The Prophet is laid open across my table, Gibran’s most notable work. Its matte casing and embellished gold insignia are a door to a home I’ve come to visit at least once every year for the past five or six years, as if tradition. His writings are like a trail that I frequent. Though it’s a short piece, I could spend hours on this trail. Every time I walk this trail I come across some new flower that I’ve never seen before. Like a hike, the book is relatively short, but I could spend hours dwelling under these forests and among these plants. Because no one just reads The Prophet; to only read is to only step—the difference between hiking and exercise. As I read and revisit, my eyes retrace the moments I’ve gotten off the trail. When I’ve seen people reading The Prophet, they aren’t reading, but reconciling or discussing with some cloud above their head, contemplating how these ancient words, now in a seemingly smothered pile of ash, still have embers of meaning. If you come across a camp site here on this trail, there will be the fire pit filled with what appears to just be ash, but that ash pile still holds enough heat to cook a dinner, at any point that fire could be reignited.
At times I’m a little impatient. Adjacent is a small stack of notebooks I carried up with me to South Creek when I first came here in November. My fingers touch its cover from time to time like an owner to their dog, “it’s okay, pup, I’ll be with you here in just a second.” Today, marking my 25th birthday, will be carried out in reading , reminder, and reflection. Both The Prophet and my journals serve to be stones, like icons, that I’ll use today to remember my past and build my future.
Once resettled after reading the Prophet, I open my journals. Quickly, I am reminded of all the hells and hurt that I have come across this past year and the all too waking themes of stagnation, death, rebirth, and choice. It’s been too turbulent to try to land while coming to terms with all the changes and choices I must make. Life has been giving me a lot. Unfortunately, I have been humming to myself, detouring towards distractions to confront those matters with a question. Questions indicate that I’m paying attention in a conversation, if I don’t have a question then I’m probably not paying attention or care to participate. After a season of rest, I’m returning to questions again. At the moment, the pressing question is why do I write?
Despite all the stories of hurt and hell, there were also joys and wonders that I experienced that I can share in order to inspire or relate to the people I’ve come to trust. That is sharing. And an extension of sharing is teaching; which isn’t a one way street. When I teach, I expect all of us to know something and be able to share something—teaching is sharing facilitated, like a tree grow in all directions evenly. From teaching is the commons, the public discussion and the free-flow of ideas, even the ones unspoken. Have you ever walked under trees set with starlings or hung with cicadas? Noise moves in an amorphous movement, this would be the commons. If we don’t know how to share or to listen or to accept, then we could never expect this place.
While sharing is important to me, and it is important to remind myself that there is always someone listening, it is not the sole reason I write. I’ve noticed that I took a pause lately from writing in order to write. Though I have wrote before that “I do not write in order to be heard, but so that others can simply hear themselves,” that is my professional process. I can only confess to being human and the need to relate as I navigate this world. Sometimes it is not the case that I need so much to understand a question as much as I need to simply know that I’m being heard. This has been a time to expand on who I am and what has been going on. What better vehicle and medium to confide those ideas than by a letter? I may not be understood, but knowing there are people out there who care about me enough to sit and listen means the world. I have come to expect my wound up, manic brain to take time to unravel and articulate exactly what’s affecting it (exactly the reason I hurt Knoxville and felt hurt by Knoxville—because I didn’t have the words to explain and speak up in time. Sorry Knoxville. Sorry if I have offended you.)
A part of me believes that there is a calling to write and much like every book stacked on a library shelf (sharing, teaching, and the commons), I too have reason to be heard or at least a voice worthy of hearing, but another part of me wants to accept that 2016 was a difficult year, perhaps I write in order to balance and bounce back. I believe I’m trying to accomplish both, however.
Even in the winter time, I’m still hearing the birds. There are hundreds of birds all crying and calling over one another. The crows cackling and the cardinals’ squeaky chipper all overlap each others’ song, yet somehow they hear one another; somehow, they find their own. I’m not trying to draw a crowd. In nature that could result in death. I am only just a bird calling for its own, trying to find the family I’ve never known, the people who can make sense of the world with me, and the tribe I can commune with both to share ideas and to balance the world. Writing, at least when done in a form of expression, is a birdsong or an animal call unto its own. To find breath, balance and belonging, that is why I write.