By Jeenie Criscenzo
I didn’t think much of the novel, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami while I was reading it. But just like the Beatles song of the same name that became a maddening earworm for weeks after hearing it recently, the story keeps creeping into my thoughts and coloring my perspective of life.
Life is dark and sad and fraught with uncertainty, and yet buried in all of that sadness are bits of light and delight — like tasting the fruit of a Peruvian Apple Cactus that seems at first to be tasteless, but suddenly delights your mouth with an irresistible crystalline popping sensation.
Uncovering these hidden gems in a bleak life is the raison d’être of artists. We spend our lives with imaginary magnifying glasses extended, searching for the ubiquitous gems hidden in plain sight. That moment when a reader exclaims, “Ah yes, I’ve had that feeling!” or, “I never thought about it in this way until I read what you wrote,” is when I feel that I have lived with a purpose.
Creative people deal with a dangerous conundrum — on the one hand, if our goal is to communicate successfully, then our success is completely dependent on the response (negative or positive) of others. On the other hand, the essence of creativity is to be free to express ideas independent of outside approval. Personally, I seldom walk around singing Everything is Beautiful, but by truthfully exposing our common humanity, both good and bad, I try to balance feelings of outrage with morsels of hope.
When Doug Porter and Anna Daniels asked me to write a regular column for San Diego Free Press, I was delighted to have this outlet to reach readers. The writing part happens all of the time, whether or not anyone will read my words. But there is little fulfillment in writing if it sits in a folder labeled “writing” on my computer, never to be seen by other human eyes.
So I took up their offer with relish, and happily typed out regular columns, mostly about the homelessness crisis, but with the freedom to muse about my garden, my family and friends, and local and national politics.
The most important part of San Diego Free Press was the “Free.” Not only was I free to write about whatever I wanted, but I was also doing it for free, so I wasn’t worried about financial repercussions to what I wrote. My payment came in the comments and number of views and shares that confirmed that what I was writing was being read and provoking thought.
Every comment, even when it was expressing disagreement, sounded like a “ca-ching!” in my success register. (Meanwhile, my bank account register is gasping for breath. My Canfield-indoctrinated daughter, believes that by not putting a monetary value on my work, I sent a message to the universe that what I do has no value. Anyone want to prove her wrong?)
For the past year, my health has taken a toll on my writing. My husband recently pointed out that I’ve frequently been substituting the word “thing” when I can’t remember a word – and for a writer to be flailing desperately for the right word is terrifying. I’m hoping the cause is temporary, brought on by the general anesthesia administered in back-to-back surgeries.
My muse seems to be slowly returning. But just as I was getting back to saying to myself a dozen times a day, “I’ve got to write about this,” I learned that on December 14th, San Diego Free Press will be shutting down.
As in Murakami’s novel, nothing lasts forever, and even memories fade. This was the reason his narrative character was compelled to write his story. But what was missing in Norwegian Wood was community — that far-reaching network of love, respect and support that connects us like the roots and fibers of Pandora’s Tree of Souls. Community evolves, but it lasts.
The network of editors, contributors and readers who befriended me while writing for SDFP, will continue to feed my writer’s soul long after the website has faded away. The insights expressed by SDFP journalists, poets, and commentators are planted in a far-reaching web of minds, where they will emerge like annoying earworms, influencing the way the world works in ways the authors could never imagine. I’m certain that in this fast evolving age of social media and internet publishing, our words will find new ways to connect and carry on.
Isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood?
P.S. I will miss seeing a comment to this last column from Bob Dorn. I could count on his remarks to feed my writer’s soul. I just learned of his sudden passing. My condolences to his family. May his words live on.