I have been positively dreadful about writing since I returned to the States. Truth be told, I have a lot of things to say and no words to say them with. I’ve begun several posts since returning, none of which have been published. I’ve spoken in a relatively informal setting–as well as in countless casual conversations–about my time this summer. I’ve told story after story. I’m full of short vignettes I still wish to share with you and with the world. I’m overflowing with thoughts and tears and smiles and wonders. But, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m at a loss for words. I have no way to adequately express what I’ve experienced, how I feel, or what I want you to know. I pound on my keyboard, I scrawl ideas in the margins of my notebooks, I gracefully arch cursive letters in journals. Even so, nothing feels right. If I write something that expresses who I am right now and what my summer was like, the piece is clunky. If I artfully craft a literary (minor) masterpiece, it’s vapid and useless–I can’t find its life!
I guess that’s because my summer was very real and earthy and life-like. And sometimes life doesn’t make for good story. We stutter in conversation. We have dull moments of no great action. Sometimes there is no happy ending because we haven’t truly reached the end. Sometimes there are just inexplicable tears or unfair goodbyes or senseless anger. Sometimes there are beautiful faces or whimsical jokes or quiet moments of peace. But to mash those things all together, to smush them into a coherent story that somebody actually might want to read someday… That is nearly impossible. Because life is messy and doesn’t follow a nice plot line. And language has limits that fall far short of full life. And God is bigger and stronger and more terrifying and more wonderful than we ever imagined–more than we ever can imagine.
And no matter what I do, I can’t find the words. So my keyboard clacks along, hoping I’ll produce something of value before she wears out. And I slam my shaking fingers against the keys I memorized back in middle school. And I hope that somehow my words will suddenly be publishable and worthy of expressing who I am and what you need to hear. But I finish writing, and I save the draft, and I let it sit for a few hours. Then I read what I’ve written, and I hate what I’ve written, and I give up for a few days. When I finally return, fresh idea pressing through the fog and eager to jump from my fingers, I find that the keyboard and computer screen (or the pen and notebook page) have suddenly sucked all creativity and language from my mind. The instant my fingers touch the medium through which I will produce, all my ideas–every word I’ve ever learned–ooze from my brain into my hands and through my hands into the computer–not producing truth or beauty but instead fueling the glaring light that illuminates the empty page. And I write nonsense for a half hour. And the process has repeated for 2 months now.
Which brings me to yesterday. My roommate and I have recently begun spending time studying off-campus on occasion. It’s nice to get away from the pace of future politicians and find a cozy corner to curl up in. Which is what we did yesterday. We drove to a popular bakery-restaurant and settled into a corner with cups of coffee and a light breakfast. We edited our peers’ creative pieces and studied for a midterm and enjoyed the leisurely pace. We didn’t worry about being brilliant. We didn’t worry about being perfect. Instead, we sat across from each other and took in the background noise. We chatted with families who were trying to corral several children in a crowded dining room. We listened to the rain that dribbled down the wall of windows. We took in the coming of fall and the cooling of the air whilst sipping coffee and tea and slurping rich soup around lunchtime.
As I stowed away my laptop and prepared to spend the last few moments of our adventure simply enjoying conversation, I thought of the history of students of literature, the heritage of writers and wordsmiths. I meditated on Lewis and the Inkwells in a pub. I considered the professors and friends who–like our forebearers–sip on tea (and, during late nights and early mornings, perhaps coffee as well). I wondered how many authors and poets and playwrights had been inspired by the rain tapping on the windows and the presence of a good friend. As I savored the touch of hot tomato soup to my tongue, I rested in the blessings of a rich meal with a dear friend in a warm room as the wind gusted and the rain trickled outside.
Some blessings are beyond words.