living the questions

living the questions

I have been interviewed four times lately. One was for radio, two were for podcasts and once for a television show. In each case the host was interested in something different. In each case they asked good questions. And I was happy to talk to them. I like to talk. And I like to listen,

I found their questions made me ponder and if you have been reading these letters for a bit you know that pondering is one of my most favourite activities. Odd as it may be, it makes me happy.

It may have started in grade seven when our teacher Sibby O'Reilly brought in his records to play for us in English class. Gerry White, my neighbour and best childhood friend, and I were in heaven. There we were listening to Neil Young in English class and hearing it like poetry. That night Gerry and I laid on his mother's long brown couch, his head at one end, mine at the other, toes wiggling, as we always did and talked about things. On that night we talked about the words in the songs and what they meant. Sibby, like a good teacher was getting us to wonder.

Gerry was my friend growing up because he was never afraid to ask the questions. He was a smart little boy and he was always thinking about the way people were and why they were that way. He still is. Like me, he wants to know the back story, no judgement there, just trying to understand. For the questions are not only asked so we can know, but so we can feel the story.

For we all got one. We all have layers of life inside us. Layers of stories. We are all trees, I suppose, with rings and rings around our core. Each ring holding something. Years of stories. Every ring of a tree serves two purposes. One is to be the outside ring of a year, the other is to be the inside ring of the next year. Each ring stretching out to be the base of another.

We grow because we know. We grow because we have something to build upon. Because what happens in a life is not a series of separate incidents. One day is built upon another, one year makes another year possible. As we recount our lives we can see that we were able to become because we became. It is not any one thing that makes us, it is cumulative. It is so many tiny things that brings us all together as one human being. It is a delicate balance of interconnected stories that weave possibility in our lives.

My conversations as a child with Gerry White pondering the questions were part of the foundation for whatever I may have learned since. It does not seem so important if you look back on it with simple fondness, but if you really look at it you will find more. Those early years laid down so much foundation for who we were to become. I liked the questions then and I like them now.

Because for me to love the questions is what life is about.

In "Letters to a Young Poet", Rilke said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 

I have never found the answers to so many  questions and have to come believe that to live, in so many ways,  is to remain a young poet. There is a freedom in being able to carry the questions with out demanding the answers. A freedom that is thrust upon us if we are the ones who keep asking.

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  • Deanne Fitzpatrick
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