The main difference that strikes me between what I do here and what I do at Pith is that here I feel very confident in my abilities. I know what I know and I feel good about saying what I know and admitting what I don’t know and letting that be good enough, and interesting.
When I write for Pith, though, I’m really humbled all the time by how much I don’t know, about how much more about anything there is to learn about everything. And yet, you have to write from where you are, which is always from a place of general ignorance. Not that that’s not true here, of course. We are all most mysterious to ourselves. But here I feel like I have the luxury of figuring that whatever it is can be sorted out later, if I screw up talking about it the first time.
I have been thinking a lot about how I am always confined by my own experience, and yet, always struggling against it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what Mike Moore said about how there have been people living in Bell’s Bend for over ten thousand years. And I think about my friends who go to Europe and say that the weirdest thing about being in Europe is how old everything is, how there’s this constant sense of being surrounded by thousands of years of history.
And, frankly, I feel robbed. Because I know that, when I’m standing in the Bend, I’m surrounded by thousands of years of history and I don’t know how to see it, how to make myself understand that as true. I read online that the white banks of the Cumberland just north of the boat ramp are from people putting shells there for thousands of years. And I’ve been there and stood at the end of the ramp and seen the white shore and I don’t know how to see it. I mean, I see the shells. I don’t know how to experience that as something ancient.
I think that it’s because I don’t have a story about it. And that’s part of the purpose of stories, I think, to give you a hook with which to grasp the meaning of the things around you.
For as long as I’ve lived in Nashville, I’ve always felt like the underlying tension of the city is that with one hand it’s writing stories you wish you know while with its other hand, it’s smudging the ink.