A port in any storm.
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
The calm before the chaos.
That soft place-to-fall, and the shelter from the maddening crowd.
How do you write when, as William Wordsworth would say, “the world is too much with us?” It can be so very hard to disconnect from life’s demands and the pile of responsibilities that just keeps growing; long, hard shadow rising up in harsh relief against our ambitions and desires.
Right now I’m in desperate need of an escape hatch. I’m balancing the challenges of a busy career with an even busier personal life. In the seasonal ebb and flow that defines my world, June is not the month of backyard barbeques and leisurely beach days. Instead, the beginning of summer marks a three-month marathon full of business travel, out-of-town guests, weddings, birthdays and every other type of social gathering imaginable. And let’s not forget the urge to spring clean and update my wardrobe now that the sun sets later and even the most overcast days end with mild temps and raging sunsets.
And because I don’t have access to an ejector seat or a parachute cord, I’ve got to find another way to inject some calm into to my hectic schedule. I know that you expect I’m going to present writing as the means to that end – but you’re wrong. While certain types of writing – to-do-lists, paper-napkin accounting, texts to the cat-sitter – can certainly streamline a hectic day, I’ve found that any kind of creative writing is nearly impossible when the world is swirling around me.
Which is why I put my notebook down yesterday and instead headed out on an impromptu Artist’s Date. I’ve talked about the Artist Date before – you can read all about my previous adventures here and here – and I’m hoping that in addition to carving out some room in my brain for inspiration and creative thinking, my solo-dates will inspire you to similarly strike out on your own. I think once you do, you’ll discover that you’re pretty good company. You’ll also undoubtedly be surprised by all the secrets and inspirations you’ll discover hiding in plain sight once you’re by yourself and can really pause and look around.
For yesterday’s special date, I trounced around Dallas’s Pioneer Plaza. Located in front of the Dallas Convention Center, the plaza is home to a set of bronze sculptures depicting a traditional cattle drive. Life-size cowboys round up a herd of longhorns down a dusty trail and through a trickling stream. I took pictures, weaving in and out of pointy bronze horns shining like gold in the spots worn smooth by the touch of countless tourists. I listened to birds twitter and tried to catch my refection in the park’s pond. As my fellow conventioneers cleared out – headed for client dinners and scratchy hotel towels – I walked up a small hill to see what I could see.
What I found was another one of those unexpected delights that makes travel – even business travel – worthwhile. At the top of the plaza – and directly across from the convention center itself – is a quiet, grassy spot full of leafy trees dropping dappled shade on to leaning, lichen-covered graves: a Civil War-era cemetery right in the heart of Dallas, Texas. Some of the graves were large and grandiose, topped with sorrowful angels and bordered by wrought-iron fencing. Others were small, eroded down to nubs of granite and marble. Some of the epitaphs’ were still decipherable, but many more had had their letters ground to dust.
A nice early evening quiet had settle over the little cemetery as I peered at the names of early Texans who’d lived, loved and lost in the shadow of the Civil War. The modern world faded out, leaving me with rustling leaves instead of speeding cars, and solitary lanes instead of crowded city streets. Squirrels watched me from tree branches, happily posing for my camera, and bright pink flowers glowed out from the dark leaves of ornamental bushes.
And at the top of the cemetery, a civil war memorial, with words so simple and archaic, they created a poetry all their own…
The brazen lips of Southern cannon thundered an unanswered anthem to the god of battle.
Confederate infantry drive bayonets through columns that never before reeled to the shock of battle.
This stone shall crumble into dust ere the deathless devotion of southern women forgotten.
It was given the genius and valor of confederate seamen to revolutionise naval warfare over the earth.
The confederate sabeur kissed his blade homeward riding straight into the mouth of hell.
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