Monday, February 16, 2009

For my beloved Gabbi

We never held hands. We never shared a timezone, let alone a bed. And yet, we were more connected, more in love than most people will ever understand.

Who was she? Gabbi was an amazing woman. She devoted her life to helping people, too often at great personal cost. She was a scientist, and a mystic. She was a healer of mind and spirit. She loved the outdoors. She loved animals. She was a gifted artist, and loved music. She was a mother who lost her sons in a plane crash, a wife who lost her husband in an automobile accident, a survivor who returned from the brink of death three times in her life.

Who was Gabbi to me? It's a hard relationship to describe in typical terms. We weren't married, though we were as close as any husband and wife in all ways but the physical. Best friend is accurate, though doesn't begin to cover the extent of it. Girlfriend is too flippant a term. Gabbi was, for want of a better description, the reflection of my soul.

We created a world together, in the online environment of Second Life. Gabbi and I, free of our physical limitations, created an island wilderness where we could walk, talk, cuddle atop a mountain, sled, skate, ski, swim, boat, ride a balloon, ride horses, and create. We built houses. We built landscapes. We wrote poetry. We wrote stories. We played music. And we danced. How we loved to dance!

Those who didn't know us in Second Life may have no idea Gabbi was a part of my life. We lived together, partners in all ways, in that world because it was the world where we could do the things that our physical selves wouldn't allow. We lived together there in a dream of our own creation. Where in days past a romance such as our may have played out in letters, ours was manifested online. It was as real as any relationship could be. We were truly and completely in love. Any who saw us there can attest to that. We couldn't have hidden our feelings had we wanted, and we had no desire to hide them.

Last Tuesday, Gabbi lay down for a nap, and never awoke. She slept with a heart full of love, until that heart, weakened by disease that should have stopped it years ago, fell silent.

She knew her time was short. She died in the New England Victorian home she loved, with her sister and her sister's children with her. She left me a heartwarming and heartbreaking farewell letter, professing her love and asking forgiveness for never telling me of her condition.

I've been wondering these past days why we weren't together, physically. I know she would have come to me if she could, but why didn't she draw me to her? Why let me stay away? I think I'm starting to understand that now, and I know she'd want me to explain.

At some level it's because the place we had in Second Life was our heaven, our dream, and had reality stepped in, the dream may have faltered. She didn't want that. In other ways it was to spare me the deeper grief of having her physical absence affect me. She knew she would be leaving me too soon, and did not want me hurt any more than I needed to hurt.

But I think, in the end, it's because the love we shared wasn't a physical attraction. It wasn't based on biology, hormones, the desire or need for sex. Our love was a soul love. It was love in its deepest, purest form. Each day we maintained that love, grew that love absent of any physical attraction, was a testament to it.

That she loved me with all her being I have no doubt. That I gave her all the love she could handle, and then more, I know with certainty. We didn't often talk about how we felt in open terms. I don't think, "I love you," quite covers it. We had our endearments, to be sure, but we showed our love in how we acted toward one another. Every breath we took was for the benefit of the other. Never did we do for self.

A few times since she passed I have asked myself, "Did I deserve her? Did I love her as much as I should have? Did I love her as much as she loved me?" Self-doubt and self-recrimination are natural in time of grief, I suppose. She knew me better that I knew myself, though, and I think she also knew that she may have to move on for me to realize that I did indeed love her completely and showed her that love every second of her days.

We grow up a victim of expectations. Literature and movies show us what love is supposed to be like. Physical attraction masquerades as love too often, and we don't learn the difference until it is too late. Our culture can prevent us from seeing a soul touched love for what it is. It's not love as we expect love to be like. But when we reflect upon it, it's obvious: a simple thing to see.

She was the sun who warmed my mornings. She was the silence who quieted my nights. She was my first thought of the day, and my last. I didn't make her happy because I was supposed to. I didn't make her happy because I wanted to. I did it because it was as automatic as breathing, and as impossible to pause for long. Bathing her in the light of my love was effortless, so much so it was as hard to notice as breathing, until you pause to examine it.

