In high school, I took a creative writing class. We learned about the process of writing different forms of poetry and short fiction. This was about 30 years ago, but it made a big impact on my life. Not just that I had more stories in my imagination than I thought, but that the stories were as good as they were. In one way or another, each of the main protagonists were some manifestation of me. In some way or another, each of the conflicts they dealt with were my own. Their wishes, longings and struggles were the same as mine. I never got published (outside of school publications) but I sure learned a lot about myself. I understand when I hear that a writer writes because he has to.
In my stories, I had a great affection for the kids I wrote about. My favorite was James, the rebellious, spoiled sixteen year old nephew from the city packed off by his desperate and frustrated parents to the mountains where his Aunt Carolina worked as a biologist. Next was the shy middle school aged pack rat geek with a secret crush on the popular new boy in town that she wrote 1104 observations about in her journal. When her over stuffed locker finally explodes, her whole life is strewn all over the hall way and trampled on by indifferent students passing by. Yet, it is a happy accident when the boy stops to help her pick up the mess and they find that they actually have a lot in common ("You have a bug collection? Cool!") Miss Geek finds out that she learned more in five minutes of personal interaction than she did during months of diligent surveillance. And then there were the 12 year old neighbor kids, Billy and Mandy, meeting each other for the first time and hating each other at first, but still curious enough about the other to get past that to become friends.
I wrote poems about my experiences in the woods, in Hawaii, collecting seashells, King's Lake, snow, hearing music, playing music, friends, boxed up feelings and living in arid Eastern Washington. The usual. Nothing particularly fascinating. But when I read them, it brings me back to a place and time in my life. In technicolor. Although it was harder work than writing stories, with less payback for me creatively, I am glad I wrote them for nothing other than my own benefit. I re-live those moments while on a hike, watching a bird of prey fly, feeling the spray of joyful waves hitting the rocks on the beach, being in a canoe in the middle of a lake at night with a full moon, sitting alone in the music room listening to Doug play trumpet on an empty and dark stage after school.Poetry is life concentrate.
I didn't take a lot of pictures of stuff, cameras frustrated me. But I have these words--pages and pages of them--that captured my life, which was what it was.