Jen writes

January 14, 2014

Just Write: Familiarity, imagination, contentment

New job. Old commute. As I drive the familiar roads to get to my still-new job I cannot even estimate how many times in the past 24 years I have driven this same route. It’s like my tire tracks are somehow reflecting back at me. Three previous vehicles. Timeless travels to and from school, work, crew practice. This place where I have been student, alumna, friend, volunteer, coach.

There is a field that I pass each time. It has been there, it remains there, no houses built on it. Too close to the riverbank, I suppose. I see a pumpkin patch, even though there has never been one. Not since I’ve been driving these roads. But in my mind it’s there. Always. And there is a little boy and his father searching for the perfect pumpkin.

Do you ever read a book or a story and see so vividly the words on the page in a place in your mind that is actually a place that you know?

Years ago, I read the short story Along the Frontage Road by Michael Chabon. I do not read very many short stories. That feels like an admission of some kind of guilt. I call myself a writer. At one point I was pursuing an MFA in creative writing. The novel is my preferred form, to read and even to write. But it’s really the writing that stays with me, no matter the form, and this story, about a little boy and his father searching for the perfect pumpkin … it takes place on the field on Rte. 47 between Northampton and South Hadley in western Massachusetts.

It doesn’t, of course. Not really. It takes place in the mind of the writer. And then on the page. And then in the mind of the reader. And then is transported to anywhere and everywhere. Or nowhere.

Imagination takes us where we need to be. Sometimes it is as simple as that. And in Chabon’s story there is imagining and, for the narrator thinking about his own childhood while he spends time with his son, a kind of reflection.

As I drive these familiar roads to this familiar place and think so frequently of that story I am happy. Happy to be where I am right now. Happy to imagine a place that doesn’t really exist and yet does, because it is in me and has no inkling of moving or even changing.

It is enough to notice the field and think of the boy. To guide my van around the turns and down the hills and through the small neighborhood that brings me to the buildings that were my home for four years and continue to be a place I belong to now.

It’s a New Year still and I am noticing the old. Still. But it feels purposeful. Intentional. Useful. It feels right. And that’s more valuable to me than striving for more. What I have now is good. And while I am open to more, always, I am content to drive and think about words and life and what I already have. I have no word for 2014. No resolutions written down. It’s enough for me to be back in this place that I so fiercely love. To be happy. To notice. To just write.


Read More in Jen Writes, writing
Elaine A. writes

Do you remember that movie The Last Unicorn from when we were kids? I used to remember scene in in where there was this tall castle they were walking through… so, when driving on the highway at night (one of my parents were driving), I would squint my eyes and the car lights coming toward us would lengthen in my sight and I would see that castle in my mind. You reminded me of that.

This is beautifully just written. :)


Jen replies

I am reminded that last year we shared a word. Listen. And I’m realizing now that I truly followed through. I listened when my gut told me to go after this job, which has brought me directly where I am now. Thank you for your lovely comment and for your kind words always. xo


Jen replies

P.S. I totally DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT MOVIE! Going to look it up now. But I do know the squinty eyes elongating the headlights trick. :)


Christina writes

Every time I read your words I’m reminded of how lucky I am to know you. I think it is wonderful that you didn’t choose a word – sometimes we all need to “just be.”


Amy, Using Our Words writes

Please do! Just write. Because your words are magic.


Robin writes

This is a beautiful post about you and about how good writing impacts the reader; how a story starts in the imagination of the author and ends in the mind of the reader.

I am happy to hear you are happy in your new job :)


Arnebya writes

Happy new year! And congrats on the new job. Your words here made me see the field and roads you pass. I have no word for this year or resolutions, like usual. I just have determination and a willingness to let things happen. Different than years past, though, I intend to MAKE things happen too.


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