“Write this,” my friend Sandy said from her hospital bed to me two years ago. I followed her hand with my eyes as it gestured around her room. The plate of moon pies I had spent three hours making (my attempt to control the outcome of something) were sitting untouched on the deep window ledge. Flowers crowded the sweets giving the room at Research Medical Center a false sense cheer. Write this, she had said. But write what? Did she know she was dying yet when she said that? Write about dying or cancer or about her or about moon pies or about friendship?
I spent the last weekend at 1440 Multiversity in California at a writer’s retreat in some pretty awesome company. Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert collaborated to inspire and challenge a large group of us in living creatively.
I’m still trying to process it all (more later!) but one thing that keeps popping up is the idea of enchantment that Ms. Gilbert talked about. She described it as a visitor from without, like a kid who runs in the back door of her house and plops in a chair breathless to tell you – I’ve got a great idea. You could also think of it as inspiration or joy or even a visit of sorts. Will we listen to that excited guest when they visit?
When I shared an essay with Sandy that I wrote that I thought could fulfill her suggestion to ‘write this’, do you know what she said? Full of super-strong pain medication, her quick wit somewhat dulled, she said, “Good start.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t think that I had any more. I was so sad watching her die; I still am.
Last weekend in the redwoods – talking with friends, connecting with my creativity, absorbing nature – I thought of Sandy several times. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I made the connection between those towering redwoods and the tree that I wrote of at the conclusion of Pleading With a Tree For Sandy.
(photo by Mayra Padilla)
Another thing Ms. Gilbert said to us – Start knowing. The grand trees, the thoughts of Sandy, the enchantment swirling about – here’s what I know. As Sandy told me to Write This, nature tells me to Live This. What we are holding in our hands, what is on the other side of a gestured hand, the eyes were are looking into. This is where our lives are. The trees I breathed in this weekend have existed far before me and will surely still stand when I will not. This time I have is fleeting, it is now, it is all that can be counted on.
Maybe you too need to hear to Write This or Live This or Start Knowing. Sometimes we need to go outside to have enchantment run to us. I like to think that Sandy conspired with the redwoods to remind me of the now I am in. So I am left with two hands full of gratitude that I reach out to give to you.