A writer is first a receiver, open to messages all the time, always watching and listening. A message or image can come at any moment; the writer’s job then becomes How do I interpret this? What meaning shall I attach? How will I shape this notion, this idea, this sense of something, into words to relay it?
The greatest challenge is capturing that first fleeting message before it’s lost; I heard an author say once that “a new idea is fragile thing.”
Sometimes a writer recognizes that an idea is hovering close and just hasn’t landed yet. Some ideas flutter and dart about like hummingbirds for a while. For me this is like Yeah, I know you’re there, Idea, whatever you are. I feel you darting in and out. One of these days I’m going to get ahold of you but right now I am tired of the chase.
So it was on a day that I visited the hair salon. One of my favorite things there is the complimentary coffee bar for clients. As the iCoffee machine whirred and glowed with blue light, illuminating the cup (so mesmerizing), I reached for a napkin.
The napkins here are always pretty, often seasonal. A lot of thought on someone’s part clearly goes into the napkin choices, no detail being too small or insignificant in creating a pleasant experience.
This napkin was a message.
You saw it yourself, at the top of this post—that’s a picture of the napkin.
Coffee momentarily forgotten, I stood there thinking, I’ll write about this. Somehow . . .
Yesterday I told someone: “When an image comes to you, Writer, use it!”
Today I return to the napkin, thinking. I finally decide to Google the phrase printed on it, suspecting that it’s connected to an author out there somewhere.
Aha. The quote seems to have come from Patrick Overton’s book of poems entitled The leaning tree:
“When you come to the edge of all of the light you’ve known, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown; faith is knowing one of two things will happen. You’ll have something solid to stand on, or you’ll be taught how to fly.”
The idea is so near now that I can feel its wings beating against my soul
Believe. Believe. Believe.
Like the beating of a heart.
I wonder what word would remain if the napkin were tossed outside, trampled on, battered by wind and rain. What the last surviving word would be.
For the napkin in my hand is ephemeral, meant to be thrown away.
Faith, believing, and fly — hear the wings, feel the breeze stirred by their rustling? — are eternal.
Oh, wait—there’s one tiny word there on the napkin, there on the butterfly—how could I have almost missed it?
Thank You, I whisper at last.
And I write.