“The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”
-Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”
For most of my life, I’ve been afraid of losing words and ideas. Usually I don’t mind losing objects quite as much, although there are notable exceptions. I hate losing books. In high school, I couldn’t stand losing my pencils. I had three of them, big, clunky and mechanical, that felt solid in my hand. Having three was supposed to mean that I could lose one without worrying about it, but it ended up meaning that I carefully carried all three around. When I mislaid one I went stomping through the house. It was usually somewhere obvious.
Words, though: I worry about words. I have napkins and envelopes and paper bags with scribbled notes on them: thoughts I had, thoughts that were just beginning. Words that I hoped would help, someone, somehow. I still want to help, and I’m still excited by the encouragement or support or repositioning that a few words can suggest, but I don’t think I need to be worried. I don’t think I need to clutch at so many things.
Years ago my co-director and I were talking about what plays we wanted to do. We came up with a dozen interesting ideas. When we stood up from the conversation, I asked, “Shouldn’t we write them down?”
“No need,” he said. “We’ll be able to find them again.”
I don’t remember what plays we talked about that day, but I have watched our ideas and interests spiral outward, leading us to new discoveries. If a thought was good, if it was important, if it is well suited to the time, we’ll find it again. If it was true, then it’s already had an effect. It’s a seed in the ground. Rainer Maria Rilke talks about arranging the flowers we give to those we love, and Edmond Rostand has his hero throw “armfuls of loose bloom” to a lover. We can do that. We can make bouquets. We can throw flowers. But there are also the fields themselves. What we drop might seed itself, and bloom.