Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing—a sunset or an old shoe—in absolute and simple amazement.—Raymond Carver
Ah, permission to gape! I feel vindicated. Two of my favorite verbs are “frolic” and “loll.” And yet I am studying in a culture self-described as “revivalist.” My two verbs of choice don’t seem to carry merit in such a context. Or do they?
If it is a confession to admit to my verbs, I will continue confessing; I like to read Oprah’s magazine, O. I read it for Martha Beck’s monthly essays of insight and advice. Early this autumn, she wrote a piece called “Lying Low” in which she advocated the maligned idea of rest in a hyperactive society. While in Africa, Beck watched a pride of lions lying down and purring for hours after a long hunt. Her friend’s comment led to this gem of advice: Rest like you mean it.
Not: rest when we have worn ourselves out to the point of an immune system collapse. Nor: rest when our annual vacation finally rolls around (at which point we likely suffer said collapse). Rather: be intentional about rest.
In the book of Isaiah, rest is linked to strength which is found in quietness and trust. If I want strength for revival, I’m going to need those traits.
To revive means to bring back to life, to renew, to restore from a latent state. Usually, the dormancy is the recharge time for the following vibrancy.
It is from a place of pause, of rest, that I am able to gape at a sunset (as opposed to hurling by in a car on an errand) and craft a poem that encourages someone to do the same. It is from a place of rest that my writer self can practice the art of paying attention long enough to write about what I’ve paid attention to.
“To just stand . . . .” Or to just sit.
Simple amazement, I welcome you.