it doesn’t matter where or when the story begins

look down at the sky | Ireland 2009

Back in February, I stumbled into a conversation with my writer/musician-friend, David, at the end of a Sunday, my busiest workday. He asked how my writing was going, and I hemmed and hawed as usual, I was tired and too busy, but he didn’t release me. I admitted I had hoped this was the year, but it was already February and I hadn’t written anything. And he asked why didn’t I start tomorrow? First thing? I shrugged and conceded I probably could try, but that wasn’t good enough for him. He pointed out that if I didn’t set it at the start of my day, before all the other things clamouring for my attention, I wouldn’t do it, I would continue the cycle of not-doing-it. I promised I would try, probably in part due to shame, but mostly because I was almost beginning to wake up.

Inspired by the above photo of mine, this is what I wrote on that tomorrow [13 February 2012]:

She saw the puddle. But more than that she saw the sky. Amid the grey and dirt and rocks and mud, there it was. Or actually it was that she could see the reflection of tree branches, forming a frame around the puddle at her feet. And in between those branches, that was the sky. Somehow that grey, still water was the sky.

Journeys begin in places like this. Or end. Beginnings and endings can be so similar, they are both about seeing. And sometimes that spot where the journey began is where it ends. Or where the journey ends is where it began. Does it matter which way you say it?

For her, her mind was aswirl and she wasn’t quite sure if this was the end or the beginning. A good story always starts right in the middle of everything. Like that sky in the midst of those tree branches in the midst of that puddle and that mud and those rocks. The story began in the muddle of grey. Not black or white or even that monochromatic version of grey, but the rich colour of grey — that might have a hint of blue or brown or purple.

Is this the beginning? Was that the beginning? Because if it was, the story is going slow. From that day when the puddle was at her feet to this day when the picture of the puddle resides as her laptop desktop and has been in a Chicago art exhibit on the L and now hangs on a friend’s wall, it’s been years. And the story has certainly trudged.

Maybe it’s more of a flashback moment. Maybe the story hasn’t yet begun. Maybe we’re not in the middle yet. Maybe something will remind her of that moment, or of the picture of that moment, and then it will begin.

Or maybe that was just the thing to tip her over into the moment. The wondering, that is. The wondering if that was the moment. If she saw somehow into the centre of all things because she saw the sky in a puddle. Or more because she didn’t actually see the sky in the puddle, but in the absence between the branches. And that knowing maybe somehow tapped into something so deep that it made time trudge. Made life blur a bit. For a while. Just until she could right herself, or reorient herself. Maybe that’s how she’s supposed to see everything. Look for the sky in the absences.

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”* It’s funny how people are always trying to explain that stars aren’t actually there. That you’re not seeing them. As if that matters.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”** That doesn’t ‘play’ well in this day, but she dreams and believes. And you never know what could happen with a girl like that. You never know.

It doesn’t matter where or when the story begins. You just can’t stop it until it’s done. And for a dreamer, failure is never the end. Just wait. Hope and wait. They’re the same thing. Hope. Wait. It’s not the end. And if it’s not the end, there’s still room for anything to happen. Just wait and see. See the sky in the absence. And believe.

*Vincent Van Gogh
**Psalm 27:13-14

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