Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Bush Pilots and Holy Mysteries
I was captured by the gypsies. Well, almost. I was six and they didn’t even know I existed but I was following them, captivated by the sight and sound of them and being carried away just the same. My mother happened to look out our third story window in Germany and could just make out my head bobbing up and down over whatever was growing in that field. The other kids had run with me after the cart, the animals, the wagons
– like something from another time, and then they had stopped and returned to the safety of home. But something about those bells pulled me farther and farther away as if I were under a spell. It was the calling of my mother’s voice over and over and over from a distance that finally made my feet to slow, then come to a full stop. I stood staring longingly as the gypsies disappeared. It was one of the first serious decisions I remember ever making -to stay. To choose family over wild adventure. I was such a quiet, safe, child that one would never have expected this from me. Which made the choosing so much harder. My true nature had surfaced sudden, fierce, and unexpected. A wild, gypsy child with a spirit of adventure built into her bones cloaked well in my silent, somber eyes.
Flash forward five years and I’m was back in America back in my hometown. I’m called forward to the teacher’s desk for questioning. My crime – creative writing. It appeared I had done exceedingly well on a written assignment. Suspiciously well. So the teacher felt that questioning my process, the origination of my thought pattern for the assignment, was in order. I passed the test and then the teacher called my mother to declare to her that I was a writer.
Twelfth grade found me sitting in a creative writing class elective with an angry substitute teacher in the middle of a wildly creative group of seniors who were just this side of out of control, and the substitute, (let’s just call her Miss Shady to protect her identity) yelled out – “How many of you plan to make writing your life and your career?” Before I realized it I passionately raised my hand. Then I realized out of thirty odd kids – my hand was the only one up in the air. Anger fortified, Ms. Shady who yelled, “Then what in the hell are the rest of you doing in here” (No offence, but true story) I didn’t bother to tell her that I sure didn’t think that the school board would approve the creative writing class for just one solitary student. Even one so dedicated.
A thousand words have gone by since then. Journals kept, plays produced, old stories written, and novels published. And still I wake up and think – Yes, I should have been a bush pilot. A truck-stop waitress. A nun, teacher, diplomat, missionary, moon-walker.
In short – the call starts all over again every day that I step outside the world, set my imagination free, and let characters pull up a chair and talk to me with little hope for major gain or commercial success. It comes because there's a story to be told and I'm the teller. It comes again every time I approach a deadline or face the blank page. When I search my heart in the dark for the meaning in this messy, writer life. As my talented friend Denise Hildreth would joke with me, “Sister, it ain’t easy.” And some days it is not. Some days it’s not easy to juggle being under the call while also being a human being with people in my life I love a lot and want to be there for. Or to make decisions that seem logical in nature while my soul beats to the tune of a strange language that only I can hear. It’s not the safest of worlds this writer business. No it’s not.
But oh – the goodness and glory of telling a story that a stranger will embrace from a faraway place and hold it to their chest like a lifeline. To write words that help people cry, or laugh, or sing. To illuminate this sloppy, beautiful life we have with the simple, profound connections we have to each other. Tis a Holy Mystery - that's what it is.
Just today I called my mentor, a strange ringing of the phone for her, and asked almost without hello, “How do I continue to tell the truth? I've got a character, I've got a place, but I've got a really bigger than me deadline?" And with all the wisdom she is known for, she quietly replied, “You simply say, Honey, I need you to talk to me. Then you listen.”
So I’m hanging up my bush pilot dreams and answering the call again. One word, one story at a time.
River Jordan is a southern storyteller and novelist. Her most recent work of Fiction - SAINTS IN LIMBO just surfaced this week and is available everywhere they sell good books. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Owen Hicks, their great, white 120 pound lap dog, and a stubborn cat named Moses. You may reach the author always at her website www.riverjordan.us