The world wants me to write about it today

“Pay attention. As a summation of all that I have had to say as a writer, I would settle for that.”
~ Frederick Buechner

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~ Mary Oliver

The world wants me to write about it today. It’s been throwing itself at me, quite shamelessly. It will do anything, it seems, for a bit part in one of my stories. From the moment I left my house the water sparkled at me like some reverse paparazzi, wanting its flash bulbs to be the news on page six. At Starbucks I tried to write my blog post about finances, but an apologetic woman sat across from me, asking in a soft, Germanic accent if there was room for her and her friend, while the Chinese family at the other end of the table nodded and gestured to her, making the word “okay” seem like both a full sentence and a solemn ceremony.

A few minutes later I glanced up to see the Chinese man holding his hands in front of him, empty palms open like a book, staring silently and intently at their pages, and the man on my other side answered his phone with a click of his earpiece and earthy Russian syllables rolled out of his mouth. I paused to take a selfie for Facebook — the intrepid writer hard at work — and when I cropped it I saw I had also captured a woman behind me wearing a head covering, hard at work on her own laptop, a novel buried in the soft furrow of her brow.

“Slow down!” I cried, “Let me choose — I write slowly.” And I fled to the library, hiding in a study carrel with just enough room for me. Safe, I thought. But I glanced over and caught the eye of the man in the carrel next to me, just as he was glancing over at me, and his brown skin, shoes kicked off and tie slung over his shoulder called out to be described. What color tie? Purple, with green stripes, and the shoes looked like loafers–

“Wait! Stop!” I called again to the flamboyant world. “That’s not my job right now!” I glued my eyes to to my computer, trying to write the post, copying and pasting. But the library turned out to be a dangerous choice as a myriad of childhood memories ran up and demanded to play on my page. How many times had I ridden my bike the two miles to the local library and spent the afternoon exploring the worlds within that sacred world? What was the name of the street? What was that smell that drifted out of the Italian restaurant as I biked by? “Tell about it,” the memories insisted. “Tell our story.”

So I ran to the park, a pond surrounded by trees, benches, fields. I grabbed my notebook — there was work to be done! But just within the gates a Korean wedding party gathered for a picnic, laughing loudly as I scurried by, dodging inspiration. (How would I describe the smell of kimchi? Sour? Vinegary?) Then I ran straight into a group of women dressed head to toe in black hijabs, making me suddenly aware of my broad, naked face, my bare hair flowing in the breeze (chestnut, with shiny wisps of grey). But I was restored to modesty as I rounded the corner by a scene from the cover of a romance novel — a young Hispanic woman dressed in a sleeveless, backless, flowing pink gown, with two muscular men holding out swaths of the fabric as a crew of four photographed them. Coming closer I saw the plot twist — the woman was pregnant, and cradled her belly proudly, shaping the dress around it. “Now there is a story,” the world said, pulling out all the stops: “Write it!”

Full to bursting I rushed up the hillside to sit in the crook of a fallen tree that would take me half an hour to describe. But I can’t, I don’t have time, because even as I write this a man has kicked a soccer ball near the pond and his shoe is flying into the air with it — he is hopping on one foot, laughing and shouting in Arabic. He is hopping right now, I tell you — he is bending down in the wet grass to retrieve his shoe. Did I mention the color of the grass? Did I tell you about the ragged feel of the trees after a long winter and a blustery early spring? Did I describe the slow perambulation of an elderly couple, leaning on each others’ arms for support? Did I write about the woman sitting in the crook of a fallen tree, writing furiously in a notebook as if the world were tugging at her sleeves? Did I get it all?


15 comments on “The world wants me to write about it today

  1. Susan Benesch says:

    Jessica, Feel like I was there with you. Your description of your adventure is a delight and has created a mind movie of adventure for me. Regards from RI. Am in a rush to get some necessary things done. My husband is not well at all and I do double time in taking care of him and our home.


    On Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 12:48 PM, Ten Thousand Places wrote:

    > tenthousandplaces posted: “”Pay attention. As a summation of all that I > have had to say as a writer, I would settle for that.” ~ Frederick Buechner > “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about > it.” ~ Mary Oliver The world wants me to write about ” >


  2. Hope Wiltfong says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for helping me become more aware of all the random beauty surrounding me. Love your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. um, the word is, I believe, carrel. as in a library nook/desk.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hillary Pyle says:

    I’m am breathless and left longing to see more of this world through your flowing pen. It makes me tear up and it makes me stop to listen. The lobby walls don’t block the sound of humble feet, or hushed voices, bringing stories to our window and asking for help. There is a little one (my niece’s age?) who doesn’t know to be quiet. Now, the world is also begging me… see me! Look! Here I am! Thank you for reminding me that I am here to see!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beth says:

    I love this so much!! This is me with my safest person — I just want to tell her all the things and my brain keeps reminding me of more and more things and i want them to connect (like yours up above) but they don’t always. But I’m also an introvert, like you, so I know there’s a risk in sharing all your amazing observations. I agree with the other commenter — I felt like I spent an amazing afternoon with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Matt Kantrowitz says:

    Beautiful evocative writing. But you’re not “middle-aged” yet, are you? There is a youthful vitality and energy in your writing that you should hang onto for a few more years…as long as you can, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Breathless sensory overload! And I’m sitting in monochromatic, homogenous Maine! Thanks for the refreshing blast!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dana Swears says:

    What a wonderful post Jessica!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One of the most beautiful articles/blogs I’ve ever read. You just described my image of what heaven is like–filled with everyone. No one is left out because heaven does not discriminate.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tammy says:

    Jessica I love these glimpses into your life. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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