“And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.”— Rumi
Empathy bubbled at the presence of tears in Waylon’s eyes, and my own baby-blues glistened.
Today’s community meeting was sobering. Elephant Journal is in trouble. The inevitable march of big business is strangling my beloved publication.
When I first began writing for Elephant Journal, it was like being in a new love.
I was infatuated.
I gobbled up Waylon Lewis’s first book, Things I Would like to Do with You. I posted a piece on the website’s Grass Roots section titled, “Happiness & Boundaries Go Hand in Hand.” In under 24 hours it got more reads than anything (up to then) that I had written.
I was enthralled! And I quickly became hooked.
Of course, the next two pieces I submitted did not hit the mark and I felt (as so many of us have) that frustration of rejection. I couldn’t tell the difference between what I first wrote and my subsequent submissions. My own editorial nose had not yet been refined. I know now it was about relevance, relatability, and emotionalism. (All things I later learned about in Elephant Academy).
What I did know was that not being promoted (where an Eleditor selects your piece, edits it, and adds it to the Magazine, or public section, of the Elephant Journal website) stung a little, but that I wasn’t about to quit.
For as long as I had been writing—journaling, blogging, and babbling on social media—until I submitted that piece to Elephant, I had never had a significant audience. And as intimidating as that felt, I liked it.
So I joined the Elephant Journal Writers Academy in the fall of 2019.
I went through my first academy like a whirlwind—writing, commenting, editing, and grabbing up community like a shipwrecked sailor who had not only found land, but purpose.
That pace was not sustainable, but as any good relationship will do, the infatuation faded and genuine care emerged. We dialogued, we argued. I even got into with Waylon, our brave captain and editor-in-chief. I found humans who are (as promised) not perfect, but genuinely good people who want to be of benefit to this tired and broken hearted world.
Autumn is approaching. Here in my quiet little mountain town in Montana, the day started cool with golden leaves drifting. It reminds me that it was just three years ago that I felt this blooming love for writing, a love that has always been there but that was experiencing a resurrection.
And that is what I wish for Elephant now—that it will be resurrected.
The tricky thing about resurrection is that it requires that we fully embrace the loss for the sacrament to complete its cycle, and that is neither happy nor easy.
We who love to write do so for the joy or, perhaps more accurately, the imperative of sharing our words. Elephant Journal and its creator, Waylon, have given us a place to do this. We come here because we love words and we want to be of benefit.
Sure, there are other sites where we can slap down some syllables, hit publish, and maybe even make a few bucks, but Elephant is different. It is, as Waylon loves to say: “Community.”
And it is the community that I believe will see us through this transition. Not the looky-loos, but the feet on the ground, pen in hand, heart to heart community who cares what happens.
Writing for Elephant has helped me to uncover what matters and to give that a voice.
And I care. To my roots—I care. Though I now drift in and out more than when I first fell in love with this community, I like to think we—Waylon, me, and the Eleditors, the writers, and the people who I am now connected to through the words I have shared—have a friendship.
“We got a friendship, the kind that lasts a lifetime, through all the years I know you are a friend of mine.” ~ Chris Stapleton
And it’s one of those friendships where we can not talk everyday, or maybe not for weeks, but when we do that connection is there. It’s there because we have put in our time, our effort, and our care.
We (the ones who are still here) are the ones who care. Then there are the ones who have yet to come, the ones who (like me) will come across some random Instagram post that sparks some remembering. Who will click a link, buy a book, read an article, develop a geek-crush, sign up for a course. Grow a huge heart-on writing and will spill ink and blood because we can’t help ourselves.
It’s scary. It’s good. It’s real to write in this way. And we know it matters.
For some, that spark will fade but for others it will only grow, as it did for me. And even when it wanes (temporarily) it still glimmers warmly.
I am warmed by my care for this community, even when I’m bored or uninspired. I know it is here for me and whether it’s through reading someone’s article that just happens to sing to me at that moment, or sharing a few encouraging words with another writer or my editor (because I’ve been here long enough that I have one) I know that, again and again, my dedication to this space and to my craft will be resurrected.
I feel a sad at the falling of leaves as autumn approaches. I always do.
We need to mourn change, we need to celebrate what is eternal, and we need to tend what is perennial. Some flowers and bushes need to be intensely pruned as winter approaches so as to preserve the integrity of the body of the plant and to conserve energy for the roots.
If we only love when life is in bloom, we miss the entire season in which we can care, but worse than that, we forget the magic of what is born from the roots.
I will not lie, I love a little glamor. I love riotous new beginnings and first kisses and I will never forget that first email I got from Elephant: “We’re paying our best writers, and you’re one of them! Congrats!” Holy hell! That was the day I got to claim being a professional writer.
I believe in this community, its soul, and its essence.
I believe in Waylon and his mission “to be of benefit.” I believe in the editors, the hundreds of writers who have poured out blood, sweat, smiles, and tears over the years.
And ultimately: I believe in the goodness, strength, and resilience of Elephant Journal.