Message in a Bottle

Earlier this evening, I went downstairs to look for and to go through my file boxes. I was on a mission of sorts. I wanted to find the remnants of the writings I’d done (in some cases nearly 28 years ago), and had somehow, almost miraculously, kept. I first found my old football practice uniform, my football game day sweater, and my letter jackets from junior and senior high. But in short order I found my file boxes and my writings.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the poems I’d written as far back as 1983 were there, many with cryptic and allusive notes about their origins. I was also surprised that for none of them did I need notes to recall the circumstances in which they were written. Words and metaphors called to mind specific relationships, geographies, seasons about and in which the poems were written. The memories of them were stark, crisp, clear and distinct. I could see, hear, touch, taste and smell again the myriad events in which were their individual creations. Many things that had been long forgotten came back to mind with a startling clarity.

I was disappointed to see that none of the essays and only the tiniest of fractions of the stories I’d written remained, and these latter much more recent. I had written tens of thousands of words from the early to late 80s; and from poor guidance and blinkered ignorance I’d destroyed them all. I had hoped that some might have remained. But that was simply not the case.

Going back through these writings was overwhelming, not the least from the visceral revisiting of years that had disappeared from memory for close to two decades. The sheer accumulation of these creative acts was overwhelming. In my lap, spread from manilla files and from hundreds of white pages, beamed worlds of living and struggle, of joy and darkness, of love and solitary night watches under the starlight. A friend and I had stopped at the falls in our college town during a storm, the wind tugging at our hair, the water at our feet. I marked the experience down on paper, and tonight it lived again in my memory as though I were standing in the swirling elements. She had even given me some of her own poetry which was interwoven amidst the pages of my own in these files. I had captured in brief words a heart’s moment in Indiana, and the verbal snapshot glowed with color for me. I reached back nearly three decades to a small Kansas town, and, nearer in time, to a solitary spot on the side of the road near Quincy, Illinois, where I contemplated what Mrs. Enoch might have thought when her husband did not return home one day.

Now, those writings are tucked safely back in their files. But not really. For they are once more swirling in my consciousness as I remember each and every one, and contemplate their existence and their purpose, which may well be my own.