Words

Yesterday I felt like eating some traditional food, so I went to McDonald’s and ordered some stuff. And some fries to go with that stuff. Anyway, as I was eating my stuff, something happened.

Across from where I was seated was this girl. Truly beautiful. Like really, really. The sensible thing to do in this situation would be… dunno, but I got inspired. I stopped eating for a while. Can I use that cliche with time stopped? Like that quote from Of Mice and Men, “As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment. And then the moment was gone.”

Something like that. And I swear that I was writing, in my head, a story. Or at least an opening to that story. The word beautiful kept repeating itself, over and over again. If you saw the Matrix trilogy, it was like that. Like Neo, who sees the Matrix as a continuous flow of code or whatever, that’s how I was building this girl. Word by word, I was trying to translate the same thing she triggered in me. God knows what she triggered. Anyway, because I don’t like to write in public spaces, I headed back home and began to write something I’m now calling The Stendhal Syndrome. It’s gonna be a short story or maybe longer than that. Who knows.

What I’m trying to say is that, in the end, anyone can think of something to write about. An idea for a story. It might take a lot of brainstorming, a lot of coffee, and so on, but anyone can do this. But when you stop living your life, maybe for just a couple of minutes, and you want to transcribe that moment, to alter it, to add, embellish, then that’s when you’re in some serious trouble.

But I wonder why we do that? I know that art is not just a means of sharing ideas, of changing the world, of becoming rich and famous. Art is sometimes a way of keeping a journal.

I mean, I’m writing this story now, inspired by this girl, not only because I want to share it with you, but also because I have to. Because this urge I feel, this need to write it down, transcends logic.

I just have to write it down.

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121 thoughts on “Words

  1. I understand so completely. I saw an old woman buttoning her coat as I walked to work; writing this the moment I got home –
    I should have been so happy. Understanding the people in my life was a reason to celebrate. Instead, my tears were feed by an incurable sadness. I had found my first regret, it wasn’t for myself, I was strong now, my vision was clear. I wept for others, I wept for words unspoken and lives of those I loved melting into obscurity. I cried because I would never know what may have been if only I had found my voice sooner. All the things unsaid, questions unanswered, opportunities missed.

    I wanted them back. I wanted to sit Baba down, not as my grandfather, but as John. I would ask him to be kind to my father. I’d tell him how proud I was of my father, I’d make him understand. He should have been told, that the measure of a man is not in the car he drove, or the committees he headed. Someone needed to point out that the worth of a man is quiet and strong, it’s defined by the impact he has on others. I wanted him to know my father was a good man. I could have made him see what his overbearing, condescending, never good enough approach had done to my father. I wanted to shake him, shout at him, tell him that despite everything he had done to squash my father, he had managed to rise above. My father had found his own way, he actually made a difference. There wasn’t a parade, a high school band, strong and quiet, my father marched on.

    Having straightened John out on that point, I would have told that I thought he was a good man. I realize that I know so little about him. I knew he owned the land we lived on, that was abundantly clear. I knew his sister and mother lived in a nearby town as we visited them every month or so.I knew at least one of his brothers was killed in the war, and that he had a terrible farm accident that nearly killed him. That was it. I wanted to ask him, to understand, what it was that made him tick. If I could understand his life, I could understand why nothing my father ever did was good enough. I know he had a kind heart, it simmered to the surface when you would least expect it. I don\t think he had any idea what he was doing to my dad. Suddenly I wanted to comprehend his life, but it was too late. So I cried.

    I wanted my grandmother back. Not as Granny, but as kind, sweet, gentle Annie Gladys. I would put my arms around her , she needed to know that her life hadn’t been defined by John. Her life had mattered. She was an angel, a beacon of light, someone we could always count on. Not once did she raise her voice, solid as granite, she was our foundation. I wanted to tell her everything she had done for us. I wanted her to know that someone recognized her sacrifice, she may have vowed in marriage to love , honour and above all obey. Someone needed to tell her, she hadn’t been lost in that promise. She kept her vows, she was a good wife, and managed, despite it all to touch us with her beautiful spirit.

    I couldn’t breath, at first I thought it was panic, and soon recognized it as incurable despair. I never told her I loved her. Not once. I wanted her back. Had she died thinking we took her for granted. Had I found my voice in time, I might have been able to touch her heart. She needed to know she wasn’t alone, I wanted to be her secret allies, she had to know someone noticed. I wondered if anyone had ever told her they loved her. I wanted to know if she loved John. I wanted to ask her about her life, her dreams, her childhood.. Then I cried.

