Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Natalia has been with me for over forty-five years; Jess, over fifty.

Natalia and Jess have been my constant companions. They have accompanied me on journeys around the country and to foreign lands, accruing enough miles to circumnavigate the globe, twice. They’ve been there for every important event of my adult life. When I have needed them, in every instance, they have performed to the best of their ability.

I love them both dearly, and I want nothing for them but the best and fullest that life can offer.

Which is why it’s time for them to go.


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The Princess Gang rolled into the cul-de-sac on the same day Mr. B’s plum tree decided to bloom.

That’s the first line from a story that started flowing yesterday. Remembering, of course, that (say it with me) all first drafts are crap, it’ll obviously go through some revisions, but the important thing is that it was followed by a thousand words of a quiet little story that’s been pinballing around my brain for over a year.

The reason I share this is because nothing like this has happened for a long, long time.

Yes, I’ve written some fiction in the past handful of years. Most of it has been in posts on this very blog—vignettes, word imagery, poems—all meant for immediate consumption. I’ve also been slugging my way through a championship bout with a new novel which, though reportedly of good quality (especially for a first draft), has been the most difficult fiction project of my life. But a short story, a for-real short story? It’s been years. The last one I wrote was “The Book of Solomon.” It’s good, and it found a home in The Timberline Review, but I wrote that story years ago, and there has been zip-a-dee-doo-dah since.

Then yesterday: Boom. My pen began to work. My brain began to conjure. It was like my voice suddenly returned after a decade of muted trauma.

Why? (more…)

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I see a silver-lit night, full moon struggling to pierce slate-colored clouds. I see a ghostly crag, pale rocks rising above a dark, heathered moor. I see a woman in blue standing at its summit, bare feet on bare stone, hair loose, arms wide, waiting.

The clouds marshal their forces, focus their power. Winds rise, rumbling forward, and rain comes down in icy sheets. The storm builds, advancing on the crag.

She stands tall and closes her eyes, her nostrils scenting the moss and granite beneath her feet, and the wind-swept tang of a miles-off sea.

Glassy whips lash the sky. The storm clenches its fist. Heather bows beneath its blasted screams.

The woman turns, facing the storm as it thunders toward her on lightning limbs. She tilts back her head, bares her throat.

The wind belches a roaring laugh, sprinting toward its prey.

With a smile and fulsome intent she grabs the wind, bends its trajectory, twisting its path, coiling it around her summit. She reels it in, pulling it to her. She breathes it in, breathes in its power. Her eyes flash open and she sees the swirling clouds above, the vortex of her control. The wind is within her now, part of her. The wind’s laugh is now her laugh.

This is not a victory, the wind not a vanquished enemy. This is a joining, a strengthening, a fusion.

She and the storm are one.

Now, she is power. Now, she is strength.

Now, she is the storm.

La Push


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Godfather G

Thanks to those who’ve taken the time to follow these posts. It’s been a bittersweet journey, but a valuable one for me.

This week, I went down to help my close up shop on my father’s life. For a poor kid from the backwoods of western Marin, grandson of an Italian immigrant, a high-school dropout who left home at thirteen and slept above the lanes when he worked as a pin-setter at the local bowling alley, he did pretty well.

His life was filled with love and grief. He had four talented children, but saw one of them succumb to addiction. He loved two wives, but saw them both die before him. He did not have a great number of friends, but those he had he treasured deeply.

I will miss him. I already do.

But all his troubles are now become as smoke, leaving him once more free of pain and worry.

Ciao, Papa. And thanks.


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It was not until my high school years that my father talked to me of love. By that time, of course, I had succumbed to my fair share of crushes, passions, and fascinations (including one young girl who treated me so ill that I carved “LD” into the sole of my boot, that I might grind her initials into the dust with every step I took.)

By my sixteenth winter, though, the tenor of my heart had grown beyond such childish attitudes and sought more meaningful relations. One girl in particular had affected me deeply, and though my feelings were built of fragile glass, it was my first true adult love and I felt it as deeply and soberly as I was able. The day it all crashed down, the day that I at last admitted to myself the futility of my unrequited suit, I retreated to the blue shadows of my downstairs room, threw myself upon my bed, and wept.

