About 8 years ago, I met a fella that, little did I know at the time, would turn into family faster than anyone else I’d ever met. In Washington D.C. for a poetry reading and a photography gig, we had the opportunity to go to the 2nd concert of this insanely talented guy, Gregory Alan Isakov, inside of a month, and what was more, we had the chance to meet up with him the morning before his show at the Lincoln Theater and wander around our nation’s capital for a time. I remember picking him up in our crappy rental car, driving around for about 35 minutes looking for a parking spot, and then immediately wandering into and out of coffee shops, pawn shops, and Busboys and Poets for lunch. I remember instantly, absolutely instantly, feeling understood, and like I met someone who saw the world as I saw the world, who wrote about it too, and who loved words as much as I did. Called ourselves “Word Nerds” from the get go, and would geek out about the power of single words, of phrases that felt like kicks to the guts, of the value of sad songs above any other kind, and more than anything else, we talked about this practice we both didn't realize we shared until that moment, but couldn't imagine our lives without: Window Staring. That’s what we called it then, that’s what we call it still, and it’s a habit we both use to create more of our work than probably anything else. Window starin’ friends, window starin’.
I don’t know how to explain it in any way that won’t sound rudely obvious or patronizingly simple, but it is literally just sitting, and staring out of a window. For a long, long time. Preferably whilst alone. Quietly. With sad songs playing in the background. This is window starin’ as we know it, and Gregory and I have probably employed it to write more of the songs, and poems, that you know and (hopefully) love to this day. We sit, we breathe, we stare out the windows, feel lonelier than we should, and the words arrive. For us, it’s the words, for us, it’s the melodies, for us, it’s the sound of them out loud. They pop into our minds, and they help make sense of the hum we both seem to always hear in the back of our brains. The never-ending buzz that life plants and we don’t know how to quiet in any other way than to write so much it empties us out. This is how we make sense of the world we know, this is how we relate to it, when relating feels next to impossible. This is the birthplace of the art in us. A window, a stare, and hours spent doing nothing else.
Art, I believe, is the equalizer of all things. Art is the way we not only relate to the world around us, but survive it, not only survive it, but show others how we do. These words, spanning now almost 20 years (just on the internet, 2 decades of publishing thoughts on the world wide webs), are a roadmap of how I survive, how I thrive in those beautiful moments that I do, how I love, how I ache, how I worry, how I fight. These words are the result of a life spent window staring, glancing out and watching the world pass by, watching these strange humans that wander into and out of my life, watching foreign landscapes and familiar streets. These words are the diary of my soul, and they are the art I know how to make, and they are everything to me. Everything.
Art, the great equalizer, the time traveler, the globe spinner, the shrinker of distances, the soother of these souls. For Gregory and I, art, and the window staring that bonded us long before we knew it would, art was the seed planted between two different men, separated by mountains and rivers, time and distance, circumstance and happenstance, and brought about a friendship that would lead to truth and hope, and eventually the mountains of Scotland. It lead to a first dance song that I promised Sarah before we even met the man, and for that, I am eternally thankful.
It’s a rare, rare thing for me to feel understood. Few people on this planet have ever made me feel like I am, and so when I find some rare soul that does make me feel this way, it’s like striking gold on some Alaskan river, three years before the rush to the Yukon. I realize, now, sitting here, I never would have screamed out Eureka, never woulda held that little gold nugget of understanding to the sky, had I never done the window staring, never made the art that united me to someone that got me, if for a moment, if for a life. This is why we’re here, I believe, to make the art that we need to make to show others the way we see this crazy place we call home. We’re here to create, and to use every drop of ourselves in our creations. We’re here to feel the loneliness, feel the heavy, the sorrow, the joy, and we’re here to use it to shape the creations we choose. You do not have to paint, you do not have to write, you do not have to sing, to dance, or to sculpt, you just have to find an art that you love, and you have to throw all the results of your window starin’ into it. There are no rules to this thing, there are no rhymes or reasons, there are no requirements other than this:
Be true to the art in you.
This is all I ask of you, and I will shout it to you from the riverbanks and seashores, I will call it down the mountainsides and through the glens soaked in rainfall. I will beg, I will plead, I will demand with all my silly heart, that you be true to the art inside yourself because you never, ever know who needs to see it, hear it, or experience it. You never know who it will bring into your life, how it will change your path, how it will shape you into who you’re meant to be. Let your art be your life, and let your life be your art, and be true to it. Please, be true to it. Let us see you, through the life you create, let us know you, through the art that sings your story.
Sit by your dim windows, they are waiting.
Sit by dim window
and try to write of this life
every single day.