You will all remember that my method here is to steal words from people much smarter than myself.
Mary Ruefle remembers “a reading WS Merwin gave in a tiny chapel, with the audience sitting in the pews, and how after a while we were all lost in a suspension of time—I know I was—and after the reading there was a Q & A and someone asked a bizarre question, she asked what time it was., and Merwin looked at the clock (there was a clock on the wall) and every one of us could see that it had stopped, it had stopped in the middle of his reading, literal proof of what was already felt to be true, this spectacular thing, the dream of all poetry, to cut a hole in time.”
According to Jim Harrison the difference between a poet and a non-poet is that a poet, Shakespeare, describes aging like this: “Devouring Time, blunt thou thy lion’s paws.” Whereas I look in the mirror and think, "I look crappier every day."
In this Youtube video my wife, Aisha, and I like, a parent is asking a small child what she wants to do when she grows up. The child is eating and not particularly engaged in the conversation, much more focused on eating.
“What do you mean?” she asks her mom.
“What do you want to do when you grow up?” the mom asks again.
“Take care of monkeys,” the kid answers with a dismissive tone, as in, isn’t it obvious?
“The aim of literature is the creation of a strange object covered with fur that breaks your heart,” so said Donald Barthelme.
Aisha sometimes listens to TED talks in the middle of the night to ward off insomnia. Random phrases embed themselves in my dreams: “Escalation of commitment to a losing course of action.” Can apply to mountaineering or the writing life, as you please.
Kerouac advised: “To be dark solitary eye-nerve watcher/Of the world’s whirling diamond.
“There’s something really interesting about this notion that there is a below the surface part of the mind participating in the writing of the story, and that what we call “process” is about getting out of the way of that part of the mind,” according to George Saunders.
“How chapped would his lips have to be to take a smudge of it from her mouthy tube?”
I read this somewhere and loved it, noted it, but forgot to write down the source.
“So much of what is lost in the shipwreck . What remains are fragments, and if you don’t hold on to them, the sea will take them, too.” ~ Rachel Cusk.
•Any one who has seen me do battle with technology knows that we, tech and I, have a fraught relationship. Alexa, for example, often does not respond to my requests.
After three attempts, I’m like, “Alexa turn the fucking radio off.” My wife says I’m mean to her, that’s why she doesn’t pay any attention to me. Aisha thanks Alexa. Alexa responds, “You’re very welcome, Aisha. Want to hear a joke?” When Aisha says yes, she wants to hear a joke, Alexa says, “Okey dokey artichokey,” and then proceeds with the joke. I try to be as cool as Alexa when I text my wife, but instead of “Okey dokey artichokey” I am auto corrected to “Okay. Donkey Artichoke.”
On facebook there is photograph of a couple and their two teen aged children standing on the shore wearing wetsuits and standing next to surfboards. The accompanying text:
“This fall has been the worst. Our marriage exploded and our family is broken and we don’t quite yet know what it will look like in the future.
I intended to post this picture and say if you’re struggling and wonder why everyone’s life looks like a postcard while yours is full of challenges, it’s because Facebook lies.
But this weekend I was in Banff reading from This One Wild Life and I thought everything in that book is true too. It’s us at our best to be sure, but it’s true.
In This One Wild Life I say something to the effect that any attempt at narrative involves fabricating, and really life is a series of standalone events (the attempt to stitch them together in a coherent and meaningful way relies on fiction). This post card standalone moment below is just as true as the miserable standalone moment we find ourselves in right now. I have infinite gratitude to all family and friends who have been supporting all four of us and our sad sad hearts.”
In the middle of the night my wife is listening to New Yorker podcasts and I hear the words “How chapped would his lips have to be to take a smudge of it from her mouthy tube?” Which is how I know it was written by Sarah Braunstein in a story called “Superstition.”
To end on a hopeful note: In 1500 the population of humpback whales was 125,000.
By 1966 it had shrunk to 10,000. A worldwide ban on whaling was imposed.In 2019 the humpback population is 135,000 and 9 of the 14 populations have been taken of the endangered species list.
Between the pandemic and the program ending, more hope:
“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”–Howard Zinn
I don’t really follow tennis very closely, but somehow every year I find myself tuned into the French Open, where I heard the announcer Pam Shriver say this: “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
Thanks for taking the risk, with us.
And take care of those monkeys~
As spoken to The UAA MFA program on July 10, 2022.
As spoken to The UAA MFA program on July 10, 2022.