Tuesday, November 18, 2014

after eight

“Eight days a week
is not enough to show I care.”

~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Eight Days a Week.

La Vie Graphite, the blog you presently see before you, is eight years in progress, and now into its ninth year. The actual anniversary is in June, but this past year has been an unusual one. Among the many adventures documented among these essays, my long sojourn at Oxford- combined with a return to Wales- led to the recent string of fourteen essays. My determination to complete the cycle of writing delayed the annual recognition of my online writing continuum. Dreamlike and dream-fulfilling as the experience was, the time of exploration, substantial study, and expression was highly concentrated and not easy to describe. After returning, I’ve been trying to regather my forces through intense exhaustion. The usual output has curtailed, but I have every intention to resume my pace.

As always, gratitude is at the forefront with each milestone. I am grateful for the reading audience- especially considering the autobiographical nature of most of the content in my essays. My thankfulness also continues for the opportunities thus far in my adventures with the written word, the life of pilgrimage, and simply for the ability to write. Amidst eight years of essays, I’ve written from various countries, many retreats, countless indoor and outdoor perches, and during a couple thousand workday lunch breaks. This format is almost as portable as the always-handy pencil and notebook.

For me, blogging began as an outward version of my written journals. I wanted to reach beyond a blank bound book, composing some completed, more polished thoughts as essays, using photography- which for many years was my livelihood and career. And thus the production has proceeded, through travels and motifs, with readers and fellow writers, gratefully as somehow part of an ethereal fellowship in the blogosphere- even the Typosphere. Indeed, I continue with my daily handwritten journals. About ten years ago, I began the pattern of maintaining two journals: one that has structured observations written in ink, and another that is simply a place for fast jottings in pencil- which I’ve long referred to as la vie graphite. The latter tends to be a pocket-sized notebook which accompanies me as easily as a wallet. Pencilled observations, like charcoal sketches, can be smudged, drawn-over, and redrawn, due to the amenable nature of graphite. Blogging adds yet another useful dimension, aside from online presentation: a commitment to production. The “date stamp” of blogging is a constant reminder to continue. I can’t sit on my hands- or lean on my elbows- if I want to be a writer. At the same time, I must live the experience as a participant in life and as a practitioner, and write, if I want to be a writer. Commitment and authenticity help to counteract ignorance. In some memorable words of written correspondence, Flaubert described this passion very well, invoking Pierre de Ronsard:

“Ronsard advises the poet ‘to become well versed in the arts and crafts- to frequent blacksmiths, goldsmiths, locksmiths, etc.- in order to enrich his stock of metaphors. And indeed that is the sort of thing that makes for rich and varied language. The sentences in a book must quiver like the leaves in a forest, all dissimilar in their similarity.’”

Flaubert quoted the 16th century poet, in a letter he wrote in 1854, and here I have added this to the blogosphere in 2014. It is wonderful advice, and I have found such perspective extremely useful in my observations and reflective writing. Listening for the vocabularies of mechanics, scientists, and engineers- as examples- has opened descriptive doors I might not have found otherwise. In this way, journal-writing is something of a journalistic adventure. Returning to my gratitude, observing and writing seem to continue for me quite naturally.

Above: Portland Road, in Oxford, England.
Below: Portland, Maine.

Now to look forward. Even after having traversed these years, there are still many words and themes yet to assemble. There is much more writing to do than there is time available. It is as though a very lengthy path has a very short span of daylight. A personal journal is an ever-unfurling manuscript, mirroring the places and times of the writer. From the point of writing- the present- we can exercise our forecasting, while producing an archival record for our future reference. The recorded word represents a quest, and in such cultivated pursuits we may find our applicable philosophy. In his commentary upon the works of Saint Bonaventure, John F. Quinn observed how the intention of moral philosophy centers on the practice of compassion. Revolving around that intention, our moral action consists in

“...an unremitting search for beatitude, or happiness, founded on a general knowledge or innate awareness of the principles of natural law and on a natural or instinctive desire for the one and only good that can satisfy a human’s proper longing for spiritual fulfilment.”

With prow to the waterways, Year Nine proceeds with hopes for more octaves to follow. I also hope to find more new recommendations for blogs to read, as well as more readers with whom to interact. The pursuit remains worthwhile. Some of you have asked me about the writing process and about the materials of our craft. I’ll try to balance some of these practitioner’s notes, alongside the journeys and observations. Here’s to eight going on nine!