Last night I got to thinking about my blog from yesterday and its earthquake-writing metaphor. As a little human speck, the earth’s origins — the wrinkling of its crust, the mighty glaciers, the erupting lava and the ice age — seem to me huge forces of nature. Yet I lack perspective, for in a cosmic point of view, these throes of creation were but a feathery tickle, the smallest wave breaking into foam in the midst of a never-ending sea.
Other forces change our world on a slower, less grand scale. Every river, creek, spring and drop of rain carves its way through dirt, stones, and sometimes rock, flowing, wearing out an intricate
tattoo on the topmost layer of our earth. Trees weave in the wind, suffusing our atmosphere with the gases we breathe, and every living organism is engaged in the game of evolution, ever-changing, ever-adapting to the conditions of life.
To an ant, a raging river is a mighty force, but so it can be to me if there is no bridge on which to cross. Climbing the Matterhorn, I sat on rocks that had been piled on it as though by giants, a precarious perch which had stood stable for thousands of years. When climbers climb the Nose on the famous El Capitan in Yosemite, they ascend via a granite formation called the Texas Flake that hangs halfway up the monolith and is slowly detaching from the main rock face. But climbers go up the Texas Flake daily, trusting that in geological terms it will not fall just yet.
I would like to be an instrument of change in the world, but my wishes are interlaced with much fear. Which is the more effective way: the gentle trickling of water or the noisy, jarring repercussions of a big earthquake, and are they really as different as I think? With the limitations of human time, would a gentle change register? and in a brutal, irreversible revolution, would I not find the cost, the casualties too great?
|Perspective: Muir Camp on Rainier|
The lens of fear is hard to remove: what if no one reads what I write because it’s too mild? what if no one reads what I write because it’s too blunt? what if I get hate mail? what if I lose my privacy? What if my writing ends up hurting my family? And I know that none of these questions makes sense. They are phantom fears.
In rock climbing, looking up or down strengthens my fears. Best to keep moving up, one hand and foot at a time, and the holds appear, like magic, in the face of the rock. When writing, I write one word at a time till a sentence comes, a paragraph is born, a page, and a world of characters and action, till I can say, like God in the creation of the world, It is good. It is enough. And then I will send my novel on the water, like Miriam sent Moses in his crib of bamboo on the River Nile, to let it find its own fate, pave its own way, and wreak its own path of change. That is enough.