Tonight I went for a walk and found some incredible inspiration. If you live in Western New York, today’s weather brought quite the polarizing forecast – from tornado watches to monsoon-like rains, to blue skies and sunshine. It proved that if you live in Buffalo and want the weather to change just wait five minutes.
My motivation for my walk was motivated by two factors. First, I needed 5,500 more steps to hit my step goal for the day. Yes, I barely move at work. Second, Joyce Carol Oates suggests the compliment of running to one’s writing in her book of essays, The Faith of a Writer. I hate running, but she recommends walking at the very least. The movement within the world is the perfect exercise both physically and mentally for a writer’s practice.
So I set off on a walk around my neighborhood, which was much more enjoyable than the alternative of a treadmill at the gym. As I put one foot in front of the other, I got into the zone. I played some music – “Today’s Hits” radio on Pandora and watched the collisions of colors and clouds in the sky as the sun set. And that is when I saw a story in the sky.
I switched my Pandora station to a podcast I’ve been connecting with lately, “Terrible, Thanks For Asking.” It deals with the honesty around pain, uncertainty, depression, death, grief – you know, the things we never talk about. The episode “To Michael” hit me hard – dealing with the aftermath of a brother-in-law’s suicide, and finding what words to say after a death of that magnitude. We are never quite sure what to say after someone dies. I’m sure there is a Buzzfeed or Thought Catalog article out there that gives you the Top 10 Things to Say After Someone Kicks the Bucket. But let’s face it, no matter what, finding the right thing to say is not easy or natural. Sometimes there is no right thing to say. Sometimes not saying anything seems like the better route.
But as I take the advice from Joyce, and the insight from Nora, my walk tonight gave me perspective and catharsis. The rays of the sun that illuminated the clouds in pinks and oranges, battled the black and gray of storm clouds, with pockets of bright blue peeking through.
There was a battle in the sky that mirrored the puddles on the streets and lawns, with only rocks and specks of grass interrupting the mirrors of the story. It was as if the sky was just a reach away; if I reached out, the power of the universe that seemed endless above me could be grasped in the palm of my hand.
As I put one foot in front of the other, hearing the story of a man’s suicide in my ears and looking at the metaphor unfolding before my eyes in the sky above, I couldn’t help myself from being swept away by the battle in the sky above me.
There was the deep and invigorating sunset. Its brightness is breathtaking, and its moments are like those of rare moments in our lives. The ones that color the pages of our own story. The ones that give us vitality and passion and fun.
There were the erupting storm clouds. Their deep black and gray almost sucked the breath from my lungs. I never knew staring down a cloud could be intimidating – but it was – and served as a reminder of life’s moments of destruction. They loom over us through death and heartbreak. We try to escape, but they send down the prickling of rain drops. As I weaved in and out of neighborhood streets, I could feel a rain begin and the wind smack rain drops into my face leaving me unable to avoid them. It showed me the unavoidableness of life’s destruction. It is powerful just like storm clouds. And even when you think you can escape it – you better think again.
Then there was the simplicity of the blue sky that peeked through it all. As the sun set and the clouds shifted, this became the backdrop of the sky. The normalcy of a blue sky is perhaps the most under appreciated beauty. On any decent day, we see the blue sky, but we tend to forget about it for the passion of sunsets or the power of storm clouds. But maybe it is the blue sky that lends itself to the most important metaphor of all – that the simple and the every day are the most meaningful. It is a staple. It is always there, behind the storm clouds, and leads us into the glory of the sunset. It is clear and bright and peaceful.
This walk was emotional. Not just for the reminder of death and the regret and shock that follow, but for the power of the sky above and how it paralleled so beautifully the journey of life – both grief and happiness encapsulated within that.
I understand Joyce better when she says, “Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I’m writing as a film or a dream.” Because the life we live and the world we are surrounded by can serve as the most inspiring narrative devices of all.
So if you are looking for a little inspiration, motivation or encouragement, all you need is to take a walk and see the story that could unfold right before your very eyes.