Writing Practice – 1/15/18 – Describe how the rain smells to you:

Describe how the rain smells to you:

The rain smells like washed grass. It smells like renewal and refreshment. Rain smells like the stirring up of old trail leaves when you’re out on a bike and the clouds have rolled in and the fat, warm drops bombard the detritus composting on the side of the trail, kicking up a dust of smell like regeneration.

The rain snails like opportunity – the chance to get out of the safety and comfort, the security of a house, a roof, walls, to walk through a field, the water landing haphazard on my shoulders, arms, [illegible], feeling little ploshes of backsplash off my cheeks onto my eyes, making me squint, making me raise a hand to wipe my eyes, stretching a smile across my face as I appreciate the connections between myself, here in this field, open, inviting, interested, connected between myself and voles and the ravens and the snails who live like this, who do not hide from nature, who do not hide from this nature, from the natural experience they have symbioted through for the past million years, they do not avoid the past, where they came from, where they were, who their ancestors were, they turn in to those ancient memories imprinted into their mind and into their psyche and into their instincts, they do not avoid it out of fear or weakness or some misguided desire for comfort, for peace, for ease.

I avoided those things, I avoided real, I avoided nature, I avoided my heritage, for so long, for TOO long, until this moment, until this image came down from the sky, a divine, heavenly blessing of reality, a grace, a perfection of experience, a true picture as simple of the way I used to be, of the way we all used to live, and I appreciate it, I revel in it, I glory in it. To be myself in the harmony, the resonance between myself and the world, I cannot but touch god through its raindrop tendrils. I feel a bond between us and though this will last, not forever, but at least as long as I desire, until I break, until I release, until I disappear away from this perfection back into the obscurity of security and safety, so I will revel in that while at the same time missing this, mourning this, wishing this, that I must release back to the sky.

Writing Practice – 12/27/2017

Describe transitions…

From here to there. From one to two. From near to far and back again, from a point you have just made in the debate to the point you are about to make.

Some lines exist to separate. Transitions, then are the ways we can move across these lines.

Sometimes they are painted on the ground, in blinding white, wide as a palm, ragged on the uneven surface of the grass at my feet. In those times, it is as easy as stepping over. A quantum transition. At one moment, I am on this side of the line. At the next, I am on the other this side of the line, for this always means where I am, and even if I were to describe some [illegible] over there as that, by the time I cross the imaginary divide, by the time I break that picket line, by the time I move from one state of existence to the other I have done more than simply relocated. I have re-named, I have re-oriented myself in space, I have re-arranged the world into its opposite.

This has become that, and that has become this. One would not think such a simple act could be full of so much rebellion, so voluminous a revolution, but there it is.

More than simply re-naming, it is an entire reworking of the mental picture. It is to upend all that we had known, all that we had familiarity with, all that we trusted, and replaced them, seemingly at whim, with an opposite. A wrongness. A falsity. No, That is not this, that is that, and it shall be that! For to call it this is to begin the destruction not of description, but of truth! Of permanence, of right, of the foundations of society.

For if I can tear down that with so simple an act, if I can remake this into that’s own image with nothing more than a small act of will, what is to say I won’t do it again? What is keeping me from [illegible] my own [illegible] moments in this new universe and striking out again, replacing this new that with another this, remaking this (2) with that (2) and then that (2) with this (3).

For why shall I stop there? Once I have a taste for godliness, this constructiveness, this molding of the world to my whims, why should I stop at three? Or five? Or ten of anything?

I believe it would not do, either, to be satisfied with only this and that and those. Why not change mine? Yours? Theirs into mine and mine into hers? Why not change September into “porcupine” and transition Obscurity into Anachronism?

Why not make red into yellow, yellow into green, and green into ultraviolet? Why not make birds and bees into penises and cunts? Why not lick my lips with your lips? Why not lick your lips with my revolution? Why not milk and honey flowing from the Garden of Good and Evil? Why not remake it whole, of whole cloth, burn the whole fucking thing to the ground and start over? 

Why not indeed? 

???

Writing Practice 12/6/2017

Write about birthdays…

Birthdays are about time. About impermanence, in the face of remembrance. Birthdays are about celebration, yes, celebrating another year older, but, too, these are, in the words of the beloved dirge, “Another year older and closer to death!

Birthdays have no significance other than what we attach to them. Summer and winter solstices mark patterns of being much greater than ourselves. Sunrise and sunset, full moon, new moon, eclipse. These events mark our experience in this world as transitory – temporary – fleeting, for they exist without our experience.

