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Archive for April, 2010

After dropping Regina downtown, Henry and I drove around performing errands.  Depositing checks, et cetera.  When we arrived home, I fed him breakfast: apple/cherry sauce with cinnamon and then we split a banana.  He seems to enjoy bananas.  I don’t remember tasting a banana until age 18 in Chicago, when I bought an under-ripened banana and sat at the corner of Halsted and Somethingrather on a curb, curiously eating.  I put him down for a nap around 9AM and then retreated to the backyard with a cup of coffee, two cigars, and Ethan Canin’s The Palace Thief.  I watched the world go by.

It has been a beautiful day so far.  Watching the hackberry dance in the stiff vernal breezes.  The steady sound of traffic and the throb of the city.  Robins moving from tree to tree and the subtle underdeveloped bouquet of early blooming lilacs.  I felt some remorse for a young tree whose branch I inadvertently snapped with a ladder a few days earlier and then there was the overwhelmingly sad thought of the black tides of oil that are steadily lapping towards the Gulf coast.  I thought of my friend Carolyn, and her work down there with migrating birds.  How she has described it as one of the world’s best birding areas.  It is hard to fathom how destructive we are as a species, how we continually shit on this beautiful planet, our only hope.  How unimaginative we are.

I have to work this afternoon and I wish that I didn’t.  I wish I was already down in Iowa, working on my writing and teaching.  I’m ready to be done with everything and on to the next thing.  At the very least, I’d like to be home with my family, in the sun, watching the plants grow and marking the progress of the clouds in the sky.

I thought of my Dad today.  As a child, when I snapped live branches off living trees he used to say to me, How would you like it if I broke your fingers, broke your arms.  What did that tree do to you? This, I think, was my earliest environmental education.  And I miss my Dad like crazy when I think of that.  The challenge now is to pour what was best of my Dad into Henry.  To transfer that goodness that he passed into me.  In this way, I hope that we are all jars with an ever expanding capacity.  I hope that Henry will love trees, the earth, the birds in the sky.

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Emptying My Head

I am working on a short story this evening.  An idea that has been kicking around inside my skull for about a year now, but something I’ve been reticent to write before it was fully realized.  But it feels good right now, pounding the keys of the laptop and unfurling this thing.

I have been watching a good deal of television on the website Hulu.  It’s been fun, escaping that way, but all the same there is such a reward to writing, to reading.  To creating or entering a world based entirely on one’s own imagination.  It feels like work, like joyful labor.  The escape of television has the effect of making me feel slovenly and unoriginal.  But writing…  Writing is like splitting wood, or moving stones, or cutting grass.  It is good.  And I would do it even if I was no good at it at all.

That said, thanks to Swan for the new story idea.  I need to let that marinate a bit.

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The neighborhood bums are out, in the sunshine, collecting their free breakfasts from the mission down the street and from the trees sprout proud tender leaves.  Pale green leaves, but green.  The browns are being supplanted by the greens and I am happy for it.  The tulips are pushing up into the beckoning day, their crown of petals hungry for rain and for good light.  It is quiet this morning, our little baby asleep.  Fried egg sandwiches and fresh coffee.  Time to listen to the radio and to look out the windows at the rapidly exploding magnolia.

I spent yesterday with Bill McKibben, driving him from Milwaukee to Madison and guiding him through the city to events and book signings.  His 6’4 frame sardined into my little Japanese death-trap.  We talked skiing, and writing, and the world on fire.  He is an optimistic man but in reading his new book Eaarth, I am afraid for Henry.  I don’t think that we’ll react soon enough.  I think that in the near future everything is going to be on fire or melting.  I think there is going to be a good deal of hunger and anger, and it does scare me.  But this morning, all that is hard to imagine, and looking at his books I am happy for our time together.  For our conversations.  His main advice to me about writing was VOLUME.  I couldn’t disagree.

Work tonight, slinging booze.  I’d like to be tramping through the forests in search of morels, but no such luck.  What I want most in this world, aside from good health, my family, etc. is just about 40 acres of land bisected by some kind of creek or river.  I’d like there to be some roll in the land, some topography.  I’d like there to be some cedars and pines and I would like for there to be an old orchard.  I would like a quiet place.  I would like a small shack or shed to write in.  A place with one window, covered in my license plate collection.  A quiet good place to be.

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Awaken to the sound of your only son crying…  Bring him into bed where he plays with the gauze of certain curtains…  The car keys are hiding and there is the sound of rain outside…  Take out the garbage and the earth is wet…  Make the bottle ready and feed your only son…  He is beautiful when he falls asleep against your belly…  Carry his body to a bed for sleep…  Worry about the FOR SALE sign staked in the front yard…  The lupine is less pretty for the worry in your stomach about a house unsold…  Bon Iver on the STEREO…  Beth Orton on the STEREO…  A short story hides inside your head to be retrieved and then it begins to unfurl like a wonderful lie…  A friend calls on the telephone at 9 in the morning and you hear the cigarettes in his hoarse voice…  There are miners in west virginia caught in a deep dark hole and this is what my kin did before they no longer had to…  There are letters to write and books to read but never enough time…  The flowers are forcing themselves out of the earth…  Tuesday morning in america and the coffee has already grown cold…  Two days ago I woke up in florida and the ocean was my neighbor…

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The first day of April finds me in Jensen Beach, Florida the lulling sounds of the Atlantic kissing the beach just outside our resort window.  We’ve been down here for about a week after a twenty-three hour drive through the guts of America and some of my least favorites states.  (Though in Georgia I had a moment of clarity and mused about the possibility of opening a milkshake stand serving only peach shakes occasionally adorned with pecans.)  Really, I do very little on vacation.  I sleep in as much as possible without looking too slovenly.  I drink a good deal of coffee.  I drink beer.  I smoke cigars.  I watch the television and read the newspaper.  Jim and I go golfing and I am sad to report that in particular, my short game has not improved miraculously over the winter months.  Sometimes I crack open Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke but more times than naught I’m struck by its tone which reminds me of Joseph Conrad.  Not a book to be read lightly.

Yesterday Regina and I went deep-sea fishing off the coast.  We boarded a boat along with about twenty other folks and when the appointed time came, we dropped our baited hooks over the boat to the bottom of the ocean where we waited for something to tug on the line.  We fished for about five hours and I caught nothing.  Nothing.  A vast sea of fishes and I was shut out.  On the schneid.  Once, I snagged a reef.  I did however meet a man from the Upper Peninsula on the boat who reminded me of my idol Jim Harrison and for about twenty minutes we talked about his trap-line, the deer herds, and wolves.  The highlight of the trip was three dolphins racing the boat, leaping and diving just off the bow.  Regina caught a fish but we were forced to throw it back to the depths.  After we returned from our sail, I promptly fell asleep and latter napped with Henry as well.

We head back to the Midwest on Saturday with a stop in Nashville to visit kin. I am excited to reunite with my own bed and to slide back into my writing schedule.

In one week’s time and with no warning at all for his parents, Henry has begun crawling in earnest and even seems poised to stand (with the aid of furniture, or a slumbering dad).  Never have I witnessed such remarkable growth in a person in a such a brief period of time.  Remarkable.

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