On Earth and Other Places

It’s been about four hours since I sat down to work and I’ve hit my threshold for world news three times, the last heralding a thick nausea that sits on the back of my stomach as if my spine were a park bench on which someone’d spilled ten gallons of sickly black paint.  There’s only so much I can read about Trump’s evil nonsense bringing us ever closer to an apocalypse, only so much I can take of newly threatened, endangered, or extinct species.

So I’m grateful that my work is done for now.  The skies are blackening and the storm is rolling in, and all I have to do is sit and watch it come.

There are good things in the world.  There are friends and loved ones, scientific discovers, good films, better books.  It’s spring here, so there are buds and flowers and a thickness to the air that bolsters my lungs even as it closes my sinuses.  It seems important to hold on to the good, even though they could be swept away by one errant, arrogant tweet.  Perhaps its ephemeral nature is the reason holding onto the good is so important.

Trying not to mope is exhausting, but giving into it is worse.  I am trying.

Earth Day is this weekend.  I won’t be here to celebrate it, so I’ve started early by rescuing what has turned out to be an inordinate number of trees from the yard in preparation of laying out the new vegetable plots.  I’ve run out of soil for pots, so it seems now is a good time to flip my compost.  I’ll save it for tomorrow, after the rains have left.

I won’t be celebrating, but I will be thinking of the environment when I join the Science March on D.C. this weekend.  I won’t be carrying a sign as anything pithy seems inappropriate to my sensibilities, and practically, I loathe holding things.  Save for weapons, but I’m not sure dragging a sword, arnis stick, or axe would send the right message, even if that message were painted straight on it.

I’m having trouble keeping my focus, the wind has turned to a constant breeze and I can smell the wetness on it.  It smells lush, and behind it I can feel the prickle of premature lighting at the back of my nose.  My senses are almost overwhelming, what I took for my stomach has me distracted, slightly stupefied.

I missed writing.  I’ve done so little of it lately, at least of my own, things I’d want to read.  I write all the time for work, but while the job itself is quite rewarding, the writing aspect is not.  Those scant few belonging to my small following can attest to my distaste for paraphrasing in an attempt to appeal to a greater audience.  Even my sentence explaining it rung pretentious.  So to write again, and entirely for myself feels like the release of a muscle I hadn’t known was cramping.  A balled fist under my skin for the last four months.

Perhaps I seem arrogant, verbose, that my writing is over-wrought.   Does that matter?  I spent so long thinking of what my writing could do for me, what secondary good could come of it.  There had to be some direct recompense, something that even the squares would acknowledge as success.  But where was that in keeping up a blog with so few readers?  How could it be monetized?  And if I were to do so, what was the point with fewer than a thousand, fewer than half of half that?  So I’d battle against myself.

I am, and have been tired since november.  Writing is hard, and often tiring.  I would begin with the admonishment that I must write.  Then I’d push it away, or sit down to try and nothing would come.  Then would come the guilt, and another attempt.  That would usually result in a draft too bitter to publish or too incomplete to make sense to even me a few days later.  To pacify the guilt, I’d remind myself that this was not my job, that no one paid me for this.  And I’d become complacent.  I didn’t accept that I hadn’t written, but it didn’t plague me as it would have in the past.  So, by and by, I let it go.

Now, writing again, I see the folly in that, all of that.  The reward is the act itself.  I’d decided not to breath because no one rewarded me for doing it, and had gone a little necrotic for the stupidity.

So, again I say, it’s good to be back.

On top of that, there is this: 20170420_164918

It came in the mail for me today.  Now, if I can turn this singular writing instance into a sequence, perhaps we’ll see what’s inside.


July, July

The air is perfumed by the oncoming rain.  The sky is dark enough for me to see without squinting.  Sleep and fruitless travel wasted my morning, but then was brighter, so the day begins as I feel it did, beginning at one, after a late breakfast of leftovers: leftover meat, leftover vegetables, leftover coffee, and thoughts.  Leftover ache from my teeth to my heels, intermittent, some muscles strained, others merely exercised.  The yard is half way clear.

I had hoped to clear the other half before the rains would come, the weather widget on my phone delayed the fall until this evening, but practicality, reality, demonstrates tiny droplets against my skin and windows.

I’d bought some vegetables months ago, before I’d let the yard go native, them consumed along with the flagstones and the footpaths so that only a wild meadow-scape remained.

My trees are suffering from the heat and neglect, from my forgetfulness egged on by bramble making no path to the spruce’s stump where sit the next generation of trees and herbs.

