My life moves in waves. I might be pulled along by a current of painting or drawing, then find myself — maybe a few days, or a few weeks, later — blown in the direction of reading and note-taking (usually on the subjects of history, education, or art). Sometimes, a wave of passion for photography drenches me.
Writing comes to me so naturally, though, that I neglect it. I always use it, as a means to an end, but seldom as an end in itself.
Today, after opening yet another basket/bin/receptacle for the past, I came across a page from the Denver Catholic Register dated November 8, 1995. For more than 17 years, I’ve held onto a full-page piece (among others) titled “The Spirit Moves Me: Godspeed.” The story is a farewell letter from then assistant director of communications (and one of my colleagues) Colleen Smith. Rereading it today made me think, “I need to write for the simple sake of writing.” Colleen, who left the Archdiocese of Denver to pursue a freelance career, has gone on to write for many publications and has even created her own company to publish her first novel, Glass Halo, which I read last year (after reading and editing the first half of an early version more than a decade ago).
Colleen has inspired me, but not because she’s found commercial success in putting pen to paper. She makes me want to write (for the sake of creating something beautiful), because she writes so beautifully. See for yourself:
More than six years ago, I joined the Communications Secretariat as a writer. A twist of Providence. You see, I didn’t apply for the job. I got a call out of the blue. …
When the call came in, I wasn’t home. I was at my parents’ house with the rest of my family, mourning the death of my 32-year-old brother Daniel, who had died in a car crash that week. After his death, I knew I needed a regular schedule again, an office to go to, colleagues and work to help me through the days and nights of fresh grief. So I came in to interview, and I landed the job.
Today, Nov. 2, All Souls Day, would have been my dead brother’s 38th birthday. I sense a circle full. Sometimes, often, the details of our lives create a pattern so obvious upon examination that nobody would buy it in fiction. The plot would ring not true but trite.
I believe in Divine Providence. My life experience tells me that everything happens for a reason, as part of a plan unfathomably intricate. So I believe my tenure in the Church has formed me for something else. …
Time and time again, just when I harbored the sinking notion that all the wrestling with words, all the thinking to decipher the rough notes, all the proofreading and haggling over layout was all for naught, that the articles, stories, interviews went out into a void, just then a colleague in the elevator or a fellow committee member or a friend in the secular media complimented me on an article, or a letter from a parishioner appeared in my inbox to say that something I’d written had touched them, moved them, given them pause.
They gave me succor. Encouragement. the guts to sit down again to the keyboard in the hopes that the Holy Spirit would set the screen on fire, burning through the fog.
Earlier this morning, rushing around before leaving my home for my office, I locked my keys in my car with the engine running and the extra car key in my purse in the trunk. Just as I tuned in to the berating voice of ego, beating myself up for my stupidity, enraged inside, I stepped outside my garage. The sun shined while snow fell, and each snowflake refracted light. I felt as if I stood among the stars glistening. I couldn’t help but smile.
I’d had a similar experience just a few weeks ago while sailing, or rather, trying to sail with no wind. We drifted aimlessly, helplessly, my friend and I. And I kept noticing the sun on the water, winking dimples of light noticeable only because I’d slowed down enough to see them.
In the end, for me, writing (like photography) is about taking the time to see, taking the time to find the beauty that surrounds me, then sharing it with others, saying, “Look at what I found.”