abstract tendencies

“You cannot have honest poems if you live in abstractions – honesty only lives in the concrete.”

A visiting writer said this in a poetry class about her own journey through writing. Her book – I don’t remember the work, only the notes I took when she spoke – was an exploration of her fears and anxieties and reconnecting with nature. The quote was related to her exposing her vulnerability in translating those explorations to art. And at times, how abstractions seemed safer than concrete realities – in art and real life.

Most of the time, I love the world to be abstract. In abstraction there is no definition, right? The world can be whatever I want. It’s not tied to anything tangible – so it can be defined and redefined, indefinitely.

There’s a distance  in abstraction – “love” as a concept is less intimidating to explore than identifying (or admitting) what/who makes me feel love, the physical things (proximity, touch, words, etc) that reinforce love, and what it actually takes – the day to day things – to sustain that feeling.

There are also infinite possibilities in abstraction – “love” doesn’t have to fit this world – it doesn’t have to be limited to tangible space – and so I don’t feel like I need to be limited to the space either.

I love abstractions but then I realize, when I think about how I spend my time – going into the physical world and exploring our connection – touching, feeling, rolling around with nature everything she offers – I know I want dirt. And dirt is not abstract.

And if that’s true – if what I’m looking for is something here, in the physical world, if the things that are bringing me happiness are things I can touch and feel in/on/around my physical being – then I’m not looking for a concept, but a tangible reality. Or maybe a concept in a tangible reality. Either way, I want to touch it.

And if that’s true, then no amount of thinking, wondering or over-analyzing is going to take the place of being out into the real, concrete, tangible world. Thinking about climbing a tree is not the same as actually being in a tree – no matter how good my imagination is.

And if that’s true, I need to climb more trees.


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