I keep having this feeling that I have lost so much: time, creativity, my voice, myself… Truth is, I lost myself in stagnation.
I blamed a virus going around. It sure as hell didn´t make things easier, but it wasn´t entirely to blame. I turned the blame on the muses, for no longer visiting with me. It was too easy to blame the loss of my creativity on them.
I came to the insight that I needed to tame my mental resistance and welcome the muses back, and allow myself to be inspired.
To be creative is to embark on a long journey, and never know where it will take you.
There were times where I would find an abundance of images and ideas in things or memories, I took for granted. The truth is: I didn´t lose myself, my voice, or my creativity, it just went dormant for a while. Because I allowed it.
You see, I´ve learned that if I´m not careful, the world can convince me of so many things. It can convince me that my opinions don´t matter, my words don´t matter, my perspective doesn´t matter. It has told me that sharing my thoughts won´t change anyone´s mind, (not that I´m even trying to do that) or the world around me. And if I´m not careful, I succumb to it all. I shrink, I disappear, I get quiet, I quit.
Sometimes indifferences and memories, painful or even otherwise, must be confronted. It can prove a rugged and hard terrain to explore. It can lead to forbidden territories; places where I stashed cruelties, rages, obsessions, or sometimes even reveal more banal secrets: parts of myself I don´t want anyone to see. It´s important to enter these landscapes, otherwise, I remain static. When I can finally bring myself to shake a secret awake; I can write about things in my own voice, discover a story inside a story or tell it in a new way, and my ability to invent increases in a way that goes beyond a mere anecdote, and use truths to dramatize the human condition. In other words: the truth of wit and compassion.
As a child, I had two grandfathers on two different continents. Both were great storytellers!
Every summer we would travel to the south of Spain and take a boat to the Maghreb, where our first stop would be Marrakesh: the city of dreams and legends and where imagination is the law. Pat donkeys and camels veiled women would float by snake charmers, Tuareg tribesmen, and Berber merchants to the sounds of drums and the rhythm of an old man in a white robe, playing strings whose rhythm would take us on a magic ride to the gates of the city. There we would find him; behind rows of children sitting in a circle around him: the storyteller!
A tall man with a red Fez hat, whose stories only exist in his head. He would always begin his tales by saying: “Nothing is certain, but everything is possible.”
He would resuscitate mysteries and myriads of wonders. Stitching together patterns of ancient myths and folk tales he would transport us into a world we would I would never forget. I have not been to Marrakesh in a while, but when I do: I will beseech the man in the square to tell me a story!
I always wanted to store those stories in some memory chest. I never had a box of memories with marbles, or a trunk full of antique junk. A treasure trove of precious echoes. What I do have is an empty space, of too many broken dreams and other embedded memories, that sometimes do bring pleasure in evocating my souvenirs from a time when I wasn´t thinking of future or past…
Once upon a time, there was a pawn shop in my neighborhood, where people brought their valuables when Lady Luck was on strike. I often stood before the window of that shop. I never knew what I might find there, and I imagined dreams to match each item: cameras, diamond rings, radios. A stack of old suitcases, tiny saucers that came all the way from China begging me to take it all with me.
The pawnbroker: Louis, was impressive with an educated eye and monocular always close at hand. When you were broke, he would take your stuff and keep it for thirty days, then he would sell it.
Not long after my grandfather died, I went for a stroll and a little window shopping at Louis´s shop. I was stunned. I stood there frozen: I recognized an object in the window. Something that was once promised to me. My grandfather’s dear and only possession: his watch!
He took such pride in it. Exquisitely encased in gold with ornate etching around its frame, on a short and sturdy chain, he would keep it in the black leather vest he always wore. Ask him for the time, and with practiced panache, he would produce the watch out of pocket and tell you what time it was.
The watch had an inscription too. I was too young to understand it at the time, but I knew they meant something impressive. As I got older, I discovered it was a quote by Benjamin Franklin and it meant: lost time is never found again.
It would be nice, wouldn´t it, to be able to hold time in your pocket and store away redeemable hours.
I had no toys as a child, so, I spent many hours drawing and writing. My grandfather must have felt when his end was near. He wanted to leave me with something special: he pawned off his only possession to buy me a pen. An 18 kt gold nibbed fountain pen. An absolute beauty in a stylish black pouch.
I stood there staring at the watch, imagining it had mysteriously stopped when my grandfather ended his earthly quest. A persisting hurting melancholia overwhelmed me. then Louis came to the door of his shop: his eyes commanded that I better move. I did.
I never told my grandmother what I had seen. I went straight upstairs to hold my precious pen. It had my name engraved on its barrel.
And I started writing. At first nothing in particular; the mundane, everyday inconsequential things… just for the sake of igniting blue letters on paper and burning curves in books. Later I created worlds where I loosened fires, desires, and exhilarating victories.
I don´t know many people who still write with a fountain pen. But in my world, the nibbed, inky, and sometimes messy accessory still has a place. Maybe it´s purely an affection. I think I am a styloman. I love to hunt old junk shops and flea markets for my next pen, and then wonder at them and try to imagine what they might have written before. Did they ever sign anything the previous owner lived to regret? Or wat it used to write letters filled with infinite love and fiery passion? Or write something remarkable?
Please don´t try to analyze my love for fountain pens, because, in the end, it comes down to a childhood upset.
I was lefthanded in school and that was frowned upon. Why we sinistral people were such pariahs, was a mystery to me. There were all sorts of strange theories and superstitions about lefties. I was told not to write with my left hand; leaving me with the complex that my writing was in some way inferior and illegible.
It took me a while, but in the end, I did it: I was able to write with my right hand. Still, nothing would change; I was still a sinister weirdo: an open invitation to cruel bullying.
The queen of the gang was called Elisabeth. One day she walked up to my desk where I was doing nothing other than minding my own business, snatched my beloved pen out of my hands, held it up high as if it were a sacrificial knife… and then stamped the pen deep into the wood of my desk, tore it out again and threw it on the ground to break it underfoot.
The cocky mutt wreaked havoc in my heart. I thought I could hear the pen scream. The ink artery has spat out like an explosion. I felt loss!
Over time, my pens became wands and I rose like a young magician. Capillary action propelled me onto virgin pages to write my flawed and perfect story. Call me old-fashioned or a luddite if you must, but for me, there is something inherently enchanting about writing with a gold nibbed pen.
People often complain that I never write dates in my letters. And I never will! Time was always a man-made illusion: a fabric woven out of nows to control when we can´t hold ourselves in it.
I cannot say that the watch or my pen were ever really lost because, in a way, they still speak to me: I always have a pocket watch with ornate etching around its frame in my handbag ticking; and a pen that reminds me never to write what others think I should be writing, or what is supposed to be the truth. Though a perilous process, I try to let my raw voice lead every single thing I write. I need to conjure it up at times, and there´s only way to do that: simply write!
Have faith that my voice will emerge and that what it says matters!