Writing Practice 11/1/2018 – Write about cats

Write about cats…

Nobody can tell me that ghosts don’t exist. Because I’ve seen cats. Have you ever been watching a cat, just sitting in the hallway, and all of a sudden it takes off like bullet out of a gun? Ricochets of a wall, bounds down the stairs and back up, bounces over the sofa, up on top of the counter, knocks over three vases and six cups onto the floor, scrambles like hell on the marble surface, then with one leap lands on top of the chair, where she stops on a dime, goes from sixty to zero in 0.7 seconds, and proceeds to lick her paw like nothing happened. Yeah, she saw ghosts, probably two or three, that spooked her sideways and when she was done destroying the house those ghosts had seen enough, they’d gotten their entertainment for the afternoon, so they disappeared and as soon as they did your cat went back to normal.

Cats are fickle too, they like you one day and claw the hell out of your leg the next They want attention when they want it, fuck you if you’re doing something else right then, they need you to scratch behind their ears, or on their hops, or under their chin.

And you’ll do it, too, You could be ass-deep in something, like a six-nation International crisis affecting the lives of sixteen million people, threatened with nuclear winter or a Zika outbreak or a huge meteor is only one hour from hitting the ground, and you know you’ll stop and take 30 seconds to scratch or pet that kitty. You will. You know you will. I will, damnit, I know that. They’re just so damn irresistible. I think it has to do with the softness of their fur. Not like dogs, which are normally more stiff, more tough, they don’t feel good under your hands so much. That of cats is gentle, soothing to you and to them at the same time when you rub hit. Hey, maybe that’s one of the reasons we have the same word in English for a woman’s pubic region! Soft, fun to touch and both of you seem to enjoy it when done right. But – try to touch it when you’re not supposed to: look out. You’ve initiated the wrath position, it’s now up to you to eat the hell way, to defuse the situation, to somehow found out how to either get it right or get bloody trying.

Because you just don’t do that when they’re not expecting it. You [illegible] give them some advance notice, or wait for them to make the first movie. If you startle them, goddamn, they jump like they’ve been hit with an electric wand. So you don’t startle, you don’t scare, you proceed with measured amount of caution and you plan accordingly for what you want your outcome to be. Remember, too, that all the time you must have in the back of your mind an exit strategy if things get dicey. Too much excitement, and you’ll be unavailable for a long time. So beware – approach with caution. Trust, but verify. By all means, enjoy yourself, but always sleep with one eye open and be prepared to retreat ASAP. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

Anatomy of a Workout


Run up a hill, walk down, 10 times. In other words:

  1. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  2. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  3. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  4. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  5. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  6. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  7. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  8. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  9. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  10. Run up a hill. Walk down it.



0.  Jog to top of the hill. Walk down it. This is my “warm up”. Who am I kidding, I don’t “warm up”.

1.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:06. Walk down.

2.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:18. Walk down. Notice pain in my knee. That’s different.

3.  Start watch. Start running up the hill. Start cursing. Start feeling the pain. Pass by a bench. Stop running. Stop watch. 1:01. I’m not at the top of the hill. Think, Is this where it ends? Decide, Nope. Walk to the top of the hill. Another 0:46. Walk down. Think about quitting. Think about giving up. Think about just saying fuck it to fitness, to losing weight. To my goals. Why did I Nope?

Think about how much I’ve invested in my life to things like this. Think about elementary school, when my dad made me go running because I was chubby. Think about high school, when I did it on my own so I could lose weight for wrestling. Think about college, when I got up at 4:30 a.m. to ride in a bus for an hour to row for an hour to ride back in a bus for an hour to then go to class. Think about my twenties and running 13.1 miles the very first time. The tenth time. The twentieth time. Think about my thirties and completing triathlons. Think about my forties, and finishing a 69 mile bicycle ride.

Think about the future, when I want to complete an Ironman triathlon. Think about my fifties, and hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Ozark Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail. Think about my sixties, and taking a year-long bicycle ride around the country. Think about giving all those up, just because I can’t get to the top of a stupid hill a few times on a Friday morning? Nope.

4. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:36. Walk down the hill. Notice the pain in my knee is gone. The pain in my feet is still there. It’s always there.

5. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:23. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

6. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench at 1:00, start walking. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:58. Walk down the hill.

7. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench, start walking at 1:06. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:44. Walk down the hill.

Think, Only three more. I can do this. I hate this.

8. Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear a lot. Run almost the whole way. Stop watch. 1:25. Walk down the hill.

9.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear. Run the whole damn way. Stop watch. 1:32. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

10. Start watch. Run up the hill. 1:23. Lay on the ground. Wave to the guy sitting on his porch. Walk home.

Set a goal that some day I’m going to run all 10 reps under 1:06. When I do, it will be time to find a new hill.


Describe a Tree

Writing practice 6/28/2017

Describe a Tree

It would be easy to use colors, shapes, locations. It would be easy to use words like stretching; reaching; bound to the ground. It would be simplistic and reductionist to be mighty, or rigid, or firm, or majestic. These are all descriptions. But they are not the tree.