Hours later, after I’d grown quiet, my father came downstairs and knocked upon my door. He came in, sat on the edge of the bed and, unexpectedly, he asked me about the girl: who was she? how did I feel about her?

I told him all.

When I was done, he did not try to cheer me up. He did not say I would “get over it” or that there were other fish in the sea. He did not tell me that the pain I felt was just a phase or that it was anything less than love. What he told me was:

“When your heart gets broken, it’s bigger when it heals, and the next time you fall in love, it will be deeper and stronger than the time before.”

This has proven true. Each time that I have loved it’s been the deepest, strongest, greatest thing I’ve known. Each time, the newer love puts former passions all to shame for pallid renderings of true adoration. And each time, I wonder if before I ever loved at all. The dark side of this lesson, though, is that with deeper love comes the risk of greater pain, but if not for love, what else is worth the risk?


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As a skinny, myopic boy with a bookish nature and a talent with the violin, I was an easy — if not an obligatory — target for the stronger boys. I was punched and teased and bullied and beaten on the school tarmac. Several times I was “called out” to fight in the churchyard: appointments I never kept but instead walked past, shamefacedly heading home while the gathered boys jeered. I kept these trials to myself — to admit them was to admit my weakness — but one evening after one such “missed” appointment I could contain it no longer. I complained to my father, bemoaning the fact that I would never be as strong as those other boys. My father did not teach me to box nor puff me up with empty promises. Instead, he told me truly:

“There will always be someone smarter or richer or stronger than you. Do your best, and you can be happy with who you are and what you have.”

At first I rejected those words and their unflinching precision, but they haunted me through the months that followed. I refused to accept, at the age of nine, that I would never achieve what I perceived to be the only purpose in life: to be the best at something. As I wrestled with the concept, though, I realized that logically there could only be one person who was the richest in all the world, one who was smartest, one who was strongest; the vast majority of us could never be the best. To be the best, I saw, was a not a reasonable goal, whereas working to do one’s best could bring satisfaction in many ways.

It’s a lesson I must still relearn periodically.


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A child of the ’60s, I grew up in a world struggling to realize the dream of racial equality. At school, my teachers pried at the doors of my Wonder Bread world to show me the truth of a color-conscious reality. My family, active in the civil rights movement, counted among its friends families both white and black and some that were mixed. Playing with kids of different skin color and ethnic backgrounds, I quickly learned that these all were superficial traits and that, beyond them, we are all very much the same.

The black-and-white TV showed us black men and white men as they spoke, marched, fought, preached, protested, and prayed in an ongoing dialogue that was peaceful at times, violent at others. Then, in the spring of ’68, that dialogue turned deadly. My family watched as the news of blood and death spilled out into our living room. At one point, as cities burned and people ran riot, my father turned to me and said:

“You are one of the luckiest people in the world. You were born white, you were born male, and you were born in America. This gives you opportunities that others will never have. Always remember that, and be grateful.”

His words puzzled me and even scared me a little. They described a world with a built-in unfairness that I neither understood nor believed. Alerted to its presence, though, in time I saw that what my father said was true. I am lucky. I do have more than many, simply because I am a white American male. And yes, it is unfair. Deeply unfair.

This knowledge did not rack me with guilt, though. Rather, it heightened my awareness, taught me to see the opportunities before me, and to appreciate them. With regard to others, I learned to empathize with the less fortunate. Women, people of color, LGBT folks, immigrants, they all face challenges I do not, challenges maintained and bolstered by a society controlled by people who look like me. I became determined never to judge someone by appearance or background, but only by their individual actions and words. I also decided to support every proposal designed to even the scales.

This past year, though, I’ve learned something new. I’ve learned that my view of the world is still shaded by my own inherent privilege. Unequal treatment is still rampant, and white hatred of “The Other,” after lurking in back rooms for decades, is now taken up as a rallying cry. Any progress made toward equality in one area has been offset by burgeoning bigotry in another, and I despair.

I know we can be better than this; I’m just not sure we want to be.


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