Thursday, January 24, 2013
Tell the Story
A few weeks ago I watched Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. (If you have Netflix streaming, it's available there and I highly recommend it.) Cave of Forgotten Dreams is about the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave in southern France. The cave, discovered in late 1994, contains some of the earliest known cave paintings. The paintings, dating back approximately 20,000 to 35,000 years, are of various animals as well as one painting of a partial female figure.
I was in awe as the movie unfolded. It's rare that a documentary captivates me so completely that I forget where I am, but this one did. What struck me wasn't just the beauty of the paintings, but that all those tens of thousands of years ago, someone took the time to tell their story and here we are today "reading" that person's (or maybe persons') stories.
It gave me chills and warmed me all at once that someone, way back then, took the time to tell their story. Somebody thought it important enough to paint it on a cave wall in bold images that said, "I am here. This is my day." Whoever it was wanted to tell about the buffalo stampede, and the wild horses, and the lion on the prowl. Whoever it was recognized and bowed to the thought, "This is too big to keep inside. Too profound to keep to myself."
Let's face it, we all have stories to tell and we all have various forms of communication that we use to tell them. An artist paints or draws or sculpts; a writer writes - those are obvious. Most of us tell our stories in other, less obvious ways. We tell our stories in the way we do day-to-day tasks. We laugh, we cry, we share our stories at reunions, at parties, during rounds of chemo, over cups of coffee, shopping for groceries, cooking our meals, hammering nails, sweeping floors... we each tell our own stories in thousands of ways.
Every story lingers in some way, even if we don't see it. Even if it's stuck in a cave that's been obscured by a pile of rocks left by a landslide.
I began this blog over five years ago. At the time I didn't know who would read it or even if anyone would read it. I didn't care. I simply had to get my story out. I had to find a place where I could say, "I am here. This is my day." That was all there was to it. I wasn't worried about being the world's next top author. I wasn't concerned with how many readers/followers I'd end up with. I'm still not.
I know I've neglected this little campfire that I ignited (what feels like) so very long ago. You might be surprised at how often I've stopped by here, thought about writing, then crept away without a word. I have all the standard excuses: I've been busy, I've been concentrating on art, blahblahblah. But what it really came down to is that I've needed time to figure out what story to tell.
See, lately when I've stopped by here it's felt a little bit like going back to a house I used to live in. You know the feeling. You walk through the rooms, familiar with the layout, but everything is different. Everything feels... I don't know... everything feels so that-was-then-this-is-now. So, I've had thoughts of just giving up this blog, of leaving it where it is. But I just can't do that. I thought about revamping it, giving it a different look, feel, purpose. I can't do that either. This blog is my cave. It's still where I throw things on the wall, sometimes with a scream, sometimes with a whisper, sometimes with a simple gesture that says, "I am here. This is my day."
The other day my friend Jacob accused me of being a writer. I say accused because when he says stuff like that, no matter how innocuously, there is weight to it. There's no telltale sycophantic hiss underlying his compliments, just honesty. So, when he said, "You're a writer..." I felt responsible. I felt a call to duty, to honor even.
Mostly I felt like I needed a good, long stretch of smooth wall. The truth is, I have stories a-plenty, just waiting for the telling. Whether I make art out of them or write them or throw them into a stew pot and serve them with bread for dinner doesn't matter. The point is... well... the point is be a good custodian of the cave and tell the damned story.
I am here. This is my day.
To be continued...