Category Archives: Writing

Loss

She’s gone,
A tragic accident.
Her loss is incomprehensible.
She’s gone.

Today the sun has risen, the clouds race.
Rain moves in and across, and the racing clouds again reveal the afternoon sun.
Tonight the moon and stars will rise again.
Still in the field of time, all moves forward.

Helping loved ones absorb the loss,
We hurt, and look for the pieces of what has broken, and reflect.
It is a mystery, how this could happen, from nowhere, to one with such a long future.
What could have been, will not – and for that the grief comes hard.
What was, was good – and for having had it,
We give thanks, look back with longing, and smile through tears.

DP Challenge: Lakeside Contemplation

Knick knelt next to the lakeshore, then sat back on the slab of limestone.  It was cold, sucking the heat from him, and it felt as if it could absorb every last bit that his body would give up, if he allowed himself to sit there long enough.

The breeze was light, almost imperceptible, but still there was a slight chop on the water, advancing toward him from the other side, straight down the long axis of the lake.  He knew the lake was about 4 or 5 miles long in that direction, and he considered the time it took the air brushing his face to traverse that open water.  Did the air give its heat to the water over that span, or was it warmed by the water?  The water was calm but for that slight chop, and as he looked across the water he thought of those dioramas you could buy at the museum gift shop, the type that are built with colored oil and water to highlight the fluidity of immiscible interfaces, in that case incompatible liquids.  Here, he was in the diorama, a part of the display on the edge of the gas/liquid phase interface, and the water waves were being driven to him by an unseeable but no less substantial light breeze.  He had to focus to visualize it, but he recognized that the shape of the air matched and exactly fit the shape of the water’s surface, ripple for ripple, wave for wave.

He tried to note the exact point where the waterline met the shore, and noticed that although the surface of the lake was quite calm, the exact edge of the water was in constant motion.   The air in motion across the water, and the boundary properties of the air and water interface (both materials viscous to some degree), air pushing water like a hand smoothing wrinkles on a bedsheet.  Visualizing a bobber on the water’s edge, just a molecule or two in size, it rose and fell as the tiny waves approached the sand and fine gravel of the shoreline, rising, cresting a miniature crest, and receding.

Then he noticed the motion of the tiny pieces of gravel at the water’s edge, so small they were nearly sand, but by inspection they appeared to be small pieces of rock or zebra mussel shells.  Every few seconds a tiny wave would build, crest, and break, and all along the four-foot stretch of shoreline where he sat, the tiny rocks and shell fragments would roll and tumble.  As each wave built and crested, they’d be borne up, not floating, but riding the ascension of the water volume, and as each tiny wave broke and receded, they would land back on the rest of the aggregate composing the shoreline, and would frantically roll and tumble, drawn down and out by the infinitesimal rip.

The tumble of these particles drew him in and down until he empathized and could conceive to experience their motion.  They tumbled and bounced like boulders, and at the right scale he imagined he would hear the knocking of rock on rock as they rolled back down to be lifted and carried again with the next wave.

All this happened silently to his ear.  It would have been invisible to his eye, as well, had he not sat down here and inspected in such detail, drawn by the fine motion of the water on the shoreline.  But he imagined then the crashing and the pounding sounds, down at the level of these breakers and boulders, water lifting and tossing and crashing, boulders knocking and bouncing and breaking.  This was happening all up and down the shoreline on this side of the lake, a deafening realization as he continued to imagine placing himself at that level.

January run in Michigan

A mid-Saturday run on a cold, radiant, bluebird January day.  I run on the road, facing oncoming cars, and jump the slick ice on the road’s edge as each one approaches, tap-dancing onto the crusty snow that offers enough traction to keep my feet from going out from underneath.  It’s a great counterpoint to the limited range of motion of a fairer-weather run, random sidesteps to keep the legs and hips guessing, and opportunities to get the knees pumping just a little higher than my typical loping gait.

The bare trees show their skeletal genius – how they’ve grown and spread to fill the volume they’ve been allotted by chance of location, and the limits of gravity and capillary sap transmission, maximizing exposure for their leaves.

Down the hill to the frozen lake, the middle one of Three Lakes, a single ice-fisherman spending his noontime as Dad would have, occasionally adding another bluegill or perch to the bucket on the ice.  I wonder if he’s enjoying the sun, or would prefer more overcast — it’s pretty bright out there surrounded by all that reflection.  I reflect on how we’re two people, each alone, each drawn to the water for our own recreations.

