Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds and A Transcendental Journey.

Living Poetry

"There is nothing inorganic... The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit -- not a fossil earth, but a living earth"

Henry David Thoreau

Walden

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
This is so consoling.
Friday, 19 July 2019 22:44
Stephen Evans
More things in heaven and earth...
Saturday, 20 July 2019 03:23
1043 Hits
2 Comments

Tree Song

I don’t know why the caged bird sings. But I think I may have finally figured out why the others do.

I take walks every day down a wooded path behind my home. Sometimes so many birds are singing it sounds like a choir. Other times there are only one or two at each turn of the path. Occasionally the songs sound like a dialogue, sometimes a Bach canon. But most often the sounds are clearly ecstatic, a brimming forth of some secret joy.

I believe I have discovered the source of that joy. Each bird is singing about how beautiful its tree is. How delicately shaped each leaf as it twists in the breeze. How the broad canvas of the whole creates ever evolving shadows on the ground. How the Fibonacci architecture of the branches leads right up to the sky.

Birds never sing about what time they have to get to the bird feeder, or whether they need a bath, or the bird next door, or even that tree they saw two weeks ago. They only sing of the beauty in front of them.

Each bird sings in its own language. Birds are very smart; each knows all the languages of all the birds. But when they sing of trees they sing in their own tongue, the one they hold in their heart.

And when they fly to the next tree, birds sing about how beautiful that tree is. And I agree with them.

I have never seen a tree that was not beautiful, from smallest sapling to startling senior. And unique – no tree the same as any other– even the aspen trees (which reproduce by what is called root sprouting and are in a sense one tree) are genetically identical but never quite the same in appearance. I wonder sometimes if  the beauty of trees has something to do with their uniqueness—and if we were more aware of it in humankind, we might see more beauty in each other.

Do the trees listen to the birds? I think so. Do they appreciate the praise? I’m not so sure. The lives of trees seem unconcerned with birds, or squirrels, or humans. They have their own purposes in their long lives.

What beauty do trees sing about?

I doubt we will ever know.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
This is so engaging and so wise and so visionary and so insightful and so celebratory just because... I've been long convinced tha... Read More
Sunday, 09 June 2019 23:20
Stephen Evans
Sometimes I imagine the natural world looks at us and thinks: if only they understood.
Sunday, 09 June 2019 23:43
Rosy Cole
I am absolutely one hundred per cent sure of that! Seriously! Just having a dog thoroughly reveals that. They reach the bottom lin... Read More
Monday, 10 June 2019 12:33
348 Hits
3 Comments

Kindly Create

In the movie version of Harvey, the character of Elwood P. Dowd says, “Years ago my mother used to say to me... She’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’—she always called me Elwood—‘in this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I do, obviously. It is one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite films. I don’t see six-foot-tall rabbits (or none I’m admitting to). But sometimes I think that something like his transformation may have happened to me. For years, I was smart, but being smart didn’t make me a writer.

Twenty years ago, I decided I was supposed to be a writer. I thought about writing. I read books about writing. But I wasn’t actually doing any writing.

So, feeling the years slipping by, I quit my job and headed out across the country, intending to write a book. Yet mile after mile, I wrote nothing, except a few emails about the amazing scenery and how often I got lost. Eventually, I gave up and turned toward home.

A thousand miles or so later, a butterfly got caught in my windshield wipers. I slowed down and got off the highway at the next opportunity, coaxed the little guy onto a sheet of (blank, no doubt) paper, and set him onto a patch of grass near some woods. He couldn’t fly anymore, but he could walk. I watched each slow, painstaking step until he disappeared into the brush. Then I got back in my car and on the highway.

Moments later, a poem came to me about the butterfly. Quickly, I dictated the words into my recorder. It wasn’t great poetry. But it was the first creative writing I had done in a long time.

That night, I sat at a desk in my hotel room and began to write. I didn’t stop until I had finished the entire first act of a play, and then, over the next few years, finally a book about that trip:  A Transcendental Journey.

Since I wrote A Transcendental Journey, so much of my life has revolved around taking care of family—a time that has also been the most creative of my life. I think there is a connection.

