It may have been in the Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society, when I first came face to face with Henry David Thoreau’s concept of living deeply and sucking the “marrow of life.”
I am reminded of the concept in theater, when we prepare as actors by thinking “What happened right before these moments you step onto the stage?”
Well, right before these words, Thoreau wrote “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
I’m writing from the road, where I have been reminded how much marrow sucking I not only enjoy, but how much “marrow sucking” I need.
Yesterday I took a solo adventure to a park near my friend Jennie’s house. She had merely said there were “boardwalks to walk on” which stirred my curiosity stew.
“I want to go there!” I said, not having a clue what “having a boardwalk to walk on” really meant but before I went to sleep I hatched a plan to go beyond wanting with a definitive plan to arrive at my goal of walking on the boardwalks into a different brand of nature than I had seen so far on this trip.
Early the next morning I walked in slow, silent delight through low hanging leaves. The park felt like a sanctuary, a sacred space of deliverance from my ordinary.
It was the tonic I needed.
I had no concrete notion of where I was going, so when the trees opened up onto the lake I was surprised yet not surprised by all the blue in front of me. It was like a child on Christmas morning, surprised to see a large lake of presents under the tree for my siblings and me, but I somehow always expected it.
The bigger surprise would be in finding nothing.
I walked into a sea of green and blue with tiny dots of white. Flowers and leaves and water and sky filled every nook of my vision. I felt completely content.
It was like a painting, not quite crisp yet composed with definition and care. I noticed the boardwalk ended with an observation deck sort of platform.
My walk, therefore, would be over when the boardwalk said it was over rather than my feet declaring a truce with my legs. It also meant my walk would be easily contained and I could return to my friends before they started to miss me.
I met a little boy named Benjy and his Dad. I offered to take Father-Son photos in a larger than selfie frame. I offered Granny-like advice.
I listened to what I am guessing was a homeschool Mom and son. The Mom asked questions and the son responded, “I’m hot and sweaty.” She paused. “I’m sweaty, can we go home now?” She asked again. “I’m hot. I’m sweating, when are we going home?” I felt sad for the mom, hoped she wasn’t too exasperated.
I took out my smallest notebook and started jotting observations, a sort of pre-writing of poetry moments. I breathed more slowly than I had as I marched to the platform.
I was sucking marrow from these quiet moments as I breathed in and out and watched and looked and catalogued. I was smiling and sketching with words.
A poem started to dictate itself into my mind in bits and pieces, in concepts and rhythms.
I obliged in writing it down.
My hope is to be
that slice of purple
that bit of different
that spoonful of amethyst
amidst floods of green
and blue and white
just a sliver
just a jot
just a freckle
amidst the ordinary others
there, almost hidden a
I want to be the
It would have been easy for me to stay with my friends, snuggle deeper into my jammies and not explored the space with the boardwalks.
Instead, I opened myself to a more in depth moment with myself, a moment when I sucked the marrow from life. The osprey, the purple flowers, Benjy, even the complaining boy each reminded me of the joy of being precisely who I am in exactly whatever moment I find myself living.
I faced a desire, even if I didn’t understand it.
I took intentional action.
I made several choices which lead up to the end, to this, to you, reading.
What can you take away from what you’ve read?
What can you do to make it mean something in your life now?
How will you begin to suck the marrow out of life now?
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Julie Jordan Scott inspires people to experience artistic rebirth via her programs, playshops, books, performances and simply being herself out in the world. She is a writer, creative life coach, speaker, performance poet, Mommy-extraordinaire and mixed-media artist whose Writing Camps and Writing Playgrounds permanently transform people's creative lives. Watch for the announcement of new programs coming in September 2015 and beyond.
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