Marks on the cavern wall

May 5, 2008

It was in an email exchange with a friend, a fellow writer, about some crises in her life. We were talking about how such things affect one’s life ever after.

“I don’t break down in the midst” of the crisis, she wrote, “but once the crisis is over….well…it leaves its mark.”

She is right, of course. We are each of us the sum and more of the things that have happened to us. Writers and other artists, perhaps shamelessly, make a living, or at least a habit, of giving guided tours through the galleries of our “marks,” a sometimes ghastly show-and-tell.

Living is sort of all about the marks it leaves. That’s our calligraphy, and what we write about it is our own individual Lascaux cavern. The beasts our ancestors left in soot and earth pigments on the walls of Lascaux and other caverns around the world may have been part of hunting rituals or as acts of admiration, passion, or even expiation for the deaths of the creatures they were meant to represent.

But is not that what we do when we write poems or essays? We scrawl clumsy representations of the beautiful and terrible beasts from our hearts onto the cavern walls for all to see. Every joy and terror leaves its mark, forever lending its own pigments to our ink, and come out, in their own ways, as the horses, bison, mammoths, and so on leapt from the hands our ancestors 15,000 to 17,000 years ago.

Everybody has nightmares slumbering fitfully beside happier memories; that’s the price of the ticket for a journey through a life. There’s on old quip about life that “nobody gets out of here alive.” True enough. But nobody gets out unscathed, either. At the end, we’re all scuffed and weathered, inside and out.

At present, for reasons too complex to explain here, I am spending time reading my own cave walls, poking gingerly at sleeping dragons. Some of the discoveries have been good ones; others have left me shaken and afraid. But it has not been dull. I don’t know how I would deal with that, the very worst fear of all, the voyage, after all this, should have been boring.

What a waste that would have been.

© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

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