A respectable number of people showed up for Reveille! an open mic event my writing association hosted last Wednesday as part of the Frye Literary Festival here in Moncton. It was pleasantly noisy, but not intimidating, with an appreciative crowd prone to good-natured heckling and howls.
We’d gathered to hear writers and others read from the words of their youth. It was meant to be an ‘awakening’ – hence the name, Reveille - a light-hearted, fun and liberating evening for writers and wannabe writers to give voice to their childhood self.
It was all those things and more.
As one writer after another rose to read diary entries, poems, short stories and letters they’d written as children, you could actually hear in the words, hints of the adults they became.
My own revelation came when I stood to recite, “I Want to be Free”, a morose epistle I penned at 16 yrs of age, while I was wallowing in the despair of a social life cut off at the knees. I’d been grounded and in an act of defiance, had skipped school and driven my mother’s car to the beach for the afternoon. There, I pulled out a school notebook and drained my frustration on the page.
Like seagulls against the sky so blue
Like waves upon the beach
I want to be free, oh yes I do,
But freedom’s beyond my reach.
Oh, the trees can whisper their secrets,
The grass can tell its tales,
But to everyone, I own a debt,
My reach for freedom fails…
I want to touch the cool, green trees,
I want to smell the flowers,
I want to forget about all my needs,
Or just while away the hours.
It goes on (and on....), but you get the drift... The audience howled appreciatively (assuaging my fears that they might not think it was funny…) and seemed very happy when I finished and sat down.
But in the midst of the silly words of my teenage melodrama, it hit me. Here I am, some 30 years later, professionally writing about nature.
My writing life has come full circle. I’m still captivated by trees, birds, landforms, ocean. I still seek out natural settings, beaches and beautiful places when I’m in need of comfort and inspiration.
I think of all the wasted years when I was not writing.
What if I’d had more faith in my childhood desires? What if I'd had more faith in myself?