I realized the impact of writing when I was a child in elementary school. I had a mentor in third grade, but the funny thing is I can’t remember much about him. I could describe to you the way he looked, but the blurring fog of time makes him look like a cartoon character. A mostly-bald head, an ample gut, khaki pants, a genuine smile, and patent brown leather shoes. What I remember most was that he would take the time to read my stories outside of class. I would show him poems or short stories that I had written and he would correct spelling errors and that sort of thing, but he would also always tell me he wanted to see the next thing I was working on. Perhaps it was because he was a substitute teacher so he had more free time on his hands, but he always wanted to read my latest writing. I remember there was a poem I had written about how pretty these blue flowers were, and he had smiled and said it reminded him of the flowers in his garden.
When I was in fourth grade, he passed away.
A heart attack.
I believe this was one of my first experiences with death.
Before everything else. When death still felt like an idea.
They had made a memorial flower box for him outside one of the portables in the school yard. People had put trinkets and pictures in and around the wooden box that reminded them of him. They had also dedicated a wooden bench. If you sat down on it you were looking out across the school yard and could see everything around you. You could watch the surrounding world.
I remember looking at that bench and feeling this need to preserve his image in something. To capture that smile and those brown patent leather shoes and save them forever. So I wrote a few lines on an index card and put it in a resealable lunch bag. For some reason, I was convinced that if I put it in the plastic bag, it would be protected from the forces of nature and that piece of paper would last forever.
I buried the poem in that flower box.
What I didn’t realize is that I would spend a lot of time the rest of my life processing the universe this way. I have never been the most eloquent speaker because I often feel like my brain is moving at ten times the speed of the rest of my body. My hands, on the other hand, can scribble out everything going on in my brain and it is all there to, possibly, revise later. It has been the biggest creative funnel in which I have experienced the world. It is the way I have taken all my experiences, for the better or the worse, and buried them to rest.
I have had a lot of hesitation about putting my work out in the open world because it is one thing to put everything in your head on paper, and it is another to let everyone see it. Especially in these modern times. I think on some level though humans have this innate desire to feel a connection with another human being. Whether it is through speech, writing, visual art, or our actions, we all want to feel that someone else understands what we are trying to say. There is this incredible feeling that happens when something moves us to the point where we feel like we are in another world. When we really enter in another person’s shoes. We are taken back to the flowers in our garden, to memories that may or may not have ever existed. When it all ends and the book closes, it can leave us with one of the best, arduous desires in the world: the need to know what happens next.