Broken, Free, and Bound

“. . . aren’t the wise ones, those who never do anything foolish, even more foolish in my eyes than I am in theirs?” — Vincent van Gogh


If Anaïs Nin had been a blogger, what would she have wanted to tell the world on any given day? Wondering this, I pulled five nonfiction books from the shelves this morning:

  • The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh edited by Mark Roskill
  • Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis
  • Letters to Anaïs Nin by Henry Miller
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Himself
  • Frida by Frida

Skimming them, I learned names like Anna Murray-Douglass and Margot Begemann. A half hour at Wikipedia and the van Gogh Museum website alone has left me overwhelmed and nearly immobile with inspiration. And longing.

I realized, as I turned pages and scrolled down and back up again, that I what I’m searching for is not clues to how Anaïs would have blogged, no. I’m looking for love stories, real-life love stories. Which is the same thing as saying that I’m looking for myself.

Holding thousands of grams of paper, millions of sentences at my fingertips on the internet, I’m stunned at the entrance to a word palace, its ceiling too high to be seen. There’s no end to the lines shaping symbols forming approximations into sentences telling stories, but every last one of those tales is inadequate. None capture how Diego’s forehead might have (maybe) pressed down on Frida’s cheekbone in a moment even they could never describe with language.

There is a holiness.

It can’t be measured or painted or pulled from a shelf.

Nor can it be buried.

At times, the memory of it could break a person; I think Vincent and Margot knew about that. The same memory, I suspect Frederick and Anna may concur, could set a spirit free.

But always, the memory of those holy moments binds us–one to the other, me to myself–inextricably.

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