How to tumblehome

and the wisdom in our hands

There are poems and certain stories, specific lines from books, last lines, and I’ve read them countless times. I know what’s coming, and still, I come undone each time. Those lines that hit me like a bolt of holy lightning are reasons for living. This is what wakes me, gives me the strength to stand me up in the shower, and gets me ready to write. I feel alive for having read those words, and they continue to live in me. I make better choices on the page, and in my life, because I have been in this company.

If I read something and start to cry - which is often, or get a chill down my spine, or realize I’ve been holding my breath - I know that work means something. I admire a lot of work intellectually, but the work I love resonates with my body.

When I write, I let my body guide my mind. If something doesn’t work, I can feel it not working. There’s pressure or resistance, or my hands start looking for different words. My hands have more wisdom in them than my head. I often think I’m going to write one kind of story but end up writing another. I hope that that’s what I’m meant to be doing, that that’s what counts.

I don’t struggle with writer’s block as much as I struggle with the writer’s search. It’s an active experience. It’s a stumble most of the time, but it’s still movement.

I live in this mix of grief and joy, and somehow, in the end, there’s this astonishing note of grace. Something magical happens when you’re mixing the humor and the horror, and if you’re lucky, it yields something altogether otherworldly. You could close the book of my life on this chapter, and it’d still be six miracles stacked on top of each other.

There was a period where I moved seven times in four years, and I would often drive to the wrong apartment, house, or take the wrong interstate home. Once, after getting out of the hospital, I fell out of the backseat onto the pavement, and my roommate practically had to carry me up the stairs. I was pretty messed up and wasn’t stumbling as much as tumbling home. I love that nautical term, “tumblehome”. I love what it means; that place at the bow of a ship where the water cuts to one side or the other and prevents the bow from flooding.

I grew up on the Atlantic; I learned how to swim in riptides and undertow currents. I remember the first time I brought someone from the West Coast to the North Shore of my favorite island, and how they let go of my hand as I dove full speed into the surf.

That’s what home feels like - something you still run to.