Her departure made me reflect upon our minutes in a way that would have been difficult otherwise. In time, I may have come to fully understand the depths of our love on a conscious level, but that was time she didn't have. So her passing taught me her final lesson: I now know how to recognise a soul touch when I feel it.

This is a lesson she very strongly wanted all to learn. When you touch another soul, the notes you play together are amplified, and the notes where you differ play in perfect harmony. Whereas apart you're each a pleasant sound, together you're a chord of unmistakable beauty. To be that music is to live in bliss. It is to never want. It is to never question if you made the right choice. It's as effortless as taking a breath.

My days are a colder now, and my nights more restless. The light has gone from my sky. But, as the thunder of my grief slowly fades, I begin to feel the warmth she left within. I feel her presence at night, calming me. I have lived in the arms of a perfect love. I breathe.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Leap of Faith

When you throw yourself off a cliff, you have two options: you embrace the idea of meeting whatever lies below, or you fly. Self-described rational thinkers often don't believe they can fly, and refuse to try. For them, leaping is ill advised because depending on how high the cliff, and the character of the terrain, the meeting below could have quite an impact upon them. The dreamers among us leap anyway. We stand at the top of the cliff, throw caution to the wind, and follow it over the edge. We don't know if we can fly, but we open ourselves to the possibility. Why not? Could happen.

I jumped off a cliff this week. I signed myself up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). The idea behind NaNoWriMo is to write a novel during the month of November. This idea scares me as much as it excites me. I've never written a novel before. In fact, I've never written anything longer than 1200 words, so 50,000 is a daunting leap forward. It's writing more each day than any piece I've ever attempted before. Is this a fool's errand? Maybe. But what's the downside? An incomplete novel? A poorly written novel? Failure can teach more than success, and even a bad novel is better than no novel at all.

That said, I have no intentions of failing. Call it foolishness. Call it over-reaching. Call it hubris, if you will, but here goes nothing. Second star on the right and straight on to morning. I'm planning on flying.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Creatively snacking, and missing meals

Never go shopping when you're hungry.  Ages-old wisdom we've all heard, and may of us try and abide by.  When we're hungry, who knows what may end up in our shopping baskets?  Did you really need sixteen different types of cookies?  Sure, you'd like something to snack upon with your tea (must buy more tea, too!), but maybe one variety might have been fine.  The biscotti, for example: not really tea cakes.  They might go better with coffee. (add coffee to the list--and flavoured creamers while you're at it)  It's a downward spiral.

It turns out, that the same thing can happen when you're creatively hungry.  Who'd a thunk it?  When you start to unleash your creative side, as I did with writing, suddenly and without warning you may end up trying to sample the store!  I'm craving photography!  I pulled out my old guitar, untouched for years.  Oh, can I do world design in SL?  Yes!  What else can I build?  And the list goes on.  And like shopping hungry, I ended up getting everything but what I went to the store to buy--I've forgotten to write!

I suppose there are worse things in life than being creatively gluttonous, but it's nice to differentiate between snacks and your meals.  I'd hate to fill up on potato chips and not have room for the steak.  They key seems to be moderation and creative synergy.  There's no reason you can't have the chips with the steak.  Music and writing can become song lyrics.  Writing stories and poems to accompany photographs can combine those arts easily enough.  It's a matter of identifying the entree from the side dishes, in your creative life. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Putting the work in your works

There are two people who seem to want to get in the way of good writing, and the vile pair have an insidious hiding place: inside of us.

You know them: Ego Maniac, the One Draft Wonder.  He'll spew out something on the fly and if people don't like it, it's because they can't understand his genius.  The other half of the destructive duo is Self Doubt, the perpetual revisionist.  He's the one who is never happy with what he creates and makes excuses as to why he can't let it be read or published. 

I'd love to say, "Kill them to death," but in reality, they're who keeps us honest.  We're at our best when we walk the knife edge between the two.  Objectivity isn't easy.  When we go deep into ourselves to write something, we have a hard time detaching ourselves from it.  If it's not loved, we feel that we're not loved.  And that applies to our own impressions of what we've done, as well.  If we don't love our own work, we self-hate.  We shouldn't. Nor should we be over-confident.

