Without Explanation

10 May

I have been writing since my stubby hands figured out how to form words out of letters. Because of this, nearly my entire life is documented in worn notebooks stuffed into a series of plastic Rubbermaid containers (in both Pittsburgh and Arlington). Sometimes this is very uncomfortable. I look back on things I wrote and remember quite vividly what life was like at that exact moment.

…Writing under the dogwood tree outside of Sacred Heart, wishing I could reach one of the flowers during spring-time. I always hoped that one would fall still intact, and that I could press it inside of my notebook…

…Writing on the ledge above the parking lot at Central Catholic, half-watching lacrosse practice. Looking for a specific smile among the team and feeling warm when it was found…

…Writing at the picnic table next to the snack bar at the Forest Hills pool. A water-stained notebook scrawled with synchronized swimming choreography between poems and letters to friends that would never be sent…

…Writing at my desk in school, hoping that the teachers would think I was just taking notes. Wondering what would happen if I was ever caught, and feeling sheepish the only time it ever happened (in eighth grade)…

…Writing to friends and other loves trying to explain things that I simply didn’t know how to verbalize audibly…

…Writing outside of the theater at Northeastern during callback auditions, staying just distracted enough to keep anxiety at bay. Waiting to see my friends walk out from their own attempts and hoping to see them smile…

Always in pen, never in pencil. Almost always in script, but sometimes lazily dawdling into half-script / half-print when my wrist cramped. Entirely left-handed, save for some messy right-handed attempts when I had surgery on my left shoulder.

More a compulsion than anything else, I am to this day almost never without a notebook. Most bags that I choose are based on how well journal-sized notebooks will fit inside of them. It is the one thing I have always done, and what I cannot imagine ever quitting. It precedes even my love of cooking.

And I know exactly where it began. I used to sneak into my brother’s room to “borrow” books from the shelf (his fault for keeping them low enough for me to reach!) just to get at one or two very specific titles. I fell in love with my first writer there and never let go.

When I read his words, the overwhelming theme of living life on one’s own terms and without the need for explanation struck my soul. It was as though the world lit up and suddenly I had purpose. He did not limit himself to genre, nor yield to conventional formulas. Instead he lived with imagination, constantly exploring the universe before him. He was the essence of free-spiritedness.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of his words in one context or another. His chuckling, gravelly voice sings through my headphones, or I remember that “anything can happen, anything can be.”

I wish I could thank him for everything he has been: An inspiration, a companion, and a constant reminder that there are no limits to the fantastic. He is the friend I never knew, and yet I will always be grateful for having a part of him in my life.

He will always be the light in my attic.

Thank you, Shel.

Remembering Shel Silverstein, September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999.

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