“It is necessary to write,” wrote Vita Sackville-West, “if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?” I’ve long taken inspiration from that thought, which itself threatens constantly to flit away. It almost got away yesterday, when writing so absorbed my attention that I forgot to check the Almanac. Sometimes there are too many butterflies to track.
Tracking butterflies is another way of thinking about immediacy, though “tracking” may imply more deliberation and conscious intention than is desired. Less spontaneity and receptivity. The best experiences of immediacy seem just to happen, unsought, unsolicited, unexpected but very welcome. They flow. Or flit on the wind. No one, no thing, no visible chain of interference or interpretation interposes between you and the object(s) of your experience, when your net is working.
Writing is a highly directed and intentional activity, but it is possible occasionally to fall into a rhythm of words that seems to flit and flow without excess effort or angst. When that happens, writing is itself another fly for the net.
I don’t mean that genre of involuted, tortured, self-conscious, overly self-involved post-modern hand-wringing that some indulgent writers perpetrate. I don’t mean writing about writing at all, necessarily. I do mean writing that recognizes its own intrinsic value, undertaken both for its own sake and for the sake of noticing and attending to the world beyond pencil and keyboard.
All Things Shining,
which I purchased at Powell’s in Portland the other day, includes an interesting discussion of blogging as a species of writing that can feel
direct and immediate and attentive, but become something else. Something derivative and dull. I’m pondering that. It was in the butterfly spirit that I began posting my dawn reflections, to capture more moments. How many butterflies get away, for every one snared? How many must you snare, to gain immediacy and claim attentive success? If one day in a hundred that would have slipped by gets caught, isn’t that good enough?
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