely reaches higher and deeper, and requires more of me than anything else I've been working on. And then there's that part where I intend the collected essays to be published as a book, which is a more solid, "real" goal, I suppose.
My writing for this collection has languished in the past year. I have a handful of essays that are complete, which I've sent out into the world to look for homes in literary journals. But I haven't been writing new material for the collection. The book has been struggling to show me what it wants to be. Or, perhaps more accurately, I've been struggling to hear what it's telling me and to follow where it wants to go. But I had an epiphany while working on the snippet that I share for Helen's "Changing Places," and I'm feeling re-energized. I suddenly saw the project in a new light, and the puzzle pieces that have been floating around hazy and confused finally clicked into place so that I could make sense of them.
(The book has a title. Shall I tell it to you? Okay. For All We Learned, The Sea)
(It comes from a song by Dar Williams.)
For my "Changing Places" guest post I wrote about my experience in the Scottish Highlands more than a decade ago.
New Year's, 1999. Four Americans living in the U.K. We gathered in Edinburgh, celebrated Hogmanay, and headed north.
Night drops early there in winter. From the backseat of the car I peered out the cold glass at dark-on-dark. Sections of the horizon deepened like giant, mounded cutouts into another realm. We had reached the high land. I listened to what I could not see: an ancient song thrumming in the octaves below my breath. (Keep reading....)