Friday, June 28, 2019

Introducing Talkaday: A Podcast About What Happens in a Day

Something’s always happening. (I had this thought as two morning doves—or mourning doves,  as they’e properly called, truly always thought they were about greeting the new day rather than grieving it—crashed into each other, probably mating, in the mesquite tree above me.) The curious thing is how much freedom we have in the retelling of it, which we often choose to ignore. We can kind of spin the day—to an extent—any way we like! Right now I’m choosing to belabor the beauty of a morning shower on the walk with my dog, these fine golden beads twinkling in the early light by the thousands, as if passing through some magic curtain to my own private Narnia…and yet at the time I felt a slight tinge of apprehension, as if, ah shit, gonna get wet! So maybe it’s both-and, never either-or, and we get to tip the scales of Lady Justice. Point being that I want to introduce this new podcast to you, where we explore—no, better word, excavate, explicate, ah, explode! just such issues. Introducing: “Talkaday,” the new Essay Daily podcast around the What Happened project, in which I simply call up writers to talk about their day and how, whether oral or written, the words change things.

My first guest is John Bodine, an old student of mine, and the episode, “Detective on the Hunt for Meaning,” gets right to the heart of things. He wrote his What Happened piece almost a year ago positively waxing rhapsodic on the mushrooms sautéing in the pan, among other mere culinary delights exalted on an otherwise ordinary day. (I salivated a little while reading, especially when he plopped in the ground turkey.) And yet in the retelling of his most recent day on the phone to me, fell right back into the old habit we all do of giving the play-by-play as if montage, as if caricature, as if goes without saying. I did this, that, the other thing—why do we default to this “ordinary is ordinary” mode? How does writing put us into a space—a spaciousness—of appreciation, heightened attention on the lookout for something to matter? Do most things not matter, and only writing makes them so? I wonder; we wondered. (For the record, John thought I was accusing him of hypocrisy, writing one way and saying another, and yet I believe that tension between meaninglessness and meaning-making to be at the heart of this project, perhaps this whole scribbly practice.) 

So if you’ve ever wondered just what happens when you write about what happens, what magic there is in a day to be found with your (in my case) pen, this podcast may be for you. Each episode, no more than 24 minutes (as any day’s cutoff can seem arbitrary, if utterly predictable), dives into nothing less than what it means to live our lives, starting with the cooking and cleaning, walking the dog, sunlight (just now poking through those aforementioned rainclouds) and rain, etc., etc., the domestic, the ordinary, the daily. Because I suspect there’s some real wisdom to be had here, that if we can transform even the most banal into the miraculous with a few turns of phrase and the juiced-up feeling of storytelling, perhaps that alchemical power exists in us always. Perhaps we can, little by little, word by tiny word, learn to rewrite our lives on the fly, and open ourselves to being struck by each day as if never before (because truly never before, and never again). As I say this a bird—swallow maybe—cuts through the cloudy sky, wingtip arched over the distant mountain line, and is gone.

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