Birthdays, like any other anniversary, require a sentient mind for their existence, their remembrance, their celebration, and thus are dependent on our civilization for their very existence. We are their god. We are their creator, their destroyer, we are their rule-giver, their death-bringer, their resurrection. We are their memory-makers, their legacy takers, their purity definers.

We are their essence of being, so without us they do not exist. Shall a sheep remember that on the seventh full moon after the solstice his mother birthed him from her womb? Shall the shark take the time to recall that it was the fourth new moon and three days since the vernal equinox when she calved, three large, thrashing, vibrant pups into the suddenly blood-filled water?

Shall there be a historical celebration of the turtle at turning fifty, or of the ant to achieve the monumental feat of surviving a whole year? Does the redwood, having stood for three and a half centuries, scoff at the gentle oak reaching skyward for a mere decade?

Shall they all humble themselves in the face of the desert, who has been growing itself for three thousand million years? And what of even that can hold a candle to the Sun, or another Star, having burned twice or thrice as long?

So, what of birthdays? Why bother? Because we cannot comprehend the imaginalities outside of ourselves? Because we cannot imagine the comprehension required to wrap one’s head around the scope of the solar system, much less the galaxy or, Heaven forbid, the Universe? Because we cannot condescend to deign to think of the Planck scale or the Heisenberg atom or the miniscule of miniscules? Because we cannot reconcile the large with the small, the infinitely vast against the infinitely small?

Yes.

And no.

Because all of those things.

And because … cake.

Writing Practice 11/26/2017

Found grey hairs in my beard today…



“This just in… Grey hairs were found in the beard of one Stephan J. Mathys this morning. While not yet being declared a crime, authorities have begun an investigation into the matter.”

“I don’t know what else I can tell you,” Mr. Mathys said in a statement early this morning. “Every year, I grow out my beard. Nothing like this has ever happened before.” He paused, and then began gesturing with his hands. “I mean, I know it happens, but I always thought it would happen to other people…” Mr. Mathys broke down, not completely uncontrolled, but visibly shaken at the thought of growing older.

Experts say this is a natural phenomenon. But still, an event like this can rock the community.

Mr. Mathys’s relationship parter (quote-unquote) spoke on conditions that we do not reveal her or his identity. [Blurred picture, computer-synthesized voice-over]. [sihouette before a brown-speckled screen] “Yes, Stephan I have been dating for a while now. And, no, I never suspected something like this. I mean… He’s always been such a great guy. I kind of love him too much. Do you think maybe I drove him to this?”

Authorities have denied that there are any other persons of interest in this case. They say it will be a matter of time until they can sort out all of the stories. The timeline is especially troubling to Detective Adams, who was called in as an expert to consult.

“Well, I’m quite confused,” Mr. Adams said in his opening remarks. “Mr. Mathys has given clear indication that, for the last month, he has not been shaving. Don’t you think something like a grey hair would have been noticed well before now? It’s quite suspicious to me that he’s only come forward today, with this, rather than when he must have noticed it first, probably about three weeks ago.” Mr. Adams then turns and looks directly at the camera. “What is Mr. Mathys hiding? Or covering up for? I intend to get to the bottom of this.”

Mr. Mathys refused to provide any further statement. His lawyer has said that he will comply fully with all police requests for investigation and that his client has done nothing wrong.

Authorities say this could be a matter of months before this is resolved. They urge the public to remain vigilant and  to report any suspicious behavior in this manner as soon as possible.

***

Commentary: this was fun. The idea of a grey hair in my beard being breaking news was a break from the norm. I decided to write it as if it was a press release, but then I didn’t take the time (because it’s writing practice, you don’t go back and cross out or edit while you do it) to clean it up. So it sort of became a blend of “murder/mystery investigation” and “natural disaster”. I think it would be good practice to try to write one of each, in a more careful, polished way. 

Writing Practice 11/22/2017

This notebook is…

This notebook is a trap. It captures thoughts, desires, fears, imagination. it is like that box with a bright, shining light that the Ghostbusters used to use; you throw it out, it captures all the things which escape from your mind and your fingers, and it traps them inside for all eternity. And at the same time, it is a zoo – it is a display of all those things which have been captured in the wild, and showing them off to the newest generation. Opening times – all day, any time, just open up the cover and go for it.

This notebook is a cuneiform tablet. It is written in an ancient script, a language which almost nobody any longer understands. It is a place for recording history that would have otherwise been forgotten. Yet there are so few who remember how to decipher this text it is as good as forgotten.