    My mothers father was my granddaddy. I wanted him back . Not as Granddaddy, as Cecil. Cec was quiet, I always sensed he had stories to tell. I thought he was cool. We used to sit together in silence at his kitchen table, smoking Black Cat No. 7 cigarettes. He had the thickest, curliest hair. He was so unlike Baba, he was a gypsy, a drifter, he moved his family from place to place working in the mines. He panned for gold, he believed in and searched for the Sasquatch. I had so many questions, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to tell him everything was OK. I hoped his life had made him happy, I wanted him to find a voice. I would listen. I wanted to see a twinkle in his eye. Then I cried.

    I wanted my Nana. She was a Margaret, like my mother, everyone called her Madge. I had the most questions for her. My God, she had lived in San Fransisco in the 20’s working as an illustrator for catalogues, then fashion magazines. What was is like. I needed to know. How did she end up with Cec, moving from job to job. I needed to tell her she was responsible for an amazing child. My mother came from this crazy place, I wanted to thank her. In my heart, I’m sure she was brilliant, then stifled by responsibility and circumstance. Like my mother she was exceptional, what might she have been if left to her own devices. I loved her for her off beat take on life. I loved that even though her garden had arguably the worst soil imaginable, being at least half sand, she always thought she could grow tomatoes. I wanted to tell her that even though her garden may have been hopeless , her greatest accomplishment was in helping my mother grow into an interesting person. I needed to thank her for fostering my mother’s brilliance, for allowing her to be different. I wanted to ask , had she known how remarkable my mother was, or did she take it for granted , as she was remarkable as well. Then I cried.

    My regret began to fade. My tears became fence posts. I had spent my whole life, building this fence. It enclosed a meadow. A magical place beyond description. It was here I kept the memories of these remarkable people. I couldn’t have them back, but I could visit them any time I liked.

  2. I know what you mean. I was reading your post and suddenly felt the irresistible urge to comment! Seriously now, I understand what you're saying. Happens to me all the time. It may be related to the need for making something solid about our inherently fuzzy memories…

  3. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

    – Sylvia Plath

  4. cristian,

    i must agree when you wrote that everyone can write a story,I have many moments that I create stories on my mind by the things that I see everyday, different stories from different people and places I met and I have been. I was writing it down in my mind and you know at the end of the day you feel that there is this urge to write it,I don't know it happens to me as well.:)

  5. So at what level of thought do these things arise in us? "Inspired" meant to be breathed upon by the gods – regardless of intent, language wells up from somewhere, as if by itself. Perhaps it does, perhaps it is a stream of personal awareness that forces itself upwards into our front- brain consciousness. What makes it interesting is that it is, in some way, beyond the 'us' we usually consider we are. As such, inspiration stretches us, makes us want to grasp and make more real that stuff. The difficulty often is the teasing out of a linear narrative from the poetic gestalt: we get the download, but need to install the programmes as well before anything can be done – and that ability, probably, is what makes a good writer….

  6. Crazy, McDonalds food has become traditional for us. Anyway, stellar writing as always. I agree about the nature of being an artist. I like the journal as metaphor to the life an artist. We can trace over the patterns of the development of our work and it tells a story of who we are and where we been. We write because that is who we are. We do it when poor or when rich. We are compelled.

  7. "….art is not just a means of sharing ideas, of changing the world, of becoming rich and famous. Art is sometimes a way of keeping a journal." – it's something that i have been thinking for a while. glad you gave it a shape and form.

  8. This makes a lot of sense to me. A friend of mine once said, "art is only limited by our ability to understand it." But i don't think that's true. A lot of art functions on a level beyond understanding. Beyond conscious understanding.

    That woman must have been beautiful. I've had those moments, too.

  9. I think it's because we want to remember. Or at least, for me it's like that. I don't want to forget these fleeting moments – like the one you've described – and I know I would otherwise, probably, because there's nothing more solid in my memory to link them to. They're out of time, like you said.. That's what I think, at least, or why I do it.

  10. I love the juxtaposition of being at McDonalds and being inspired toward great art at the same time. The seeds are everywhere. Recognizing them and needing to shape them with your own artistic clay is the real mystery. I look forward to reading the story…or whatever it becomes….

    Oh…but I can't help wondering how she would have felt if you had told her she was beautiful.

  11. I always go through the work week trying to think and arrange what i want to write on my blog. In the end it's only when I start writing my ideas will flow on to the page. What I wanted to write about always turns into something else.

  12. this had happened to me several times. haha. at mcdonalds, jollibee, park. etc. you wouldn't know when and where the need and urge to write would come to you. that's why, wherever i go, i always bring with me a notebook and a pen.

  13. I am still stuck on a Romanian saying he ate "traditional" food at MCDONALDS??????? I can hear the mother's crying in their aprons wondering what happened to their people. We call it junk food here and this is for a reason. :-) Ay yay yay.

