If It Breaks

Was it ever the case that the times weren’t hard and the money wasn’t short? So asked Emerson, friend of Henry by the Pond, gentle scold and scholar. I remind myself of this when the times feel too hard, the money too short.

The cicadas thrum in the humid August evening and the air conditioning kicks in. Luxury.

A decade ago this fall, as I approached a Significant Birthday, I was hard at work on a book. It was to be my first, and I was determined to publish it before that birthday. It didn’t need to be great. It didn’t need to be well-received. It just had to be done.

It got done.

I’ve published two others since then. It’s a thing. Like getting a tattoo. Once you have one, you can’t help but want more. Or so I hear.

I like words, strung out along the page, making meaning where they can, meeting up with a reader and making yet another meaning. Different, because we are all so very different, yet so much the same, at least in our love for words and our desire to inhabit a creative life.

What is that, a creative life?

My friend Eric carves bears out of giant logs. Every so often he and his spouse load up a trailer and take his chainsaw bears to a flea market in Louisville to sell them. I don’t think he’s motivated by the prospect of a sale when he’s carving. I think he carves to carve. And then there are suddenly all these bears, and a trip to Louisville is in order.

I think it’s like that with words, too. That there are suddenly so many of them, and a book is in order.

When I was painting more, my paintings would accumulate until there was no room in the house for them. What then? Rather than rent a storage unit or give them all away, I opened a little gallery. In it I put my own paintings and the paintings and artwork of friends. Chainsaw-bear Eric contributed a sculpture of a bird. With an egg. When he brought it to me I didn’t realize the egg was an actual egg, it’s innards blown out through a tiny pinhole, leaving only the perfect, delicate shell.

Which I dropped.

Yes.

He came back with another egg. Because that’s what you do.

Times are always hard. Money is always short. Make the art anyway. If it breaks, make it again. Find another egg.

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