In Place of Words
August 19th, 2001
I watched a little boy about a year and a half old this morning running willy-nilly along the beach as fast as his tiny little legs could carry him, his arms flapping happily up and down and all around. He was screeching joyfully at the top of his lungs and laughing and smiling like he was the happiest little toddler in the whole wide world. And maybe he was for all I know.
His grinning father and grandfather strolled along behind him, beaming from ear to ear and enjoying his little show of excitement as much as I was. He was too little to have any vocabulary yet so the sounds coming out of him were nothing more and nothing less than the pure and simple messengers of his delight - a delight completely unencumbered by the words that us bigger humans struggle so hopelessly with when we try to say how it is that we feel when we're happy.
I wondered if I could do the same as that little boy sometime - just run along the beach waving my hands all around and howling with delight. Instead, I continued my walk along the surf's edge of the unusually warm Pacific waters this morning, determined to find the words that would somehow capture how good it felt to be alive. I wanted to do what the little boy was doing - run along the beach jumping and shouting and laughing and waving my arms in the air with wild, reckless abandon and just let whatever sounds wanted to come out of me, come out of me. But I didn't.
Instead, as I caught myself beginning to formulate my thoughts for this letter, I simply pushed them aside and let myself get swept up in the feeling of being somewhere so beautiful and feeling so good about being there. "No words," I thought to myself. "I just want to feel this," and resolved that I'd come home from Laguna this morning without a story. But here it is anyway.
I wonder why it is that some of us feel so compelled to find a way to express the feelings that go on inside of us while others simply feel little if any need to do this at all. Is this what lies at the heart of an artist? An insatiable desire to put form to the feelings? A relentless need to vent the feelings that threaten to consume us if we don't? I don't know why it is that I've been driven since I was a child to constantly express myself through my creative activities. But I have been.
I wrote my first poem when I was eight and have been writing ever since. Music and the piano came along when I was ten and took care of my creative longings for many years. As music found itself being pushed into the background, photography and landscaping came along to take the center stage for my creative meanderings. Music came back for awhile and now computer graphics seem to have worked themselves to the forefront of my creativity.
But there's always the writing. It's never gone away or even taken much of a holiday. It seems to be by far, the most reliable of all my activities for getting out what steeps inside. But still I can't help wondering if running up and down the beach, waving and flapping my arms and letting wordless sounds of childlike joy come out of me, might get the job done just as well. It sure seemed to work for that little boy on the beach this morning.