There’s a passage towards the back of the Autumn volume of The Paris Review, a presentation from the late James Salter, in which he describes a number of moments during his life. It hops around a bit, going from those early days when Salter had no idea whether he was a writer or someone poking around with words, to kneading screenplays into shape, to being asked to write an autobiography he wasn’t sure was really necessary. It’s a meditation on a life by the guy who lived it, and you get the impression that even when the piece was written, when Salter was well past an age where one would argue a life should have been lived, Salter wasn’t quite sure what he’d wound up with, but he was satisfied with where he’d gone.
It’s a calming stance to take, that of a wanderer. One who doesn’t fight towards some future he or she feels is destined surely for themselves. To be a person who floats, and by this I don’t mean to be lazy, but to be lighter than the dramatic gravity that drags dreams into the dirt. It takes courage to make your own way through the jungle, to take forks as they come and not cast many glances back towards the well-trod path.
Today I walked across a four-lane street at night, when it was icy, because I don’t have a car where I’m at and food became a necessity, as it tends to every now and again. There was risk associated with that – it would have been safer, if less tasty and more boring, to stay at the hotel and eat whatever packaged food could be scrounged. With that walk, and there were no sidewalks (so daring, I know), I potentially put my own life at risk to get a fresh sandwich.
And yet, and yet, the act of putting words online seems so much more difficult. An action for which the only negative is, perhaps, the insults of a few bored users and their emoji-enhanced comments. Perhaps it’s worth taking a page out of Salter’s life and thinking less about the end, and more about the moment. It just might take you somewhere you didn’t expect to go.