The tree is first and foremost a being. A living thing. It takes in energy and expels waste. It metabolizes. It pushes water up and out. It is active. It flows in the wind; it catches the rain. It trickles the snows down to the ground little-by-little, in chufts and tufts and blemps. It holds back the sky in protection of the slight, vulnerable grasses below it. It is a waystation for weary migrationists. It is a skyscraper for miniature earth-dwellers. It is a source of safety, nourishment, calm, peace to the squirrels and owls and snakes. It is an integral part of the ecosystem and it is an integral part of the forest society. Without the tree all things revert to the tiny mole-like creatures we evolved from. Without the tree standing us an example we have no ambition to develop, to build, to grow higher. We would live in two dimensions, along the surface only, we become content, never knowing what we were missing. Without the tree, too, we would have no rests for birds, and no reason for them to take flight. All of life would be confined to the surface, in direct contradiction to what we have already experienced.

But the tree is also a block. It is a hindrance to some other kind of development of this world which may have occurred, in the absence of trees. What could have been? Everything and almost nothing at all. In the absence of trees, might the snails have taken over? Grown to be ten feet tall and bulletproof? In Without trees, might humanity not have evolved to still be horizontally arm walkers, knuckle-draggers still down like the lowland gorilla, but with a superior intelligence, sense of self, sense of community and society and time? Without trees, where would we have found building materials? What lighter-than-water would we have made our ships from? How could we, even without standing upright, have imagined to float on the surface of the ocean were it not for the example of the logs we saw careening down the swollen river after the torrents came? How could we have developed so differently?

How might we have been the same? The trees are an essential element of our world. Of all our worlds. They do more than simply cleanse the air, cleanse the CO2 out and put the O2 back. They inspire us. They regulate us. They stand us silent witness for the atrocities committed between their trunks, and as silent validation of all the redemptive good done in the same spaces. The trees are our friends. They are our enemies. They are neutral to us, and we treat them with contempt. We ignore their needs in favor of our own, and they take the abuse like any good servant would. They provide more love, more for us than we do for them, and our selfishness is repaid not in justice, for it would be justice if the trees were to revolt, to burn our stone cities to the ground along with the skeletons of their dead relatives, it would be right for them to do so for the ignominity with which we reward their servitude, but they do not do that. They are better than that. They love more than that. We should strive to emulate them, not require the opposite.

And the Last Shall Be First

This is a Story Art story developed from a writing exercise to incorporate 3 prompts:

“the last pagan in Rome”, “thick”, and “glider”


And the Last Shall Be First

She meant no disrespect. Of course not. But that’s not how he saw it. Of course not. He saw it as an intrusion, an interference with his peaceful morning, and her questions were bothering him.

“But sir,” Johanna said, “I’m certain you want to know the truth. Don’t you?” She stared intently at his face, not into his eyes because he was avoiding such connection, and saw the first glimmers of tears begin to form.

 “Ridiculous,” he mumbled, and buried himself behind his news magazine again. She waited a minute, gave a gentle sigh, and left a small multi-colored card on the outdoor cafe table before standing up to leave.

 “Please just take a look,” she said, knowing full well he would not. They never did. But they would. Eventually, they would. And they would come to her; seek her out, searching for the truth they needed to fill the void of meaning within their soul.

 It had not been so difficult, years ago, when her parents were still alive. They took her to shrine weekly, where they made the appropriate sacrifices at the appropriate times. A dove at equinox, a hare in spring, the thimble full of deep maroon dripped gracefully from the tips of all their fingers, shared with the temple goddess and passed around to each of them. The smell was of copper, of life, and the taste was bitter, but it was right. It created connection between them. She was the life in them – they were the life in her.

 “Johanna,” the temple goddess had said a year ago, her long brown hair stringy and thin with the woman’s age, her fingers wrinkled and spotted, her voice weak and weary from so many offerings over so long, “You may very well be the last Pagan in Rome soon. What do you intend to do about that?”

 The question caught Johanna by surprise. She had never thought about it before; the assumption was the goddess would always be there, as well her parents. To be told that was false was intimidating. And yet, the idea that she might be alone in her truth, with so many millions around dying in their unbelief, also inspired her. She stroked a hand along the thick column supporting the four thousand year old stone roof, a whisper echoing along the wide place. The goddess was gliding from station to station, making the prayers and sacrifices quietly, efficiently. Peacefully.

 She wanted that. She wanted that truth and assurance. She wanted purpose, and authority, and connection to The Other. She wanted to be one of many, not one of one.

 The goddess would pass soon, she realized. That’s why she was asking these questions. And her parents, loving, devoted man and woman that they were, would not be able to last much longer, for they, too, were tired of this mortal world and yearned for the immortal. She, though, saw it differently. She saw a purpose in her life. There was opportunity to save souls that would perish without her. They needed her, they needed Paganism, they needed truth and righteousness. They just did not know it yet.

 “I will become a Witness,” Johanna said, and the goddess smiled approval. She lit incense to begin the dedication ceremony. The smell rose to the ceiling and filled the hall. Johanna knew that The Other was pleased.