This notebook is red-colored. The pages are blue-lined. Each page has another red barrier stripe to the left edge. The middle fold creates a margin between the columns. There is a longer space at the top of each page where the blue horizontal lines are absent, or never were, in the first place.

This notebook has pages which feel waxy. They feel as if they have been coated like playing cards, a smooth, non-paper feel. Paper feels rough to the touch. It makes a ‘shhhh’ noise when I draw my finger over it. This – this wax pretender – is not paper. It has no sound. It has no character. It has no moxie. It is soulless; it is a blank, plain, poor substitute for paper, that beautiful product derived from trees and water and love. Paper has heart. It holds – it comes from something which once lived. It breathed. It metabolized. It fended of pests and predators. It reproduced!

This – this – does not feel good. It does not feel right. It does not feel natural.

But it was cheap. And I have 100 sheets (double-sided) to get used to it.

I hope I don’t.

Writing Practice – Prompted Fiction

From time to time I will find a piece of fiction and use a line within as a starting prompt to write. Usually when this happens I don’t get a whole story, because I’m not intending to. Occasionally this will produce an interesting character, or perhaps a tone or voice that I enjoy, or a phrase that really intrigues me, or even the start of something that I will come back to later.

Today I picked up the book Myths of Origin; Four Short Novels by Catherine M.Valente, and opened to a random page. There were no page numbers, but the title was “Heaven and Earth Stood Still”. The first line is the first line of that page. Everything after is my own writing practice (don’t think, don’t get logical, keep your hand moving, lose control, go for the jugular):


When I was a child and Ayako only, the village had a great number of silkworms, and the women wove with radiance.

They created tapestries of artwork, beautiful to behold, intricate and delicate and precious, and displayed these draped across their own shoulders, or the arms and legs of their husbands or children. The silks were the finest in the land, or so the rumor went, for three generations.

The women prided themselves on their abilities. We children, myself, my playmates Tokira and Sakai, felt that there must be something magical in the air. We would wait at the edge of the village, playing “step-one-two”, our only game, in the dust at the edge of the path leading in and out and to the next location. We would watch as caravans of five, ten, twenty people would drag themselves along the route through the far-away forest and emerge, looking tired, and, somehow, lonely as they walked. Then, as they would look up from their feet and see that they were approaching the village finally, they would begin to transform.

Smiles would form on their faces. Their shoulders straightened, their steps lengthened. They chattered with each other. And they would gesture to one another, and point towards us, towards the huts behind us in the village, and as they approached we could hear their voices become stronger and more excited.

When they would pass us, on their way in to the village to purchase silks made by the women, to trade for other rice or paper or material goods made by the people of their village, they would smile at us and throw tiny candies to us, in appreciation of how blessed we were to live in the village of Kan, where the silks were the finest in the land. We appreciated this and would shout our congratulations back to them, wish them good trades, happy buying, invite them to  the soup brothel that stood at the opposite end of the village, where Sukai’s parents kept the tables clean and the patrons always left satisfied, invited them to stay at Tokina’s guest room, which was always filled with warmth and pleasantly, suggested that they also visit the wishing well in the center of town to toss a coin in for good luck, for happy futures, for much love and success wherever the road would deliver them next.

At times I wished I, too, had something to offer those weary souls. I wished my parents would be the cobblers in the village, perhaps run the animal stable, ensuring that the beasts were as well-cared-for as the people. Or that, perhaps, my mother was one of those celebrated weavers who knew how not only to make cloth but somehow infuse it with the magic that seemed to fill the village with its peace, and happiness, and warmth.

Alas, I could not, for my parents had died, two nights apart, years ago, from a coughing sickness that took hold on the thumb-day and took my mother’s life on the pointer-day, and my father’s life on the next-to-last day. They were buried together on the next thumb-day, once the rest of the villagers were certain that all of the sickness had left their bodies. I had cried, then, but at only four years old I knew not much about life, or death, only that I would wonder where I would find my soups and my bed from then on.

It was then that I started to climb down into the wishing well to scrounge for the coins left there by hopeful travelers. It was then that I began to sleep alone in the hut I had previously slept with my mother and father in. It was then that I began to wake in the middle of the night, shaking and sweating, unable to console myself, unable to sleep, unable to do anything but listen to the crickets outside as they chirped the night into the morning. It was then that I began to dream during the day. It was then that my nightmares became reality.

