“Square one, my slate is clear
Rest your head on me my dear
It took a world of trouble, took a world of tears
It took a long time to get back here.” — “Square One,” Tom Petty
My hard drive crashed. I have a very smart friend who accepted my trusty Macbook Pro as a new patient, but he could not recover my data. I lost my entire canon — years of poetry, destined for eventual publication, a book draft, a year’s worth of this column, a folder of my professional work at the Planet, festivals and various magazines, some Chris Robinson Brotherhood concert recordings, innumerable, precious photos. You know. Everything.
Here’s where you get your fingers a-waggin’ and lecture me about the importance of backing everything up in more than one place. I know, I know. Hard lesson learned, believe you me.
The incident was surreal. I imagined a hole pierced in the skin of a pressurized container and all my words, smashed and broken and disordered, streaming through the hole, gone forever, somewhere in space. The effect left me, by turns, numb, bereft, empty, laughing maniacally, in tears, hopeless, cloaked in existential dread. I became certain nothing matters and that life is little more than a big, cosmic joke. And that realization is incredibly liberating. I’m sure once I get around to throwing money at someone who can extract the data from my failed hard drive, my generally optimistic outlook will return, this sad chapter forgotten. But really, if you have nothing, there is a weightlessness that feels amazing.
How often have we pondered starting over? Chucking what is now, for what could be. Who would we become? Who would be part of our lives? When I let my romantic side loose, I imagine plying U.S. highways and byways in a trusty vehicle, stopping where I want for as long as I want, before moving on again; no set destination, interaction with other humans as limited as possible.
My hard drive crash set me on my way. Before me now is the allegorical open road, the full tank of gas, a pile of CDs to listen to as I propel myself into … what? I haven’t written a single poem since “it” happened and this is the first column on my tabula. It’s hard to shake a feeling of hopelessness, that nothing matters and so what if it did? As it is, I’ve never been the kind of writer who minded the editor’s touch, so it’s not like I consider anything I’ve ever written indispensible. I’ve never felt as if my words were golden, untouchable. Edit away. My work has, more often than not, improved with deft editing. But my words being completely gone daddy gone is a jagged little pill to swallow. Why keep writing, my gloomier side wonders.
One friend suggested everything lost was stored in the Akashic records and that’s where I could recover my pearls. It’s an “energetic” record of everything that has and will happen, according to a website authored by Akemi G. A journey into the Hall of Akashic Records is not to be taken lightly, or just out of curiosity, the author advises. Enter into a meditative state, clear the mind of all thoughts and peruse one’s records. The author also suggests that the traveler “Say something like, ‘Let the energy of Love, Light, and Truth prevail on Earth. My spirit guides, please help me open my Akashic Records so that I may have the wisdom to live this life with more awareness and courage.’” Or, how about, I don’t care about any of my past lives; can I just get my poetry back? Or, can I learn to live this life without computers? It was an unexpected suggestion, and it’s interesting to know there is such a thing as Akashic Records, but I just don’t think I’m enlightened enough to enter the Hall. My life’s work, along with my past lives, will continue to languish unmolested.
On a more practical level, while I obsess over whether or not my hard drive can be coerced into releasing its data, I’ve overlooked something in the creative clutter of my writing life. Notebooks. Piles and piles of notebooks filled with my creative musings. Book parts, song lyrics (I’m gonna write a song that will deliver unto me mailbox money ‘til my dying day, oh yes I am.), poetry, ideas, turns of phrase, intoxicated musings, random thoughts, big ideas, maudlin journaling, my darkest secrets. The only thing that could make those books crash would be a catastrophe of the sort I’d rather not imagine. But there they are, tottering in dubiously balanced piles, filled with gallons of ink, page after page of possibility.
Given I have been writing for as long as I can remember, this latest technological calamity resulting in loss really only represents a fraction of my writing life. Though I’m embittered and discouraged now, there is little doubt in my mind that I will continue doing what I have always been compelled to do — put pen to paper and let my grizzled, laughing Muse have his way with me. My blank “hard drives” await. My slate is clear, but not for long.