I was the last to read a piece of writing out loud at the meeting of our writers group--our challenge being to write a description. I had rewritten a description of an old friend, originally written as an assignment for a writing course.
Before I started reading I thought I had done a fairly good job of describing her, but as my carefully crafted words left the page and passed through my lips into the air, I felt them sinking to the the ground, lifeless. "She" wasn't in them somehow. I had painted a word picture entitled "Bird of Paradise;" but the soul that had touched my soul and left a lasting imprint, was missing; I knew it; did they?
I finished reading with a combination of embarrassment and relief. It was the end of the evening anyway; I knew my friends needed to head out into the cold January night before it got very much later and I was anxious to end a moment that felt awkward to me.
I looked up from the page with a smile, preparing to conclude our evening, when someone asked, "How did you know her?"
And over the next ten minutes I told the story of how we met, our growing friendship, some details of her life, and her eventual death. I didn't need a mirror to know that my eyes were shining; my face animated--I saw them reflected in another kind of mirror; those of my listeners. I was so grateful for a second chance to tell them who she was; to honour her memory by bringing her back to life so that others might know her.
The page that I had read lay beside me on the floor, a paper doll in comparison. Where did the difference lie?
It was my third rewriting of that particular description. Maybe my mistake was in trying to capture her image in a moment of time, rather than by describing her in the context of our lives; I probably just needed to relax and let "her" flow out through my words rather than work so hard at it; I'm not sure.
I am not giving up though! I have written about her elsewhere on this blog and I am glad I have that raw material captured for something more substantial about her in the future. Here is a link to one of the other stories I have written about my dear friend Agnes MacDonald; this one was seven years ago: The Tree by the Cookhouse.
I am grateful for the encouragement of our writers group; The Writers Nest; and the knowledge that it is in writing, possibly being embarrassed and writing again, that we learn to write better--I'm all about that. :)