In twenty-eight minutes, there will be a soft knock at the door. And I will pop up, tighten the sash of my white robe, tiptoe across carpet and answer it. A kind man in a uniform will smile at me and ask me how I am. I will keep it simple and tell him that I am fine. Even though on this morning I am better than fine. This man will walk past me, silver tray in hand, and place it down. I will thank him and walk him out. And once the door swings gently behind him, I will pour my first cup of coffee. I will sip it by the window while my sister sleeps. I will peer out. At the coy morning sun. The shimmying palm trees. The brave waves slapping soft sand.
I am not home. I am away. And at this moment, away means Palm Beach, Florida. I am here with Mom, Sister C and Sister I for a girls' trip. At this very moment, I sit cross-legged on my side of the king bed I'm sharing with C for one more night. The room is silent, but for the whisper of a ceiling fan and the erratic tapping of my computer keys.
I sit here next to my little sister and best friend, a small blue book resting between us. A book C gave me on Sunday morning. We arrived at Newark Airport, a bit sad to have left our babies, but excited for a few days of sleep and sun. When we saw that our plane was delayed, we decided to get breakfast to kill some time. We found a little table and perused plastic menus. We attempted to order breakfast burritos and celebratory bloody marys, but our waiter said no. (Breakfast wasn't being served and there was a pesky state law that forbade him from ponying up booze before noon on a Sunday.) So, we settled for salads and water.
While we ate, C pulled something from her bag. "I saw this and thought of you," she said, handing me a small blue book.
I looked at it and smiled big. I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like by Dr. Mardy Grothe. Immediately, I started flipping through. The smiles kept coming. "C, I am obsessed with metaphors. I love a good metaphor."
"I know," she said. "That's why I got it for you."
And so. We sat there, thumbing through the small book together, reading bits of truth.
Words are the physicians of a mind diseased. - Aeschylus
Light tomorrow with today. - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. - Hawthorne
Several minutes into our metaphor tete-a-tete, we came up for air and giggled, realizing how funny we must have looked. Two blonde sisters, scarfing airport salads, cooing over quotations.
The airport was packed with families. C and I chuckled at the fact that we left our own babies just to hang out with other people's little creatures. We found our own plot of carpet at our gate and I pored through my new book, smiling. Remembering. Realizing.
Remembering my first college philosophy paper. It was called "The Umbrella of Skepticism." It was a terrible thing, but I still like the title.
Remembering my start five years ago. Five years ago, when I started writing, I bought a slew of books on the craft of writing and read them with great care. I noticed that everyone felt strongly about metaphor. That good metaphor was the heart of good writing. And many authors seemed to suggest that the art of metaphor was something enigmatic that could not be readily taught - or learned. This concerned me because I didn't know much about metaphors - how to craft them, when they were appropriate.
Undeterred, I started playing around with words. Comparing things and ideas. Flirting with metaphors. The very first draft of LIFE AFTER YES contained a bunch of incredibly clumsy metaphors that were ultimately banished from my manuscript. It's possible that a few remain. Part of me hopes so.
Thousands of years ago, Aristotle said:
The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance.
Today. I sit here on fluffy hotel sheets, a rookie mistress of metaphor, reading these words bequeathed to all of us by a brilliant man from a book bequeathed to me by a brilliant and thoughtful sister who slumbers beside me. I sit here nodding.
Nodding in agreement that there is a certain magic inherent in sharp metaphors. Nodding in awareness of the power of escape from life. Of getting away. By plane. Or by prose.
Today, on this tiny Tuesday morning in the grand scheme of things, I sit here next to my sister and with myself and I write. And realize.
That some things can't be taught. How to mingle with metaphors. How to love. How to be loved. How to be true. How to find truth.
That most everything can be learned. If we want something enough, and are willing to work and wrestle and stumble and fail, we can get closer to that something.
I sit here, miles from home, miles from Aristotle, miles from genius, closer than ever to Me, smiling. Clutching a little blue book. Clutching awareness. Clutching gratitude.
Because a good metaphor, like a good sister, like a good family, like a savored escape, is a gift. Exquisitely wrapped. Endlessly enjoyed.
Now I will sign off and wait for that knock. And for your words.
- Do you agree that mastery of metaphor is at the core of compelling writing?
- Do you have a very favorite metaphor?
- Do you agree in "Away Sweet Away," that we all need to escape our everyday from time to time (via travel or the written word) in order to nurture self and appreciate our lives?
- Have you been given a gift recently that has been particularly, and surprisingly, meaningful?
- Do you believe in gifts? That some people are born with talents that others cannot learn?