Our works take work.  We write, read, revise, read, set aside, return, read, revise, read, etc.  Good writing can take many drafts to get right.  Sometimes the sentiment is dead on, but the words were using aren't worthy of the feelings we're trying to express.  They just don't evoke the same passion in an outside reader.  Sometimes the words are beautiful, and meaningless.  We need to recognize this; we need to fix our problems. 

I never saw this more clearly than in my effort to write a sonnet.  I knew what I wanted to say. I knew the rhyme scheme and meter I needed.  I made something that was technically correct, and it was...fair.  It didn't really knock my socks off.  That's because writing within formal parameters is hard work!  But it's work worth doing.  If we want to not just write, but write well, we need to do the work.  Readers will see the difference between the scribbler who simply vomits words onto a page, and the artist who carefully and lovingly crafts something magical.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Caution: Emotions Hiding Within

When you start digging deep within yourself to write, and we're not talking about superficial stories that are fun to read, but rather the stuff you keep locked away in the deep reaches of your self (yes, that's two words), you're apt to open some doors you may rather have left closed.  Not that it's a bad thing to open these doors because a door goes both ways: the emotions you let out allow other emotions back in.  It's just that you may not be ready for what those doors have been carefully hiding, perhaps for years. 

I had the opportunity to scribe a poem recently: my first foray into the art form.  This wasn't like the short stories I've written before.  Those were intended to amuse or confuse the reader--simple little tales.  This one was all me, pulled deep from within.  I hadn't realized what I was writing or where it was coming from until I heard it read aloud.  I wasn't ready for the rush of emotions it unleashed.

Overall, this will be a cathartic experience, I think, and a learning one.  I can't tell anyone what they might experience in a similar situation; it's far too tied to self.  I will venture to inform, nascent writers, that when you're ready and willing to open a vein, not for the purposes of performing for an audience, not for the adoration, not for shock value, but for the sake of art itself, brace yourself: you're in for a surprise.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pampering the Inner Writer

The writer in all of us is a temperamental artist, and needs to be coddled once in a while. So why not spoil it? Besides, when you spoil your inner writer, you get the benefit too!

For me, it's tactile things, things that hearken back to a less technology-oriented time. Did I mention that, my Kindle aside, I'm a Luddite at heart? My pampering, this time, has taken the form of a leather journal cover from Oberon Design. So many beautiful choices, it was hard to settle upon one. To fill the journal, I love the Moleskine journals. They simply feel nice, and are built to open flat, which makes them easy to use, too. I already have some fine fountain pens (Waterman, Parker, Rotring, Lamy, and others), but I'm just as happy with a straight pen and a bottle of cocoa brown ink I picked up from Levenger. For ambiance, I have a brass candle lamp with a cut glass shade. I love the shadows that candles cast. They add an air of mystery that saturating electric lights robs from us.

Whether it's writing in my journal, or writing letters (wax sealed, of course!), taking myself back in time with some fine things from a bygone era really helps bring out the writer in me. And when my inner writer is happy, and productive, I'm happy too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Writing to Win

It's hard to see things clearly when you have your head up your ass. When I first discovered the writing community in Second Life, I wandered about Cookie Island exploring all the creative opportunities it afforded. One thing of note was the INKsters' Daily Writing Contest.

"Not for me," I proudly thought. "I don't write to compete with anyone." It's amazing how smugness can mask cowardice and stupidity. I don't compete? What did I think publishing was all about? Everything I will send in to be published is effectively being entered into a contest, competing with all the myriad submissions the publisher receives. If I want to be published, I'll be competing, whether I want to admit it or not.

So if I'm competing anyway, why not hone the skill? The INKsters' Daily Contest is a perfect whetstone for your pen. First and foremost it gets you writing which, without doing, you're not much of a writer. Second, it encourages you to write well. When you don't win, which will be often, you're forced to pick up your game. When you do win, you learn what worked and can use that to later advantage.

So now, my head once again in daylight, I plan on submitting an entry as often as I can. I'm not afraid of losing any longer, because that will only force me to get better. I'm not afraid of competition, because the more competition I have the better I need to be. And getting good raises your chances of winning the big prize: publication.

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