  14. I thought for sure we're going to say "something happened, I stopped eating, walked over to this beautiful girl and said hello to her. She motioned for me to take a seat and we talked for what seemed like hours. Time stood still as listened to her angelic voice tell me about book she loves, music that makes her so happy she could dance…"

    my god Cristian, next time use your words and talk to the beautiful girl :)

  15. I'm always writing stories in my head. Always. Doesn't matter where I am or who I'm with, opening lines are running through my mind. Most never see the light of day but as long as a few do, that's good.

  16. Beautiful story. One can have an epiphany even in McDonald's. But I would say that what happened is that her beauty made you remember the magic in life, made you feel more alive. That sense of being profoundly alive transcended the prosaic plastic-topped table and all the problems and worries and fears we all have in our lives, which suck the life out of us. What was magical about the girl was partly the girl but mostly the fact that she brought out the best in you, the most alive in you, the part that sparkles.

    And if we can do that with our art, if we can give the reader back that which in them makes *them* sparkle, then we remind them that they are alive, and what about their own lives is worth living.

  17. I know this feeling all too well. It happens a lot when I am driving, well, not me, but driving in a car. Okay, I can't lie sometimes it happens when I am driving, but I always make sure I am stopped before I break out the iPhone notepad and start typing. It happened yesterday, and the day before. I feel like I am on a roll at a moment like that, but then the doubt settles in…Does that happen to you?

  18. This piece made me think of Glenn Miller's IN THE MOOD. This gorgeous young lady put you in the mood to write a story. There is no better way to do anything, than when you're in the mood. I don't write for money, I don't write for fame, I only write my articles when I'm in the mood. And, I only write about "stuff" that keeps me in the mood. I love the freedom. I love it !

  19. I'm doing a scientific survey of people who LIKE the blogs I follow and have determined that you have more female LIKERS who use sketched pictures of themselves than any other blogger. What does this mean? I predict that you will one day marry Lucy from Peanuts.

  20. Beautiful :) love this post :) we write because of a deep instinct that tells us we have to. The ability to share a tiny piece of our hearts with others thru the use of words is a truly beautiful gift :)

  21. This was BEAUTIFUL! I love the fact that you where taken by the beauty of a woman so much so that she inspired you. That is inspiring to me. Thank you so much for sharing. I want to be beautiful not pretty, I want to be seen as beautiful and not pretty. For you as a man to notice a woman as beautiful not as pretty brings a realization that men still have the ability to see beauty. :)

  22. Now I am actually considering McDonalds… I am quite sure my inspiration would be quite different. Inspiration comes in many ways. Thanks for sharing yours and your heart in doing so. Love and am inspired by the post.

  23. I can relate a lot with your process of writing. Ideas are everywhere, we just need to catch them and jot them down. We should not aim to write an idea but instead let the idea find you.by mere observation :P

  24. Inspiration comes in many forms. You just saw one and off the mind goes to do what it does best for you. I love those times. I use to have them a lot. I need to get back there. To drop off some of the weights and get re-centered. Thanks for this post.

  25. “It's not art for art's sake, it's art for my sake. ” D.H. Lawrence.

    Few days ago, at dawn I've walked near a small coffee place. It has a big glass window, somebody was sitting alone at the table. The intense light was making this small interior seen from the outside so unreal, like a universe, separated from our world. The curve of his back, the way the man was holding the cup. That man was staring into the window, right at me, although he could see only his own reflection. There was something in it. I've seen this place many times before, but it never moved my heart. I'm painting it now, because I have to. Otherwise it will haunt me forever.

  26. With the way that your writing about her, you should have just gone up and say it. You really do have a beautiful way with words that seems that you can get any girl with them.

    The short story that you're working on though does sound like it's going to be pretty awesome. Can't wait to see it.

  27. So true! For NaNoWriMo last year (my first attempt at a novel), I had not even a vague idea what it would be about. So I started with, "I have no idea what this story will be about. I'm just going to keep putting words on paper and see what happens if I just don't stop." Amazingly, even before my daily minimum of around 1600 words, I had a whole plot, plus most of the character details, and that story practically wrote itself! I think it diesn't matter how you start– as long as you start.

  28. It's always captivating when it seems that inspiration just appears. This happened to me recently too, under different circumstances, of course. I reached for inspiration, wanting to simply free write, and hopefully put some of the many jumbled ideas and projects that have been on my mind lately into perspective. The inspiration struck like lightning, and I was off writing pages and pages, as fast as I possibly could; only to realize later it had been just inches from my nose, unrecognizable and invisible until I wanted to see it.

  29. Writing just because you have to is something I know too… somehow I am afraid of losing moments in time, somehow writing these things eases the loneliness at the same time making me more aware of it… thank you for this blog post. I need to write.