Back up the hill again and home.  Radiant blue, cold breeze, matched rhythm of breath and footfalls, breath-moisture condensed on beard, and the prana of warm energy circulating.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

“The sublime is rendered by prodigious power or by enormous space: when you reach a mountaintop, for instance, and the world breaks open: a motif that is used in Buddhist art a great deal, and the reason temples are put on the top of hills.  In Kyoto, there are gardens where you are screened from the expanding view while climbing, and suddenly – bing! – the whole vista opens up before you.  That’s sublimity.  So, power and space are two renditions of sublimity, and in both cases, the ego is diminished.  It’s strange: the less there is of you, the more you experience the sublime.”

Reading this, it seems true by examination.  We’ve all had these kinds of experiences.  On the mountaintop, or looking out over a seemingly infinite body of water, or finding yourself on a dark lake on a clear night with the full moon on the water or the Milky Way arcing overhead, the awesome awareness of our own powerlessness and insignificance is the source of a sublime feeling of expansive connectedness.  I witnessed the birth of my girls and am forever struck by the mystery of such infinite complexity, driven so repeatably; everyday miracles of stunning scale, countless times a every day, everywhere on Earth.

How easily, though, we slip back into the ego-centric.  Once back down from the mountain, back in the Real World, we’re self-concerned again.  Back to work on Monday, with the demands, deadlines, and personalities that we engage and entangle with.  That was a cool experience, but this is the Real World and I have to feed my family, after all.

Art and meditation and contemplation allow access to that ego-reduced experience of the profound, for those of us who can’t go on vacation and climb a mountain every day.  A shared moment with a family member or friend, a painting or a piece of music, a well-written metaphor, quiet minutes looking at a tree or looking inward with eyes closed.

“It’s strange: the less there is of you, the more you experience the sublime.”

Quotation from ‘Reflections on the Art of Living, A Joseph Campbell Companion,’ page 136.

Saturday morning muse

First Saturday morning of the school year, basking in the togetherness and at-homeness of it all.

There’s much to be done today – in fact it’s one of those days where there’s a huge Lazy Susan of ideas, opportunities and necessities spinning in my head, and I can’t quite bring myself to stop it and pick the one thing to be done next.

One thing’s certain, that I’m continually haunted and pursued by the need to dedicate time and effort to a writing practice.  I find myself wishing for foul weather, which would force downward my available options and I could feel good about retreating to the new office I’m creating downstairs.  I tell myself we need to follow through on plans to create living-room space in the adjoining big room downstairs so I can still be near the ladies while I pound away at this new lifestyle.  Wait, I know! – I need a whiteboard in that office so I can really get going, mind-mapping stuff, plotting and planning.

“Just shut up and write”, they tell me, so I turn and tell that to myself.

OK – right after I work on this bike.

Old school roadie on the stand – extreme makeover Saturday

An evening on the writer’s block

Down on the writer’s block, there was a character living out the summer in a second floor studio.

2nd floor studio, writer’s block

His neighbor next door had the one-bedroom apartment, equipped with a window air unit.  He knew this from observation of the building from the street, but had taken care to avoid any interaction with his neighbor.  His studio had just the single window and no air.  The second floor drew the spent, stale, warm air from the antique furniture shop below. Some of it passed through when he opened the window, smelling of dust and old homes, but he never felt perceptible flow or fresh air without putting his head outside.  He’d lain awake many nights that hot summer, listening to the window unit kick on to cool the bedroom in the apartment next door.  It was hot again tonight, but the summer had been dry, so bugs weren’t a problem. The noises from the park across the way helped him remember what drove him here and what he needed to resolve before moving on.

Refocusing from the park, down on the street below he noticed a tourist with a camera.  The tourist took aim at his building for a few seconds, looked at the LCD on the back of his camera, and aimed again. He moved urgently, deftly back into the shadows to avoid being exposed to his lens.   The tourist checked his LCD a second time, and then wandered with some dim purpose toward the park – apparently another shiftless amateur photographer trying out his new toy.

Nevertheless, he hoped he hadn’t been spotted in the window.

Why He Wrote (…and why I should write more)

Why I Write: George Orwell on an Authors 4 Main Motives – Maria Popova – The Atlantic.

I find this fascinating, not least because of the source.  Orwell these days is such a monolith that it’s intriguing to find him here describing the very human motivations for his work.

The item on his list that strikes me here is political purpose, writing out of a desire to ‘alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.’  Politics in our time leaves me with such a feeling of bitterness.  Debates are constrained within bounds deemed reasonable by the big underwriters of our governments.  We don’t have serious conversations on what should be huge topics of our time; war, the role of government in ensuring the best life for all of its citizens, financialization, assault weapon libertarianism, and so on.  Because the terms of debate have already been fixed, only a narrow range of opinions are considered acceptable by the clique.

Of, by and for the people seems to have left the building some time ago.

I look forward to picking up a copy of Orwell’s ‘Why I Write’ – I guess I might have something to say too.