Along the Winding Road: A New Project

Sometimes we take the long way.

provence_poppies

Provence poppies

 We each get to things in our own time, along our own winding road through the scarlet poppy fields. After years of my partner gently urging me, last week while in Cannes, I finally decided to move forward with a new work: a personal narrative of our time living abroad.

Admittedly, I’ve had a couple of stumbling blocks that I needed to gradually work my way around. One was that I did not feel particularly inspired to write about England; it was never a landscape or culture that particularly called or allured me like Provence or Tuscany (albeit, it is where my book, The Bones and Breath, was born). It was simply a place I ended up with my mate for a few years as our painted gypsy caravan rolled and bumped along its curious journey.

Engaging or amusing episodes while living there notwithstanding, there has also been a nay-saying voice in my head, who would want to read a book about two gay Americans, a neo-pagan and his soul-searching mate, living in soggy old England?

Not that I’m writing specifically to sell books—heaven knows that The Bones and Breath wasn’t drafted with an eye toward sales or profit. Really, it’s a book for less than 1% of the population. I write because, like all artists, the creative impulse demands expression; in a unique way, the Deep Imagination wishes to embody itself through us. There is something that wishes or needs to be shared, even on a modest or intimate scale. It is part of our soul work, the gift we are meant to bring to the world.

My new-old friend, Carolyn Brigit Flynn, author of the lovely poetry collection, Communion: In Praise of the Sacred Earth, is currently crafting a book about a pivotal trip to Ireland with her wife, the poet Jean Mahoney. Given Carolyn’s exquisite skill with words, I know her upcoming work will be devastatingly beautiful and profoundly inspiring, and I am encouraged by her telling of such a story. Somehow it bolsters the idea that, if well-crafted and able to touch the heart—the truth of our shared existence—the telling of a soulful journey of a same-sex couple can reach out and interest a wide spectrum of readers. Bless you, Carolyn, may the words continue to flow.

Yet, oddly, I think that it was meeting the author Marlena de Blasi at Les Deux Magots in Paris two weeks ago that somehow finally nudged me from the ledge where I’ve been sitting for years, offering a gentle push to dive into the deep water. (“An Encounter in Paris”; click the title to read, opens in a new window). A chef and writer who moved to Italy twenty-some years ago to marry a Venetian, de Blasi’s memoirs are gently steeped in delicious, rustic flavors and an attention to the small details of life. I like some of her books better than others, but her skill with storytelling never fails to impress and inspire me.

I’ve always loved reading well-written personal narrative. Most of my favorite books fall into this category, and I think it is perhaps the style of writing that I am best suited to put my pen to. Arguably, the short personal vignettes at the outset of each chapter in Bones (and its follow-up) and sprinkled throughout constitute my best work. So… why not an entire book of it?

When I finally said yes to the idea last week, the floodgates opened. Seated at the small table of yellow tile in the kitchen of our rented Cannes apartment, or perched outdoors in the Mediterranean spring sunshine at my preferred café near the Marché Forville, my new fountain pen scrawled across a blank European notebook, spilling a long trail of ink and words. One day I wrote more than 20 pages, my hand so cramped from the hours of holding a pen that I could barely open my fingers. What a delightful problem to suffer!

The first draft of the first three chapters has spilled forth effortlessly. Akin to a painter sketching pencil outlines before pagestaking up the brush, or a sculptor chipping away at the large block of white marble towards the form that waits inside, the initial work is rough. Right now, it’s simply a process of getting words onto paper, with the required refinements and polishing coming later down the road. So it begins.

Who knows what will come of this fresh new writing, or how it will turn out in the months of work ahead. It is fair to say, however, that what will emerge will be something more than a simple travelogue—but rather a story about relationship (human and other), nature, change and surrender, being an outsider, Old World magic, feeding the soul, relationship as spiritual path, and struggling to offer something of beauty and value to the world. Oh, and delicious food cooked along the way.

We come to things when we are ready. Or at least that is when we finally pick them up and carry them along on our journey. I think of books that I bought and started to read, only to set them aside for long periods of time (years, even) because they didn’t fully resonate or ‘click’, and when I finally went back to them for one reason or another, they were a perfect fit. The timing simply wasn’t right earlier.

So too with this new work. The sweet fruit ripening now is perhaps not what would have blossomed in a different season.

Soul Artists trust that inexplicable forces and mystery guide them along their journey, even when the destination seems obscured or lost in the mists. This is not to say that they don’t sometimes panic, grab the rudder, and attempt to steer towards the nearest shore, especially when the currents are rough and our vessel threatens to capsize. The Fates have their own agenda and direction, and angels appear in unexpected guises. Our job is to continually say yes to the adventure, keeping our heart and senses open wide, even when we find ourselves heading in an unexpected direction—most especially then.

Friend, maybe there’s something in your life that you have resisted but are now ready to circle back to or finally begin. Perhaps the stars have recently aligned in an auspicious conjunction, or a series of strange coincidences have conspired to bring you face to face with a personal project, person, or place once more. What would it take for you to embrace it and say yes to the challenge and reward that awaits?

Here’s hoping you’ll dive in. Naked.

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