It makes sense doesn't it? That this poem by David Whyte would remind me so closely of John O'Donohue's concept of our landscapes that miss us when we are gone. It makes sense because John and David were close friends while John was still living.
"There was always someone in the world I knew who was traveling and speaking from the same place, although using slightly different language and a slightly different accent."
I like to pay attention to artists who use similar language, especially if the language makes sense to me and seems to complete unfinished sentences in my own living. This is how you build your personal tribal language. You curate it.
So what do I want to key in on here that John O'Donohue and David Whyte are both saying?
In The Magic School we talk about characters, setting, plot, and how the magic these hold in fiction can carry into reality. John O'Donohue talks about the setting in a manner that makes it seem alive. David Whyte does the same with characters, but not the traditional human characters. In David's poem the characters are actually not all human. They aren't even all living. And yet somehow, in the context of the poem we seem to not even realize their un-livingness, for though they be inanimate objects, to us they are oh so very much alive.
This is true also within fictional story.
I am thinking of Harold Crick's wristwatch in Stranger Than Fiction. I am thinking of the sock monkey in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. I am thinking of Dumbo's feather. I am thinking of Shel Silverstein's stump. I am thinking of Mary Poppin's umbrella or carpet bag or tape measure. I am thinking of Harry Potter's magic wand. I am thinking of Harold's Purple Crayon.
It is the writer's tool of personification, and it is a powerful magical spell to wield.
David Whyte goes on in his poem:
- Stairs that mentor
- Doors that frighten or invite you
- Phone speakers that connect you to divinity
- Kettles that sing
- Cooking pots that approve of you
When you feel oh so very alone in a big, big world, you need only turn to the nonhuman things all about you. What do they have to tell you? Secret messages that only you and they could share. "The intimacy of your surroundings," says David.
The its of your life. The stuff. The things. The doohickies, thingamajigs, and whatchamacallits. The odds and ends you trip over or shove to the side. The tidbits and knickknacks. These too can be characters in your story. Notice them. Name them. Call them forth. Give them powers, actions, feelings, voices. Send them away on new adventures or make them reach for you, long for you, offer gifts to you. (I've been introducing myself to them by drawing them in the pages of my zine.)
Be ever on the alert, for though you may feel alone, forgotten, passed by, used, hurt, as it turns out...
Go ahead. Use your magic. Bring things to life and watch yourself come to life too.