I’d decided to let the yard go, wanted to encourage the wildlife pushed out from every other corner to congregate here, but only a few transient birds and one drowned mouse every manifested.  One bird built its nest at the base of my now nearly leafless Japanese maple, only to live a week and a half before the nest was raided and the babies killed.  The pale green eggshell I’d thought to save went missing a day after I’d found the chicks’ bodies.  Yesterday I found the nest, half crushed and on its side.

I began clearing indiscriminately, tearing weeds out by the fistsfulls in an effort to make a path to the stump.  As the day grew on, my tearing become more specific, I began leaving everything that was, or would soon flower, reminded by a wasp of the bees’ needs for sustenance.  I made the fifteen feet to the stump, and doubled back, then circled it.  I pushed on to the fence to find my forgotten vegetables, not exactly thriving, but much better for their neglect than I thought possible.

I carefully extricated the giant plants and their tiny pots and laid them gently on my porch.  I worked back to the house and back to the fence, until a full half of the yard returned to something apparently so.  I promised myself I’d stop when it grew dark, and then began sorting compost at eight-thirty.

When it was so dark I couldn’t see the difference between an empty strainer and a full one, when I filled it by shape without really seeing the details, the sky caught fire, turned orange, as if the clouds had ignited.

Soaked from shoulders to the thighs, dirty and muddied and spattered with compost, weeds stuck on by sweet and friction, I crossed to the river side to watch the sun fall.  It had crossed behind the mountains, but the sky and the river glowed bright, an autumn sunset in the middle of summer.  I watched as the colors changed slowly, intensified as they condensed into a smaller and smaller portion of the sky.

I made errant conversation with two passers by as we all marveled at the sunset.  It was the first I’d spoken aloud that day.

They passed and I sat, the sun fell further and the sky went grey.  My skin began to pickle, the sweat and salt chilling me against the breeze.

I dragged myself from the stone black sky to the shadow framed yard, and put away my tools, covered my compost and soil.

I ate and drank and went to sleep, thinking little of anything, and remembering less.

All Those God Damned Hats

“Jack of all trades” is the pessimistic kin of the Renaissance man, or person, if we’re changing idioms for the sake of inclusiveness.  I’ve frequently heard the former used as a compliment, I assume by those who don’t know the second half of the epithet, “master of none.”

I was messaging with a friend today and I mentioned to her that I’d finally submitted some of my jewelry for a local museum shop’s consideration.  This eventually lead me to declare that I’d only ever sold two pieces (that I can recall) in my entire career as a jeweler, a ring and a set of earrings.  I explained that a good deal of what pushed me out of metalworking was my inability to sell myself, that I grew disheartened at the thought of making new things when I had old ones that hadn’t sold.  Metalwork had become one of many sets of skills I’ve relegated to conversational mention but little practical pursuit.

I was then struck by the realization that I’ve only been published in three places.  Further research proved my memory to be as shoddy as ever, but still, the fear of illegitimacy remained.  I told my friend that I simply didn’t want to be irrelevant.

Definition has been on my mind and in my conversations much of late.  I asked the community pool about writing and got supportive answers.  But any one with self doubts can just as adroitly tell you that the assurances of others, though welcome, doesn’t solve the worrisome personal riddle.

Mary and I tried to define what it was to be a writer, she the more egalitarian, me the elitist.  But we didn’t resolve it, I’m sure no one ever has, successfully.

What of the people who freely pigeonhole themselves?  The rocker in the uniform of carefully selected casual clothes, the artist always sure to carry a bit of paint or a charcoal smudge.  The writer who goes to coffee shops to clatter away loudly enough on the keys to make those around him listen.  Does their sureness lessen or bolster them?  That I’ve never been able, or ever wanted, to select a singular role for myself make me more or less? 

I envy those who can unashamedly declare themselves something.  For me it’s a matter of clinical definition and strong personal opinion.  I wasn’t a writer until I’d been published and I wasn’t an artist until I’d sold a piece.

There’s no end point to this.  No absolutes available.  The danger of self-reflection is always the same, for a moment seeing that there’s no base beneath you, that the solid precepts around which you’ve built your life are a mobius strip, at best, or worse, an untethered bundle of beliefs and descriptions floating nebulously over nothing.

A baseless thought is worthless.  An unquestioned or unanswerable belief is worse than none at all.  So I won’t say I’m a man who typed 28,000 words on a dare.  I won’t say I’m someone who owns a lot of tools and once used them to make jewelry.  I will not be a set of disconnects floating in a void.

I am a writer because I write.  I am a metalsmith because I still do.  I am no jack of trades.

I am a Renaissance man.