Cats know everything:
Buried secrets of the dead, annoying dog, skittering mouse…
Old dogs know what counts:
Soft, safe bed; meat to eat; sun-warmed rock slab; cat to chase or not.
Yesterday, I enjoyed a fantastic, fierce dialogue with a fellow writer about words and his discovery of encyclopedia, dictionary, and thesaurus when he was a young and precocious reader.
In my own life, an ornery, beloved teacher insisted that students research in a slow, page-turning way through her treasured library of old-fashioned books: encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, thesaurus, and specialty guide. Asked why she made them work like this when there were shiny electronic devices and so many sites, she pulled out a dictionary. She opened it to a random page.
Look, she said. You’re hunting for a word. You find it — by flipping through the pages, scanning the words until you find the exact one. Along the way, you drew in so much from all the other words. You pondered them, dipped into some. You learned. You thought. You wondered.
A former encyclopedia reader and lover of words, I knew exactly what she meant. It’s a hunt through the cave of sparkling gems, finely wrought swords, and mysterious vases.
Learning is not a straight shot to mastery. It is wanders and meanders, discoveries and fortuitous finds. Writing, the best kind of writing, is its own unfurling….Sometimes you come upon wild strawberries, other times wild boars, but in the end it is always an adventure.
Occasionally, it might be a pell mell race to the deadline, the finish, but most times, it’s how and where you devote your energy. What is worth one singular, spectacular miracle moment of your attention when you have so many gifts to share, so many ideas to think, so much art to create, so much love to give? There are the meanders meant only for you to take and bring back your treaure.
Let’s be dogs. They only do what works. Focus on what brings you joy and do that. Sniff, meander, raise your face to the sky. Keep doing that.
Dedicated to T, who reminded me to meander, to take joy in the wander…