The people in this town must think I’m crazy.
Walking the same streets, up and down, carrying a big leather hobo bag stuffed with a laptop and various books, juggling an orange Yeti cup full of water with an iced coffee , sitting down in random places, jotting down notes in a journal like I might actually know what I’m doing.
What’s she up to? They must wonder, if they even notice me at all.
It’s not like I’m writing a novel about Lewis & Clark traveling down this river, or envisioning myself in another place and time. It’s just that the water soothes me, the breeze rolling off its ripples provides a calming respite from the cloudless sky above me. Even the faint smell of fish and cigarettes provides an odd sense of comfort that I’ve come to crave. I couldn’t stay inside on a day like today, not when this perfect place is just 1000 steps to the north.
Paducah has given me a chance to exhale. For 3 days, I haven’t sat in a car. I’ve walked everywhere. I’ve spoken with the locals and come to know the streets of this riverfront like they’re my own. I’ve never felt quite this way before. I’ve never had this kind of freedom. It’s as if I’m coming to know myself, but only in this place, at this time. I want to hold onto it and bring it with me, but only time will tell.
Yesterday, I wandered around a local crystal shop for 20 minutes or so, seeking intention, clarity, self-worth. There wasn’t a thing there that would do it, with all the cheap boxes of incense promoting “Goddess” and the beaded bracelets I’ve seen a million times already. So I came back and collected a few river rocks – the ones that felt smooth and cool in my hand.
For years now, I’ve wondered who I would be if I grew up along these banks. I’ve sought out memories of my younger self dancing around the playground at Harmar Elementary, holding all the confidence of the world in my hands, filled with life, followed by friends. I’ve gone back once to see the pregnant teenagers and the empty storefronts. I wouldn’t be here if I’d been there. Here is 486 miles down the Ohio River, and while I know these aren’t the same streams I danced in 23 years ago, I can’t help but feel connected to it, like some part of me is in that water. Like some answer will rise out of it like a sea nymph, telling me what to do next.
Hell, maybe I am crazy. Or maybe I’m just a writer.
These last few months, I’ve been trying to put together what it is I’m meant to say here – what wisdom I might offer, what difference of opinion I might provide. It feels silly to reach for trite concepts like “simple” and “good” in a nation that’s full of unrest and complexity, but maybe that’s just the point. That there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging all that’s gone wrong, so long as we keep fighting to find what’s right – even if what’s right is running away to find a little time and space for ourselves to be alone.
This feeling I’m relishing in is what Simple + Good represents to me: my core canon, my manifesto, my beliefs for now. This is the beauty of finding your own moments, your own meaning. When everything around you feels dull and lackluster, you infuse magic into what you already have. You sit at the same spot on the riverbank three days in a row, writing renewed versions of the same thoughts over and over, with the faith that something greater will eventually take shape. Things can still be this way when your head is a mess, when no one else can offer you the answers. Life can still have purpose when the path feels rough and in-navigable. Moments can still be powerful when you fear that everyone thinks you’re crazy, when you’re not sure if you might be crazy, yourself.
Simple + Good is not a superimposed filter on a perfectly-crafted shot. It’s living in the mess but believing there’s an order to it. It’s sweating and bleeding and crying because you know that something better is on the other end of that rope you’re tugging. It’s finding connections where no one else sees them because it matters to you and your story, and it gives the hard moments meaning.
Simple + Good is looking for the bright side, even when you begin to lose hope that it’s there.
Simple + Good is wanting more, but realizing you’ll never find it in a store.
Simple + Good is NOT having it all together. Simple + Good is picking up the pieces.