***

Commentary:

So, what was that? Well, it began with the name “Ayako”, and the image of silkworms. These automatically make me think of China, a rural village, a small, simple place. So I began to draw on what I know of weaving (very little), and of merchant travels (still little), and of children (about as much) and making up stuff (a little bit more). But by the time I had the idea for an orphan (yes, it’s been done much), I was enjoying the tone of the story. A bit nostalgic, a bit like an old woman telling a story to her grandchildren. She is not angry, or bitter. She is simply relating what happened, and with a lifetime of experience afterwards, can see that many of the things that she found difficult while young prepared her for much greater struggles later on.

One thing that stuck out – I was trying, in the moment, to have a time cycle that wasn’t our standard 7 days. Because various cultures develop in different ways. I’ve read of cultures that separate time by the fingers of a hand, so I latched on to that. If I were to write this into a story (which, by now, is kind of intriguing), I woudl develop this more fully. That would be part of world-building: what do each of the days of the cycle mean? What is special or taboo on each day? How would those days intersect with the plot and character? I like the idea of the thumb-day being the most important. So is that the first or last day of the week? Do we use both hands? Do we go right-to-left or left-to-right? One hand cycles (5 days) or two (10)?

All of these could be investigated, thought through, accepted and rejected, and integrated with the story that comes out. If I ever were to come back to this story, I think it would be a fantasy where Ayako must learn to battle the nightmares that come out in the day, and she must fight them with different people throughout her life – her friends at first, then her family (husband and children), and finally at the end of her life the whole village must believe the things that she sees but they do not and she must convince them to fight with her.

Oooh – many demon/monster stories revolve around everyone finally believing the heroine when the monster reveals itself and they see it with their own eyes. But what if – what if she is the ONLY one who can see them? That is, the villagers will see terrible things happening, like death of their animals and destruction of their silkworms, but they suspect her of witchcraft or magic or bending the will of the spirits  because she is claiming that invisible beasts are really the culprit. That would be interesting.

Lose Control

During writing practice for today, I lost control. My prompt was “I smell…”

>>I smell potato soup and antiseptic. The soup was in the now-empty bowl on my table, and is now inside my stomach. I smell its remnants as I belch.>>

Simple enough. Just getting started. Not really invested, or passionate. Nothing to write home about, really. 

>> I smell friendship, in the form of multiple people at multiple tables, sitting and sipping coffee, as they pass a few more inconsequential moments of their lives. Once again they have nothing meaningful to occupy their time, so they while away their hours in this deli, bitching about missed opportunities,a bout poor decisions their children and grandchildren are making, about how their soup is a little too spicy today – “>>

I critique the tables of older patrons near me. I criticize their simplicity, their familiarity, their unwillingness to take risks, and I realize I am projecting those fears I currently hold onto them.

And then I start to let go. To lose control. To feel like I’m not writing about them any longer, but I’m writing about myself. I’ve stopped thinking, I’ve stopped being logical. 

>> I smell jealousy and condemnation and judgment rising from my breast as I impute my own failed life goals onto them, twenty years on. Failed – projecting – that’s what I’m doing. If I am still here in that time, will I consider it failure? How could I not?”

After another page of self-pity, I stop concentrating on staying on the lines or in the margins. 

>> What do I lose by staying? Me.

What do I lose by moving on? Moving forward? Stretching myself? Nothing. Nothing. I lose NOTHING.

AND I GAIN.>>

Here something snaps. Something breaks free, and I loose the bounds controlling my mind, my pen, my heart. And it flows.

>> AND I GAIN
AND I GAIN OPPORTUNITY.


Reading back, I cannot tell what was written there. And that is a good thing. That is losing control. That is going for the jugular. That is intensity. That is passion. That is how the best experiences, the most satisfying writing sessions, develop and complete. This is what continues to bring me back time and again, searching for this release, this high, this uncontrollable flow.


In the end, I was completely powerless over what happened. I wrote, but it was not conscious. I was aware of a drawing force, something inside that I had released. A base, animal instinct to pursue, to hunt down this feeling and capture it, that I tapped into. It drew my hand faster and faster across the page, to the bottom and back to the top, three or four or ten times, I don’t remember.

But when I reached the end, I felt a release, an emission, an eruption of energy from from my body, like a sexual climax, like a void-filling expansion, an explosion of power and quarks and nuclear energy, and I dropped my pen, the electricity resonating through my shoulders, my fingers, inside the cavern of my mind, and I gasped, filling my lungs for the first time in what felt like an hour, recovering in just a moment that control I had so willingly given up, consciousness returning, awareness of my surroundings slowly oozing back into my senses.

I stared at my creation, incomprehensible, unfathomable even to myself, and I thought, That, right there, is why I write.