Thom Rock is the author of Time, Twilight, and Eternity: Finding the Sacred in the Everyday; A Table in the Wilderness: Forty Days of Forgiveness; and Blueberry Fool: Memory, Moments, and Meaning. His writing has also appeared in the pages of Yankee magazine as well as the anthology A Bird in the Hand: Risk and Flight. He lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
Writing, for me, is a lot like crossing some unknown sea. Tossing overboard the anchor of “let’s-just-play-it-safe” is always tempting. But that safe harbor is a deceptive one–both on the page and in life. The longer one remains in port moored to one pier of fear or another, the greater the risk that rot will take hold. There’s a fine line between being anchored and getting stuck. One can just as easily pull up anchor and hoist the sails—even when thoughts or words or days seem to languish in the doldrums for days on end. And yet, “the winds of grace are always blowing,” as the great Hindu mystic Ramakrishna wrote, “all we have to do is set our sails.” Hoist a word up the mast, and then another. The right word on the right breeze can fill the sails and take both writer and reader to familiar shores as well as far-off places.
I do not live near the ocean, but in the wooded mountains. All summer, where the pastures and fields never see the hay blade or rake, the sweet timothy and rush-grass stretch their stems from mountain meadow to sapphire sky. By late summer they’re bleached the color of the seaside by the sun, and when they sing their wind-some song it isn’t difficult to imagine they anchor not a mountain meadow but, rather, some far-off coastal sea dune. I often think I should wade out into the sea of grasses that splash at the edge of the meadow. But, more often than not, I am content to simply hold their rosy shell up to my ear, listen to what they have to say, and write it down as I wander around them and down the path that leads from hemlock grove to blueberry barren, and from blueberry barren to the great bay of wisdom that laps at the bottom meadow. . .
What I really want you to know about me is summed up in the three words I have chosen to follow my name at the top of this page. The wondering and wandering are just as important to me as the writing. In fact, I find it hard to separate them one from the other; they’re curiously connected. All three—wandering, wondering, and writing—are, at their barest bones, quite simple and commonplace activities. They are among the first things we learn to do as human beings. Before we ever learn to line up words one after the other on a page, we learn how put one foot in front of the other and how to put letters in front of each other to form the question “Why?” in our young minds.
A thoughtful question, a meandering walk, or even a well-crafted sentence . . . each is a kind of adventure (and who doesn’t like an adventure?) The allure of all good writing, at least for me, is not only the hope of deeper understanding, but also the prospect of arriving somewhere other than where I began—whether that new place is somewhere in the natural landscape, or the dark cranial cave atop my spine, or at the end of a sentence on a page.