In Feast or Fallow
I used to write all the time. There was a variety to my method, my tone, my style. The blur of early adulthood might have left me dissociated from my body and skeptical of my mind, but my voice was clear and supple and strong. In those early years, growing up in Colorado, I wrote with abandon. I experimented. I read The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and wrote like Annie Dillard for two months. I gobbled up Don Miller's early work - Blue Like Jazz, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, and Searching for God Knows What, and parked myself in a quick-serve, run-of-the-mill coffee franchise that I imagined was a moody, smoky cafe in Portland, Oregon. I wrote about the rain and God and unrequited love.
I moved to Boston when I was 18, and lived two miles from the ocean. I would hitch rides to the beach, and sit on the bench with my journal, overlooking the shore, watching my new acquaintances run in the brine, aching for companionship that lived outside and off of the page. Life up till that point, it felt, had been lived carefully between the lines, in the ink.
When and why I put down that pen and paper, I can't recall. At some point, I stopped trusting my voice. I stopped taking risks. I silenced myself. I gave up imaginations and caved to the allure of labels like "responsible" and "real" and "branding" - whatever those things mean, in the grand scheme of things.
Then, a few weeks ago, I read a poem I wrote in the early morning hours of 2007 - eleven years ago. It appeared like a sign, a bright star in the navigator's sky. I read it, and didn't recognize my own self in the words. I shocked myself with the vulnerability and maturity I wrote with back then. I had captured a moment with words so much so that, by reading, I was transported back to the bed from which I wrote it. I could see the sunrise through the half open shades, the city lights fading, the placement of the furniture, the length of my hair. I don't remember how to do that - how to write with courage and artistry and love for the self. And I want to remember.
I am an academic, and a professional. I get paid to think thoughts. I write a lot of words each week about social theory, and use terminology like "problematic" and "confidence interval." I really do care about my work, but I miss the poetry, too. I miss exploring the layers of my life and the world with experimentation and art and vulnerability. Hence, this project.
This is a creative space, a project that will highlight my creative, less-academic writing. It deserves a space of it's own. And while I'm out of practice, I'd like to think of this type of expression as a field left in fallow for years. That is, a field left to rest, to be restored. Perhaps I turned away from this practice because I was burned out or had tried to monetize it inauthentically or had pressured myself to conform in a way that wasn't true to me. Whatever the reason, I feel ready to tend to these fields again, to cultivate a new harvest. Something life-giving. Something I am proud of in another ten years.
In feast or fallow.