3x Longer Than Intended

If you’ve peeked at my Now page you know I’ve been working (somewhat sporadically) on two pieces of fiction. Both are works-in-slow-progress. WISPS. Too slow.

After three months of daily blogging — 3x longer than I’d intended — I’m going to shift gears and spend some time with those projects. I may be back with excerpts here, or something more experimental. Poems, when I have one to share.

I’ll try not to go dark, but you know how it is.

Thanks for spending time with me. When something interesting happens, I’ll let you know.

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Not-Thinking

It’s not a zombie state. You’re not non-functional, or comatose.

It’s not stupidity. Not the absence of sense.

It doesn’t imply a disengagement. It’s actually quite the opposite of disengagement.

Not-thinking is what Buddhists call the natural state. We civilized people haven’t risen above it; we’ve fled from it.

Consider not-thinking as the zone. We’ve all experienced it. It’s the place we go when we’re immersed in a creative pursuit. The discursive mind settles, time disappears, and we’re simply present. In the flow. You’ve been there. You know.

Even writing, paradoxically, can be a non-thinking process, as any writer can attest who has ever had the words coming through them faster than they can type.

It’s elusive, but so is the ivory-billed woodpecker, once believed extinct. My old friend Ricky swears he saw one in a Kentucky woods one summer, and I don’t doubt he did.

Mike 2.0

Mike came back this week.

He’s been missing in action since the holidays, when he told me he was going in for surgery and wouldn’t be around for a while. Weeks turned into months, and the other morning I looked at my dwindling tea stash and thought, I wonder if Mike is doing okay.

“I have no way to check on him,” I said to my daughter as we prepped for the day’s lunch. “I don’t know his last name. What if his first name isn’t even ‘Mike’? What if he stole that name tag from someone and has been masquerading all this time? Maybe he’s a grifter.”

A vegan lunch grifter.

That was the day he showed up.

At his usual time, right after we opened, hoisting himself around on crutches.

“I just started driving again today,” he told me, and there was a lightness in his voice, in his face. He sat at a table near the kitchen, rather than in his usual spot near the door at the far end of the dining room. I brought him his plate. At the end of the meal, he gave me a box of tea in payment.

First day out driving, and this is where he came. That’s something, right there.

The Hubris Question

I was a child when I first heard someone pose what I have come to think of as the hubris question. You’ve heard it yourself: the question about the tree falling in the woods. If no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Only in a culture as disconnected from the natural world as ours could such a scenario be conjured up to illustrate the concept of sound waves. Any other culture — any sane culture — would immediately understand that if there is a woods, then there is always someone there to hear it.

Tens of thousands of someones. Millions of someones. In every woods.

Even the falling tree is someone.

It’s arrogant to think you have to be human to be someone.

 

Tinyletters

I like tinyletters. I subscribe to a couple, and am delighted every time one of them arrives in my inbox. Which is rather infrequently; the ones I subscribe to don’t seem to have any regular schedule. They just show up. Which just adds to the delight.

Manjula Martin’s three cents is my favorite right now. Probably because it just arrived.

Among the interesting and quirky things she shares — thoughts on the punk band Fugazi and book tours and what if you’re done doing the thing that brought you to this place — was a link to this column by Tess Taylor from Poets & Writers, in which Taylor interviewed three publicists to find out how writers might go about sharing their work with the world. The answers were surprising to me, which is one reason I’m sharing it with you.

The other reason is that, late in the piece, Taylor included a lovely line from a follow-up letter she wrote to one of her interviewees, publicist Lauren Cerand. Taylor was responding to a question Cerand likes to ask of writers seeking publicity: “What do you want that you don’t have?”

It’s such an important question, because success doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. We can’t assume that what I want is what you want. And sometimes we don’t know what we want. And sometimes we don’t want what we think we want. So it’s helpful to ponder and not just react.

Think on it. Sit with it. Write on it.

In her letter to Cerand, Taylor’s wrote,

“I want poetry that brings us back to the body, back to the breath, back to each other.”

This was Cerand’s reply:

“Why don’t you find a church or public space in your community and try to host a really simple family-friendly reading? Once a month, a kind of deeply community-inspired poetry outreach? (…) You could include music and food. People could relax.”

I swear, it’s like they’re having this conversation just for me.

Boomers & Stickers

There are boomers and there are stickers, wrote Wallace Stegner: those who need to go and those who need to stay. The boomers push on, restless and searching, the stickers linger, setting up towns and local governance.

My introduction to Stegner was Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. I’m not sure if this is where the boomer/sticker notion first surfaced; I suspect you’ll find it — at least thematically — in his fiction, as well. Over the years it’s been picked up by community-builders and church-builders and was the launching point for this lecture from Wendell Berry.

Most of those who reference the boomer/sticker dichotomy are in favor of stickers: people who put down roots and participate in the work of building local communities and local economies. Few seem to take the side of boomers, who are described by turns as opportunists, gold-diggers (literally), fortune-seekers, rootless, greedy.

It seems a little harsh to me, and I doubt that Stegner intended his binaries to be the last word on why humans stay or go. Surely people set out for the territories for reasons other than greed and acquisitiveness, just as those who stay don’t always do so out of any great affection for their hometowns. Sometimes folks just get stuck.

Personally, having lived for lots of years among the stickers, I have a certain soft spot for the ones who just gotta go.

I like this song by James McMurtry. It gets the point across.

“Flatter than a tabletop
makes you wonder why they stopped here
wagon must have lost a wheel
or they lacked ambition one.”