Always

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers commences today, meaning that I will be posting every day in the month of March. This is my fifth consecutive year of participating.

I’ve learned a few things along the way about perseverance, creativity, and trust. Writing is, after all, an experiment in trust. You must trust yourself, trust that the words will come, that the Muse WILL show up. You take the plunge, trusting in the congenial ebb and flow of the writing community. You become a conduit of giving, of receiving. That is the power of story.

This year I am also experimenting with an abecedarian approach. Rationale: If I write around a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet…it will carry me through twenty-six days! That gives me five “wild card” days for the thirty-one in March. We’ll see how it goes. I could start with my word for the year, awe, but as I’ve written about that quite a bit since January, I will go in a different direction today.

I begin, instead, with always.

Always is cloaked in the aura of awe, anyway.

******

It’s woven through every great love story. The unbreakable thread, even when knotted with pain and loss. It glitters in the brightest moments and in the darkest; it is anchored deep in the human heart. It is the pull of permanence in the face of impermanence, mortality, powerlessness.

It is the word Severus Snape speaks in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the moment we learn that he isn’t pure evil, that he has lived for years in his own personal hell, that he loved, and still loves, Harry’s dead mother. Snape will die protecting her son (which, if he’d made different choices along the way, might have been his own; the bitterness and self-blame run so deep). When this all dawns on the Hogwarts headmaster, Dumbledore, he asks, in tears, if Snape still loves Lily “after all this time.”

Snape says: Always.

He is, in that one word, redeemed.

It is the operative word of the song Dolly Parton wrote in 1973 when she left Porter Wagoner and his show to begin her solo career: I Will Always Love You. Bittersweet lyrics, wishing the best for someone as the relationship itself disintegrates…it’s not just about love. It’s about always. It reverberates with gratitude. And you’re likely hearing Whitney Houston’s voice instead of Dolly’s—the young, beautiful, vibrant Whitney, always alive in that iconic song.

It is a memory word, pulsating in the veins of our allotted days. What are the things, the moments, that you will carry with you always? The people, the songs, the stories?

Always is why I write. To remember those things that matter, to jettison those that burden, to sail on through the storms to the calm that lies beyond. It is always there. Morning always follows the longest night. Night is always necessary; it invokes sleep, opportunity for the brain to repair itself. A mooring, in order to keep powering on. Much like writing itself.

Then there are dreams…an always-fascinating phenomenon.

I’ve been paying attention to those of late, writing them down, especially recurring dream symbols: birds, notably eagles. Lots of vivid green in unexpected places. Water, which is a metaphor for life. Once I dreamed I was swimming at dusk in an unknown sea alongside a shore dotted with houses and twinkling lights. I knew my destination was still a long way off. Just as I felt I wouldn’t make it, a dolphin came to guide me onward. It stayed close to my side, occasionally leaping. I touched it. I felt its slick, smooth skin against my palm. On contact, an instantaneous infusion of comfort: I absorbed the dolphin’s inherent cheer; I could rely on its agility, its navigational acuity. See how even dreams lead back to trust. Dreams are not always good, but most of mine are, thankfully. Troubled dreams are often the psyche’s way of trying to problem-solve.

And that takes me back to my great love, writing—for it’s the ultimate problem-solving mechanism. Writing is the chance dream while awake.

Always.

Harry Potter fans know the symbolism of the doe…

*******

Another favorite ‘a’ word in addition to always and awe: Abide. I wrote around that last autumn. A new “a” word I’ve learned: Anaplastology. Ana = anew, plastos = something that is made, so, “something made anew.” It is the branch of medicine which deals with prosthetic rehabilitation of a missing or malformed body part.

53 thoughts on “Always

  1. Thank you for your slice. It is so rich with ideas for thinking and “always” will stick with me throughout the morning. I love your word a day approach and all the links to past posts as well. I wish I had the time to explore them. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Linda – I always appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for reading my rather essayist post and I am delighted to know “always” sticks with you, as it has a compelling hold on me. I toyed with writing around “abide” again for the Challenge (I love the word) but decided to link the previous post instead along with those other intriguing “a” words mostly as a frame of reference or archive of my thinking today. Hey – archive is another “a” word! One thing leads to another. Happy to be sharing the Slicing journey with you again.

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  2. Wow, this is a great first post for me to read this morning! I am a rookie, so I appreciate your experienced SOL approach. The “abecedarian approach” (First, I LOVE saying that word) is both practical and poetic. Perfect first word, and excellent description. Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to the rest of the month.

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    • First, thank you for your words! Welcome to the Challenge – I am truly excited for you and for what you will discover on your writing venture! In the past I made a list of ideas I might want to write around for the month; I am fond of short titles but this is the first time I’ve tried writing around a word a day. This post turned out to be more essay-esque than story, but the great fun of this Challenge, for me, is chasing ideas to see how they connect. I deeply appreciate your comments about the poetic nature… I just HAD to use “abecedarian”… I mean, how many chances do we get to do so? Here’s to the power of words, the love of writing, and to your epic Slice adventure! Can’t wait to see where it leads you.

