Tuesday, August 24, 2010
A Gigantic Statement
The other day I was dusting bookshelves when I came to the shelf filled with photo albums and . . . well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Who can resist a photo album? Especially the ones that record family vacations. Especially when you’re supposed to be doing something as boring as dusting. But I digress. Back to the point–and I do have one. There were dozens of shots of the Grand Canyon-for obvious reasons. It’s a sight that overwhelms, nature’s handiwork on a scale that defies comprehension. The canyon is at some points over eighteen miles wide and a mile deep. It is, in the words of Naturalist John Muir, “. . .a gigantic statement for even nature to make.” It’s hard to believe that it was created by the ordinary interaction between sand and water. Grain by grain. Drop by drop. Wind, too, played its part. And time. Lots and lots of time.
I thought of a little poem my grandmother taught me (the first I ever learned by heart):
Tiny drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And form this pleasant land.
(That may not be exactly right; it was, after all, a long time ago.) I’ve always liked that little verse. When I was small, I liked the sound of it, though I’m sure, back then, I had no understanding of what it meant. As an adult, I read a lot into it. It tells me to be persistent, to just keep chipping away at my “to do” list, ticking off the items one by one. As a writer, it tells me not to listen to the niggling little voice that asks, “Do you really think you can do this? Writing a book, a whole book, is a huge task.” I have to ignore the voice. Stop worrying about the whole book. Just write the next word. Trust that another will flow from that. That’s how stories are made. Even great stories, the ones we call classics. Even those gigantic statements are made one word at a time. A word. A sentence. A paragraph. Those are the sand and the water that shape our stories. And time. Sometimes lots and lots of time.