I began The Marriage of True Minds, my first novel, while I was taking care of my aunt Margaret, to whom it is dedicated. I edited the novel while staying with my friend Don in what turned out to be the last months of his life. The final piece of the story was based on the eulogy I wrote for my brother Michael.

A few years later, when both of my parents were diagnosed with health issues, I moved in to take care of them. My writing during those years consisted mostly of short pieces. But I think it is some of my best work.

After my parents passed away, I was lucky to be able to take some time off. I thought I needed it—needed to get back to being the person I used to be. I never did. I don’t think now I will. And I wouldn’t choose to if I could, as a man or as a writer.

In a year, I wrote drafts of two books, plus half of a third. Two were published this year: The Island of Always, an extension of The Marriage of True Minds, and Painting Sunsets, a story for young artists. The third book comes out next month.

I don’t really like the word caregiving: it is too one-sided. Caring for someone is a shared experience, often both deeply rewarding and deeply draining. But in each case in my life, I feel that some reflection of that shared experience, and of the person I shared it with, has gone into the work.

As a writer, my instinct is to wrap myself up in a solitary world—to live in the one I am creating. But I have realized that what works for me may be the opposite: turn out, see the world, do what needs to be done for the people in your life. And as you do, trust that the wheels are turning in your creative spirit.

Caring is the wildest fuel for the writing fire.

You may quote me.

A version of this piece first appeared in Publishers Weekly.

Recent Comments
Monika Schott
It's a wonderful thing to be able to find a way that helps us create, whether we live in or between two worlds - our creative and ... Read More
Wednesday, 22 May 2019 22:59
Stephen Evans
Thank you! It amazes me sometimes that inspiration can be found where I would never expect it. I guess we just try to be awake an... Read More
Thursday, 23 May 2019 14:27
443 Hits
2 Comments

The Blue Cap

She wears a dark blue raincoat on this cloudy day, and a lighter blue cap, something out of the sixties. I can imagine her then, a young woman, wearing one to a party, dazzling with her golden hair and brilliant smile, charming them all.

Now her hair is white. And white tennis shoes. Always the white shoes.

And alone. Always alone. Except for the dog.

Her dog is smallish and also white, like most of the dogs in this community. For some reason, they are the canine of choice, maybe because they don’t eat much or fit just so on an eighty-year old lap.

As she walks, she sways side to side. Maybe her hips don’t work as they used to or she is shielding her knees. Still she walks. Twice a day. Every day. At a good pace relatively. Holding tight to the leash. As though something about it keeps her upright.

I walk past her and smile, saying Good Afternoon. She doesn’t seem to recognize me, though we have passed a few times before. Her face brightens and she smiles, but she doesn’t speak back. Unused now to speaking to anyone, except her children on the phone every few weeks.

She is alone. Always alone. Except for the dog, who is now the beneficiary of all the love and care she has stored up since her husband passed.

So she walks every day. Rain or shine. In peril of falling every step it seems to me. I worry for her.

She is alone. Yet there are many like her here in this community. She passes them every day. They have never spoken yet they know each other.

As she passes me, I turn and watch for a second.

Maybe this is not her story. Maybe she has a family close to her, who visit most days, like my next door neighbor. Maybe her husband does the laundry and she walks the dog for exercise. I don’t really know.

But as I imagine her, she is a reminder.

And a warning.

And an inspiration.

I will find my blue cap.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Such humanity and empathy here. Clear and natural as a mountain stream. This lady is no member of a cardboard crowd. If only we al... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 15:40
Stephen Evans
Thank you Rosy! Yes, I agree - just just a few moments pause each day - for awareness. Like everyone else I find it hard to rise... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 22:13
Ken Hartke
There is something to be gained by living in a walkable community. I really don't -- I would have to walk four miles to a store -... Read More
Saturday, 04 May 2019 17:50
1437 Hits
4 Comments

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It caught me by surprise the first time I noticed it. After the trolley man, the house was owned by...
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I wish British mothers did, too. Although I suspect that in Paris, too, this is a relatively rare o...
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