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  3. Such a beautifully written post! This is my first Slice and I have to admit that I’m feeling a little nervous and worried about being able to find enough time and inspiration to post daily. Using a word to guide your inspiration is such an interesting idea. I look forward to reading more!

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    • Thank you for your words, and welcome to the Challenge! I am excited for you! After my first year of participating I learned to make a list of ideas to write about. I listed maybe 25… I wrote a lot of them, but not all, as other ideas and moments came to me. I wrote some of them much later. Once you immerse in a sort of constant-composition flow (writing in your head all day while carrying out normal routines, grabbing hold of any little golden nugget that comes your way, jotting an idea down before you lose it), you will find that there’s always something to “play” with. I’ve written a lot of memoir – snippets of childhood I want to hold on, etc. – such fun to relive those moments. I’ve written to photos, objects, to my children, and from the perspective of my dog. Time IS a challenge – sometimes it’s a matter of getting up a little earlier, staying up a little later, maximizing larger pockets of time by writing a post draft or two ahead so they are ready when you need them. That’s part of the growth, finding your own stride. Short posts will do! It will be a wild adventure full of surprises, what you discover in yourself! I shall be cheering you on 🙂

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  4. What an interesting approach you are taking this month. I wonder how you chose the words for each letter. You interestingly weave Snape, Dolly Parton, and dreams into one coherent piece.

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    • You make me smile, Terje – it was fun chasing this twisty thread that connected Snape and Dolly. Eventually, all things connect… as to choosing the word to write around: sometimes the first one that comes to mind, or one I especially like (such as “always”); for some letters I have a list of words and am waiting to see what rises to the surface when their day comes. Happy writing to you!

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  5. This was really a journey. I’ve always thought of writing a problem-solving exercise, my self therapy. I, too, was considering an approach like this. It’s something like that expression about the journey of 1000 miles beginning with one step. Start with a word. My first choice had been pause, since I had just taken a picture of my dog’s giant paws. I didn’t remember your abide entry, but my eulogy for my father last month centered on his ability to abide. I’m glad to be back in the larger slice community. This was the perfect first read.

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    • I love the paws/pause idea – wordplay is part of the artistry of the craft. I am sure your “abide” entry is powerful… I love this word … I shall head over to read yours. Here’s to every healing and solution wrought by writing.

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  6. “Always is why I write. To remember those things that matter, to jettison those that burden…”. Is my favorite line in this lovely piece.
    And thanks for inspiring me to re-read Harry Potter, with greater depth this time!

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    • Excited that you’re inspired to reread Harry Potter. Every other year or so, I go on a binge and read the series all the way through again. I didn’t see the movies for a long time and nothing prepared me for the truth about Snape on the first reading; on every reread, I see something more… thank you for telling me that “jettison” line is your favorite.

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  7. Oh my goodness, I have chosen letters of the alphabet too, but in no particular order and rather as letters and sounds, than words…I really really didn’t look at your post first…!!!
    You always (yes used with intention) write with such detail and depth of feeling, I am amazed and delight to read your slices….it’s so nice to come back to familiar friends after another year….:) 🙂

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    • LOL – I say, use the approach! It’s why I am sharing it – there are plenty of words and ways and ideas to go around! Ideas tend to fall at the same time, anyway, like blankets over lots of us at once – think about baby name trends, for example. It’s also in the book Big Magic. So happy to see you here again, as well!

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  8. I love this approach – what great idea (some of those letters are going to be challenging!) and your reflection on “always”, your wonderful ability to weave together the strands of so many different ideas – from Snape to Dolly Parton to love, memory, sleep, dreams and dolphins – and create a lingering impression never ceases to amaze and inspire me. I am always glad to be writing with you. Your posts lift me up.

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    • Some of the letters are ALREADY challenging -! Q and X are going to be interesting, if I do not abandon my idea first (I suspect I won’t; it’s part of the fun, too). You have made my day with your words about my posts being uplifting; that is a deep-seated desire of my heart for this blog. Thank you, Amanda.

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  9. “Lots of green in unexpected places”. I began having Green Dreams as a child. Black and white dreams with a vast area of sudden green expanses. These Green Dreams were prophetic, always came true, even often like the melted watches of weird reality. Like a giant map that suddenly became real and allowed me to step from California to Hawaii, into a bus, with brilliant fields of green along the route. A few months later my parents surprised me by sending me to Hawaii to go to college for a year. The route to go into Honolulu from Laie passed fields of green: grass, sugarcane, etc, causing me to recall the Green Dream.

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  10. I popped on to see your approach to slicing and was awestruck by what I found. A beautiful journey around a word. The literary references and your reflections are exquisite. I am looking forward to your daily romp.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The approach you are using for SOLSC is so, so fun!! I’m going to save that for maybe journaling next month 🙂

    I absolutely love your writing, and I cannot wait to read your posts this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love how you keep up with your dreams! I record my dreams then research the meaning behind them. I don’t record all of them, of course. I dream about water as well, but this only seems to happen in times of great stress, and they come in the form of HUGE waves. I have dreamed that I was in the middle of a tsunami once. It was so real. I’m always trying to survive and fight the water in these dreams. 🌊
    I enjoyed reading your post! Looking forward to more!

