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On being a magpie of life

Life serves up what it will.

This is one reason why we writers write: to try to make sense of it. As Jane Siberry said so poetically in Calling in All Angels, “We’re trying, we’re hoping . . . Why it’s almost as if, if you could crack the code, you’ll finally understand what this all means.”

We try to make sense of things because we human beings need meaning in order to flourish. But life doesn’t care about that. It just serves up stuff—unbidden, ungovernable, often inexplicable and even absurd. These moments can be funny. Like . . .

Or they can make us curious like . . .

Curiosities can also elicit a sense of surprise and wonder; like . . .

And things we randomly encounter can challenge our thinking, too. Like . . .

And sometimes the things we stumble across can cause deep reflection, for example . . .

We human beings are meaning-makers. We will always try to make sense of things. It's why we see patterns in stars, why we represent geography in maps, why we pore over baseball stats and election results, why we create celebrations and rituals. It's why we ask "why"! We are trying to find meaning. We are trying to find a story.

A writer’s job is to be an investigator of life—to be a magpie, picking up every interesting thing and observing it, turning it over, finding and appreciating all the little dents and bulges. And then sharing it, displayed so that others, too, can appreciate the treasure in the strangeness. And this can help us to know that we don't walk alone.

In my stories, I'm drawn to quirky situations and characters. We use the word quirky to signify something that's strange or out of the ordinary; but in my experience, quirk is a very ordinary thing. The world is full of quirk! It’s everyday stuff. Looking out my office window to the park opposite is testament to this. I do love the very tough-looking guy who brings his cat for a little outing every day—in a duffle bag. He unzips it, the creature steps out, and that cat sits on top of the duffle bag, looking around as if surveying its kingdom, while the guy slowly sips coffee from a thermos. At the end of the hour, the cat steps daintily back into the bag to be zipped up and carried away.

Not just the world, but we, too, are full of quirks. Often, we are clouded mysteries to each other, and even to ourselves. Stories are one of the oldest and best ways we know to try to understand it all. I write stories to explore this strange and wondrous condition of being human.

Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” (Anthem). Magpie of life that I am, I search out all those little things with cracks, looking for the light.

Yours in storymaking,

Loretta

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