I live with my husband and three young sons on the gentle eastern slope of a valley cut through by a creek. The western hill climbs steep and is overspread with boulders carried by an ancient glacier. Stone tossed against stone creates cracks and holes; one triangle crevasse is so deep and dark, we call it the bear cave. It is spring, and my sons tell me the bear will come out soon.
Primarily a creative nonfiction writer, I am motivated by the origins of the verb form of “essay”: to try. I believe literature, unlike much informational and theoretical writing, does not solve so much as it attempts to capture in words ineffable parts of the human experience. Literature does not promise a destination; rather, it creates a new form of transport, a “line of words,” as Annie Dillard says, that moves us to surprising places. Literature may take us on an adventure up a hill to a crack in the granite, where we find shelter, sense daylight, and emerge when hungry.
Our April authors pry open these cracks for me. I find myself entering and re-entering their writing to feel around for what’s there, to witness what comes to light. In Kitty Jospé’s “Where Love Needs No Proof,” a chance meeting results in a single touch, and with it, the narrowest sliver of hope. In Jonie McIntire’s “After You’ve Saved a Life,” out of silence comes a ring, and a voice in need reaches a voice that can help. And in Dawn Denham’s “A Brief History of Blue,” mud wasps nest on a blue porch, the porch hugs a house, and out of that house materializes a reassembled life.
Our companions this month lead me to surprises as well. The son of two former slaves becomes an icon of the American folk music revival, often writing songs in the aftermath of tragic river floods. A Greek immigrant uses elemental color to create vibrant images that seem to dance on the page. A tower of humans balances upon the strength of one, on the soles of his feet, simply to show that it’s possible, that it’s beautiful. And hidden inside blustering Tweets, we find, of all things, love.
Last week, the first wasp made its way through my attic vent. The first stinkbug buzzed through the hole in our screen door. The first tulips pushed through the mulch by the fence. It is April, and with these tiny births—encounters and phone calls and houses, wasps and tulips and awakening bears—the world is made new.
Suzanne Farrell Smith