[Editor’s note: this is the first in a two-part series, to be concluded tomorrow.]
I had been in the darkness for so many years I was not sure if I could find my footing again; finding who I was and embracing her, letting her heal. Learning to start living all over again by picking up pieces of my shattered self. Depression is a killer of dreams, of the spirit, of hope, of love and of life. The pain of staying in the dark had been overtaken by fears of living. Out of that pain came a deep desire to grab at life again. I had made it out alive, coming back from the blackness, from the very edge, but at what cost?
In what seemed unthinkable, I found in my recovery that I had lost my voice as a writer. In those early days and weeks of breathing again I had not been able to write one single creative thing. I had always thought of myself as a writer, even when I had not written for more than a decade. Now, I was faced with the possibility that I had waited too long to get my words back, to create worlds inside my heart and let them seep out my fingers onto the paper or keyboard. The image that I was a newly emerged butterfly, testing my wings, seemed fanciful considering this new and extremely heartbreaking discovery. If I could not create, I couldn’t be a writer. My mind was having trouble grasping the idea. If I couldn’t write, who was I?
The fledgling me had branched out in all areas, taking in the world of things I had missed during my depression. I jumped into social media and spent a few months feeling like I was so out of my element. Facebook was moderately okay, but Twitter was a world I didn’t understand. I kept trying, thinking I could find other creative souls like myself. Each time I visited my Twitter account I was left feeling confused and frustrated. It didn’t help that in those early days I followed everybody.
In my growing frustration with what seemed to be the most childish and unrelatable posts I had seen, I was about to log off and delete my account. I was done! Clearly whatever I needed I was not going to find on Twitter.
My finger sat poised to exit when at the last second, a post by Stephen Walters, the incredibly talented actor, most notably for his role in the Outlander series popped up. A short little post, saying, “Everyone needs to go check out my good friend, Ronnie B Goodwin’s artwork. He is incredibly talented.” If not the exact words, these are very close.
Even though I have watched the Outlander series, I didn’t know who any of the actors were. Stephen’s name didn’t mean anything to me, a simple post from one friend praising another friend’s work. I paused and reread the post. I wondered, would it be worth looking at this artist’s link and seeing his work before leaving Twitter? Sometimes it is the big things that hallmark important moments in our lives. Other times it is a second’s hesitation before looking at a link or logging off. I had no idea what was about to happen in my life.
With that one simple click I found myself immersed in a most captivating world! Photographs yes, to be sure, but much much more. This work was art. I was drawn in and viewed the whole gallery a couple of times. Brilliant color images, haunting black and whites. Animals, nature, buildings, people. Stephen was not wrong; Ronnie B. Goodwin is an incredible talent. He uses his camera to sculpt out images, to paint stories. I was captivated. Without realizing it, something inside of me was shifting.
I went from image to image, moved by the depth of feeling they evoked in me. But it was one image that kept drawing me back. Over the next few days I would click on the link to Ronnie’s gallery and return to the image titled, “In the Middle of Nowhere.”
The photo was a stunningly stark black and white of an old abandoned shack. The whole front face has sheared off the building, landing on the ground still upright. In front of the fallen facade is a bicycle propped against the steps. The backdrop is sparse landscape, a mountain in the distance, scrub and a few trees in the middle ground. So yes, it is in the middle of nowhere. It was also how I had been feeling. It would be a couple of years before I realized the connection between where I was personally and the emotions this photograph brought forth in me.
Who left the bike? How did they get home from the middle of nowhere otherwise? I rolled the questions over in my mind so many times. Just like the oyster with a grain of sand, the questions were an irritant. I would go to sleep with it on my mind, I would sit at green traffic lights lost in the possibilities until cars behind began to honk. I jotted down random thoughts on envelopes, advertisements, and once on the back of a check. Without realizing it, a story began to emerge. So, drawn into its creation I had not even realized my words had come back until I sat down in front of my laptop one Saturday afternoon wanting nothing more than to get my thoughts out of my head. To make order out of them. The story came out of me in a rush and when I looked up two hours had passed and a story was looking back at me from the screen.
The poetic prose that came into being that day is named after Ronnie’s work: In the Middle of Nowhere. To my surprise the story that emerged was not about the bike. Instead the story is from the collapsing shack’s perspective. Telling how it came to be, what kind of life it once held, and how in the end it met the fate the photograph brings to us. By the end I had answered the question of how the bike was left in that spot so many years ago. Writing a story from an object’s point of view was very strange and foreign to me, but also seemed perfectly natural.
When I finally sat back in my chair that day I smiled, my eyes filling with tears. I was writing again! Relief rushed over me. Thinking about that moment now can still bring tears to my eyes. I was flying, fluttering off the ground, if not soaring high; these new wings appeared so fragile yet incredibly strong.
Inspiration is a funny thing. We never know where or when it will find us. The more we look for it, the more elusive it becomes. I have been writing since that experience with Ronnie’s work. I am not a prolific writer. It has come little by little, but it is writing nevertheless. Being a writer is who I am, how I see the world, and how I process events. It is my healing, my reclaiming myself so far beyond where I thought was even possible. All because I clicked on one little link. Followed one small post from someone I did not even know. Life is indeed awesome.