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  13. Wow! You did such a stunning job at writing this post. These lines especially nudged me: “Writing is, after all, an experiment in trust. You must trust yourself, trust that the words will come, that the Muse WILL show up. You take the plunge, trusting in the congenial ebb and flow of the writing community. You become a conduit of giving, of receiving. That is the power of story.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fran, your creativity is boundless as symbolized by your unique approach to this year’s slicing challenge. ABC and you’re off with always-such a beautiful word that encompasses so much. Awe is definitely a part of always’ wonder. I agree that “writing is the ultimate problem-solving mechanism”. I am always by your side!

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  15. Fran, your first paragraph is a great hook! I love your technique of making connections to what the word “always” means to you and how smoothly your words flow from one connection to another like your pen is a magic wand. I know it’s your talent, though, and I also know you will meet the challenge you have set for yourself. “I Will Always Love You” has always been a favorite of mine. The following quotations especially resonated with me:
    “Writing is, after all, an experiment in trust. You must trust yourself, trust that the words will come, that the Muse WILL show up.”
    “The unbreakable thread, even when knotted with pain and loss. It glitters in the brightest moments and in the darkest; it is anchored deep in the human heart.”
    “What are the things, the moments, that you will carry with you always? The people, the songs, the stories?”
    “Always is why I write. To remember those things that matter, to jettison those that burden, to sail on through the storms to the calm that lies beyond.”
    “for it’s the ultimate problem-solving mechanism. Writing is the chance dream while awake.”
    As always your post is inspiring and a joy to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am always thankful for your heartfelt, thoughtful words, Gail. Here’s a fun thing you’ll appreciate: “I Will Always Love You” happened to be a Jeopardy answer tonight! What are the odds?? It means much to me that those lines from the post resonated with you so.

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      • LOL! Sugar plum, we didn’t watch it tonight. We were talking to our oldest daughter, Maegan about her and Craig, my husband traveling to Colorado from either Vermont, where Maegan lives or from here in Upstate, NY. Maegan and her boyfriend are moving to CO. She will be move in April and her boyfriend will fly out in May, after he graduates with his Master’s in finance. Talk about bittersweet. Of course, we’re happy for them, but we are going to miss having her only three hours away. I have “always” wanted to hike the Rocky Mtns. in CO.

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  16. I have been afraid of the word “always” because it feels like such a commitment. Sometimes you just can’t get away. Snape might have been better off not always loving Lily, but sometimes life chooses you too. For good or the bad.

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    • Point well-made. There’s no denying that forever is wound around always. Bearing a burden always is a tragic thing. I am not sure Snape forgave himself for aligning with forces that destroyed Lily (although he tried to bargain). Harry forgave him, however, and named his son after “the bravest man” he ever knew. So, there’s that…

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  17. YES. Always. So much tucked into that little word. I love how you dive into trust. You’re right – writing is an act of trust – trust that the “muse,” as you say, will show up for us, trust that our readers will be gentle with what we’re putting out into the world…all of it. Looking forward to another challenge with you, Fran!

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    • Being gentle in this arena is critical – after all, this is stuff of the heart we’re putting out here. Which also means there’s much joy and wonder for the giving and taking. So happy you’re here and writing, Lainie; you are a word artist.

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      • Thanks! This is exactly what I’m trying to do – try out strategies and farm them out to teachers who are up for the adventure. And…thanks, Fran. ❤

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      • And of course I typed THIS reply in which should have been a response to your OTHER comment.

        One of my seventeen mistakes a day.

        What I MEANT to say is. Yes. Getting to the heart of things is precisely what we need to do. Joy and wonder, indeed.

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  18. I see the title & immediately thought of Snape & Lily. I wasn’t surprised when a few moments later I come across their name & you are right.In that small moment he was redeemed. Ah Dolly Parton & that song. I know everyone loves the Whitney version and she did an incredible job. But Dolly’s version when you know the story behind it packs more of a punch. If you’ve ever had that one person that you will always love this song truly speaks to you and your heart.

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    • I am delighted that Snape and Lily sprung to your mind on seeing this blog post title! You might enjoy knowing that the photo of the word and the doe is of one of my T-shirts…and your words about Dolly’s version of the song move me. This was the moment she trusted, leaped, and went out on her own. Such power in that, and in her voice when she sings this song.

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  19. Hi Fran!

    It was in this community where I got to “meet” you last year, and I’m so excited about being able to read such inspirational posts of yours everyday this month again! I loved it when you said, “You must trust yourself, trust that the words will come, that the Muse WILL show up”. It’s so encouraging! Thank you!

    Mari

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Mari! I am delighted that you’re back! This is one of the great things about the challenge – how writing forges these vibrant relationships. I hope you have continued to paint… I am looking forward to your composition artistry, on both counts. Thank you so much for your words here.

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