Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paying Attention & Writing

Pull up a chair and let me tell you a story, a dog story, a story about Charlie, and his "dad," William Gilchrist.  Before I tell you the story there are a couple of things I should point out.  First,that isn't Charlie in the picture, but it's a relative, another King Charles Spaniel, and he is a dead-ringer for Charlie or maybe it's the other way around.  I first met Charlie a year and half, maybe two years ago.  Last Thursday was the first time I'd seen him in almost a year.  And now, the story.  

Last Thursday, January 3rd, was a cold day in Huntsville, Alabama.  At 9 PM when I started my run, the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and the wind was gusting to thirty miles per hour.  I chose what I call the Park Route, which is a 6.6 mile loop that includes a lot of downtown Huntsville.  It even includes a turn through Big Springs Park and tinsel trail, a quarter mile stretch of walkway lined with decorated Christmas Trees.  Adjacent to Tinsel Trail is a temporary ice skating rink, which was totally empty, I suppose because of the wind and the temperature.

When I left the park, and moved back onto the street, I realized that the wind had picked up, and with the humidity near 100%, it was cutting.  I decided that the best course of action was to stay on tree-lined streets as much as possible, to break the wind.  I hadn't planned to run on Green Street, but thanks to the wind, I swung onto the heavily tree-lined half block and turned on my flashlight, since the trees block most of the light from the street lights.  I love that short stretch of Green and the one block long lane, Cruise Alley.

With Cruise Alley coming up, the thought of Charlie flashed into my mind.  He lives at #6, just fifty feet or so north of the intersection of Green and Cruise.  In that moment, I heard a jingling sound and knew that Charlie was close.

Huntsville is strict about enforcement of its leash law, but there is almost no traffic, vehicular or pedestrian, on either Cruise or Green after 9 PM, so William Gilchrist, Charlies "dad" lets the spaniel loose about that time, every night, while he keeps a close watch from his driveway.

I turned my light toward the jingle and there was Charlie headed toward me, squirming with delight.  Charlie is the only King Edward Spaniel that I know, so I can't compare him to others in his bloodline, but I can tell you about him.  He is small, maybe twelve inches from the ground to the top of his head, and he is lean, healthy lean, to the point that he looks like a puppy, though he's six years old.

I bent down in the street, all thoughts of wind and cold gone, and held out my hand.  Charlie approached cautiously, never quite touching my hand but getting close enough to confirm that I was an old acquaintance.  I said, "Charlie, where is your dad?"

He took a couple of steps toward his house and stopped, waiting for me to follow.  Thinking he'd somehow slipped out of the house without William, and not wanting to leave him unattended, I started up the driveway.  I had only taken a few steps when William, who was seated on his back porch steps, stood, and called out, "Here I am."  Then he added, "I think Charlie is glad to see you."

As he talked, he walked slowly toward me.  In the dim light cast through a window from a lamp in his house, I could now see William clearly.  He reminds me of a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Atticus Finch, tall, slender, and ramrod straight.  William is a presense, a comfortable reassuring presence.  He wears Atticus', brown plastic-framed, glasses, which I find reassuring for some reason, and he moves slowly but with purpose.  He was dressed in old jeans and a long brown overcoat, and appeared much warmer than I felt.

We talked a few minutes about exercise, Charlie, our high school class reunions, which confirmed we are within a year of the same age - I'm 70, he is 69.....

_______________

OK, enough of the story, because I only shared it to make the point of the importance of paying attention and writing.  Whether we write fiction or nonfiction, we have to be able to recall events in order to record them.  There is a way to do that perfectly, and it's not that well known.

We can recall every event of our life, that's right, every event.  That includes the ones we say that we've forgotten.   Every event we've been part of is, to use digital terminology, is "in the cloud."  In order to get to the memory, we have to know the "password," which is simply, knowing and rejoining the state of mind we were in when the event occurred.   The reason we can't find our glasses, or the car keys, or remember the person's name is, we cannot recall and rejoin the moment we put our glasses or keys down, or heard the person's name.

Often we stumble on lost memories by willing them forth.  That's OK, but it takes time to do it that way.  Instant recall occurs when there is no delay in noting that we need the information and actually calling it up.  How can we do that?  Live in the moment - or to put it another way - pay attention.  If the event I want to reference happened while I was in the moment with it, all I have to do to recall it is to get in the moment and call it up.

Here's the fun part and if you think about it you'll see the humor init.  There is only one moment.  This moment includes every moment that has ever been, and, yes, it includes future moments, but there are some variables to that aspect of the moment that will be the subject of future blogs.  

Being in the moment is critical to human happiness, so make staying there your number one priority.  If you're a writer, who lives in the moment, you'll never be short of stories or ideas, even little ditties like a chance encounter with a dog and his master.

Have a wonderful, in the moment experience, and I'll meet you back here  soon.  Thanks for your time.  I appreciate it and you.   

4 comments:

  1. Wow. I didn't realize it could be that simple, Bama! Thanks for this. Great post!!

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    1. Thank you, Jo. Knowing you are going to be there, and you always are, makes posting a new blog fun.

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  2. If you don't pay attention, you'll never be a writer. And often I only pay attention to the lies circulating around in my mind. After awhile, they are truth. After awhile, I know the place well even if I've never been there. I would, of course, prefer to go with Charlie.

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    1. I don't think you can go wrong going with Charlie. Thanks for the comment.

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