In The Real West Marginal Way: A Poet's Autobiography, Richard Hugo wrote:
"I often found the sources of poems in the lonely reaches of the world, the ignored, forlorn, and, to me, beautiful districts of cities, like the West Marginal Way area in Seattle, the sad small towns of Washington and Montana, the villages and countryside of Southern Italy, wherever I imagined life being lived as amateurishly as we had once played basketball."
Until reading that, I have never considered life being lived amateurishly and immediately thought, how else could we do it? Let me rephrase that. How else could I do it?
My best guess is that I have not been here before and if I had it was not in this form, not with this particular set of variables. Hugo's words help support my belief that (and I will keep this in the first person) I make it up as I go along. Each moment calls for the weighing of possibilities and options. I am able to make some choices based on past experience, prior knowledge, but the present, no matter how accurately it mirrors another time, remains unexplored territory.
Amateur. Of course. And with that status comes a forgiveness for blunders and missed cues. I interpret Hugo's phrase to mean he believes or imagines there are places, not his lonely reaches, where life is conducted more professionally, full of style, grace, aplomb, never a false step, never a wrong fork. I assumed, though may not any more, there were teeming islands of sophistication and insider coaching where life skills were honed and graduates set on a path of sure success. All steps firm and certain.
But that is simply polish, a sheen, a veneer. Etiquette is no preparation for crises of the soul. If you listen closely, as we watch those who promise us they have it all figured out, the sound you hear, and I'd know it anywhere, is whistling in the dark. I'm not convinced that any of us know how to do this.
To live the uncertainty without wailing, flailing, slobbering and needless drama is an art; some have an intuitive knack, may have managed to acquire a modicum of skill or restraint. Still, whatever the situation, we are probably all first-timers. The ragged, messy imperfection of honesty appeals to me so much more than false insistence of rightness.
In a long-ago life, married to the managing editor of a small town newspaper, I attended - front-row center - most community theater productions. Yes, from those seats I could see faint make-up smudges on the costumes. At times the dancing was more enthusiastic than precise, but like the earnest cast and director of Waiting for Guffman, heart transcended training.
I realize as I inexpertly tap-dance my brains out in what Mary Oliver calls "...my one wild and precious life," that amateurishly is my adverb, my level, my speed, my truth. Remember in The Avengers how they referred to Emma Peel as "a talented amateur?" I can only aspire.