by Terry Price
Spalding MFA Alumnus, Fiction 2006
What was the very best moment of your day? In “The Anthologist,” Nicholson Baker wrote: “One time it was when I was driving past a certain house that was screaming with sunlitness on its white clapboards, and then I plunged through tree shadows that splashed and splayed across the windshield. I thought, Ah, of course— I’d forgotten. You, windshield shadows, you are the best moment of the day.”
So I ask again, what was the very best moment of your day? Can you remember moments of your day? I’m not talking about general things you did or accomplished but a specific moment.
Being mindful is being fully present at a given moment, rendering individual images and experiences from the blurs. Our soul craves presence. Joseph Campbell says we are all seeking the experience of being fully alive. Being present is essential for the experience. Being fully present nurtures our soul.
As artists, one of the vital elements we bring to the page is our attention, both in terms of the moments we have already experienced and in those moments we engaged with the page. As I write this, I am watching three small birds, beaks fluttering into the feeder, seeds snapping and flying, each bird appearing to be oblivious to the others. It is special if for no other reason but that I am fully present with it. I am listening and being a part of the moment. I am hearing things I do not normally hear. I am seeing things with a clarity that comes from focus. In being present I do not worry about the mistakes I made yesterday. I lose my fear of tomorrow. When present my sense of miracles returns and of mystery restored.
In the Iliad, Homer wrote: “The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” One of the biggest fallacies we have about life is permanency when intellectually we acknowledge just how temporary everything is. But we live as if everything and everyone will always be here. We take most things for granted and that is when we lose presence.
As artists, we cannot afford to be distracted. Any moment may be our last and every moment is a first. And if we are to bear witness, if we are to express and to put words to experiences, then we must be fully present in our own lives. Just as we must be fully present as we present ourselves to the page.
If you subscribe to the notion that everything is a metaphor for that which we cannot see, If everything we experience is metaphor for something greater, something transcendent of thought, then everything we experience is poetry. Everything we experience becomes part of this epic poem that is our life. We miss the poetry of life when we miss the experiences which make up the metaphors. Life can be a love poem you are experiencing and from which you can learn each and every minute.
William H. Gass once said, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” Alchemists take that which appears to be base and ordinary and convert it into the valuable. Natalie Goldberg said in “Writing Down the Bones,” writers write about things that other people don’t pay much attention to. For instance, our tongues, elbows, water coming out of a water faucet, the kind of garbage trucks New York City has, the color purple of a faded sign in a small town. …A writer’s job is to make the ordinary come alive, to awaken ourselves to the specialness of simply being.”
If we are to be the true alchemists then we must be willing to be fully present, fully alive, wide awake to see and touch, listen, taste, and hear. That is when we can hold the little moments that make up our world in our imaginations, ready to bring them, ready to change them, to make sense of them. That is when we discover our best moments of the day
Terry Price is a Tennessee based writer and creative coach, having attended The Writer’s Loft (now MTSU Write) creative writing program at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with his MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville. He has published several short stories and excerpts from his novel-in-progress, two of which have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Terry served as the program director of The Writer’s Loft and now is a Director Emeritus of, and a mentor with, the program. In addition to working one on one with creative clients, he also leads creative retreats, workshops, virtual retreats and webinars. He is also a photographer, long distance cyclist, Appalachian Trail section hiker and sailor. He is an aspiring bon vivant and raconteur, likes bourbon neat but his journal messy and lives on a small farm in Springfield, Tennessee with his family and two dogs and lots of squirrels.