  30. Interesting! McDonald's is traditional food? hum….never looked at it that way. When very bored with lots of free time I go to a crowded place, a mall or some sort of shopping center and just sit somewhere watching people. I make up stories about each person, or couple that I see. It entertains me. I never thought to blog about it though! Thanks for the inspiration.

  31. Thank you Christian for your words. Love the Macca's bit – hilarious. Nothing she could have said would have been as perfect as what you will have her say. Reading Jazz at the moment and I love your female voice! Do you ever write something a character says and then think, boy – wish I could be that cool?

  32. Your experience at the McDonalds reminds me of what happens when I walk my dog – her attention to small details keeps me more aware, which turns a garbage dumster or hydrant into a beautiful thing – I've often thought I should do a series oa paintings called "Following My Dog" – maybe someday!

  33. All this from McDonald's? Think of what inspiration might have appeared if it had been real food! And alas, I know why you didn't approach her–the ideal, or even just story, transcends. For the person bent on writing, regular life may allude them as they pursue the ideal over the real.

  34. You've brought this question up a few times now (the nature of art and what drives the artist). I plan to deal with this topic quite a bit in the future, so I find it very interesting. You stated in another post that artists need an audience to keep going, and I agree but would like to add that the need for an audience stems from somewhere deeper, from the same place that drives us to create art. I feel that our need for an audience is nothing more than a need to feel true human connection. After all, when someone engages with your story it is really just another way of expressing that they understand where you are coming from (a validation of sorts). Creating art is a way of expressing complex and intangible emotional and intellectual states of being–it is something that strikes out from life and grabs you (even if only for a moment), and the realization that it has struck out to grab another (from you own pen) validates the way you structure your world and reifies the human connection. Coming across artistic expression that reaches out to you is just as powerful of a feeling as creating art that reaches another because it does the same thing (reifies that connection). That's why irevuo is such an awesome project!

  35. What I am hearing from yu is that when you write yoiu don't take time to think about it much, you just write what comes out of your heart. Is that right? It's important for me to do that, or else I will lose it–like if we have a dream we want to remember, we write it down right away.

  36. Whats your trick to not forgetting what it is you are composing in your head? I always start to write things in my head whilst on a tram or in a bar but by the time I get home its lost. Like the moment you were talking about. And thats the sad thing because writing about someone holds onto that moment…

    Advice?

  37. Isn't it amazing how something like that can trigger an idea or an emotion? Sometimes when I see older folks I imagine what my own children will be like when they are old. When I am no longer aorund to do anything for them. Will they be happy and self sufficient? Just my parental fears manifesting as short stories.

    I enjoyed your story. I think many of us would like to sit down and talk with our grandparents, or even our parents, as the people they used to be. As the children their parents knew. The way their friends saw them. It would be a fascinating conversation. It is a rich fantasy.

  38. It's nice to read that I am not the only one who gets those feelings. Now if I only had more words & patience to write them down! (And the courage to share them!)

  39. Sitting in the big 'm' reading this right now. I too have just observed something that makes me want to write. It is interesting just what causes this reaction. Is it simply just a thought or process that we recognise ourselves? Or is it something much more deeply rooted.

  40. I have the same feeling, it seems many of us do. I started blogging because I am an avid student of the past. As current discussions are happening, I see those same discussions from the past. I see the same events occurring over and over, and it makes me sad that we all seem to think we are the first, many so blind to the current events as to make excuses for why things are different "this time."

    Your writing evoked in me a strange feeling. I was mesmerized, curious, and attached at the same time, but, for the life of me, I could not put into words the exact reason. I hope one day to evoke the same responses in others with my writings and observations. :)

    Thanks for sharing a piece of you.

  41. I also feel the urge to write down a story or a poem whenever I'm inspired. I don't want to keep myself waiting, though. It breaks my inspiration. Think of it like trying to eat pizza while it's still hot.

  42. Nice; but may i suggest next time you put down the pen and step away slowly? Remember you’re number one job is to bird-dog chicks and bang Beaver. When its over, hopefully not for a very long time; then you’ll really have something to write about. Happy hunting.

  43. So…we may be related, at least in heart…

    Recently, I sat in a Chinese restaurant waiting for my order…my mind wandering as I watched a youthful, voluptuous damsel masticate with a kind of Jack Palance (not sure how to spell his name- something like that) facial circus…and before I knew it, my brain was in overdrive. Sentences of dialogue came from her mouth, and Horace-Rumpole-style rumblings in my head (the one attached to my neck)…and then, conflicting dialogue from her foil, sitting opposite, with fork propped precariously at the edge of her mouth…

    Cristan, is this normal? We are normal, aren't we. :)

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