Castles in the Air

One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”   

My castle in the air has always been my writing ambitions. Although I’ve done a lot of writing, quite often I replaced working for success with dreaming of it. In my dreams I have been terrifically successful: best-sellers, TV interviews, movie adaptations. 

My reality has been much humbler: a handful of publication credits, 0 TV interviews or movie deals.  

That is until recently. Publishing Tao of Thoreau through Amazon finally attached a tower of my castle to some foundation stones. Still a humble accomplishment, but at least a tangible one. And last month, September 1, 2020 to today, October 1st, I sold 32 books. I don’t know who is buying them; I’m pretty sure all the friends and family bought theirs earlier in the year, so I can only assume that these are people hearing about my book and purchasing it. 

After hardly selling books for months, suddenly Tao of Thoreau took off.

This is after an August where I barely sold any. So maybe something is happening out there. Maybe my book is catching on. 

Strangers. Reading my work. A dream coming true. 

This website is another part of this supporting structure. Again, the numbers are not world-shattering, but I love seeing my statistics. Even one visitor eyeing my work is wonderful. And I’m having fun challenging myself to beat the previous weeks stats.  

My biggest takeaway is this: writing and publishing is making me feel joy. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but now the joy of this process is spreading to all areas of my life. I feel incredibly fortunate to be where I am in my writing journey, and I am so glad that you are reading this right now. Thank you! 

It’s not black and white

As I stated in my last post, gray is the color of evil in my stories, not black.  

This started as a recognition of the power of words, and the impact they have on our thinking. The white is good and black is evil dichotomy is very old, and probably predates white vs. Black racism. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t support this evil way of thinking.  

This was incredibly well dramatized in a scene from the movie Malcolm X. While Malcolm was in prison, a fellow inmate had him look up the words “black” and “white”. While white has almost completely positive associations, black is defined with words about distress, crime and evil. Again, these things possibly developed out of inoffensive feelings like fear of the dark, or of the unknown, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t supported stereotypes and prejudice. Here’s the link if you want to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51USLgPWhgc 

I really like the band The Killers, but there are lines in their new song “Boy” that bother me. I hope the lyrics “White arrows will break/ The black night” are not intended to be racial, but I can certainly understand someone interpreting them in that way. 

Besides the potential problems with these opposing colors, I think it is also lazy writing. We’ve used these symbols for thousands of years – maybe it’s time to come up with a new way to capture evil. I am going to keep using gray.  

Notes on infinity

I don’t know if this is going to be a poem or article. Maybe both. I’m trying to grasp the infinite abundance of our world, our universe.

Count the pine needles
    I thought of that line as I walked through the woods, looking at the yellow blanket of pine needles on the trail and under the trees. Imagine trying to count them. It made me think about the line where measurements blur into the infinite.

Look to infinity 
Relentless abundance 
You are standing in it
Walking on it
Throbbing with it

Infinity is the disappearing importance of measurement 
Of rulers
Of defining numerals

Measure me out 
a teaspoon of thyme.
But make me the same teaspoon twice
With the exact number of grains each time.

I feel like I’m capturing something that I have been after a long time. These are elusive thoughts, though, and it takes time to refine them.

Mulch

This spring I spread mulch with painterly strokes 
Or smeared hurriedly, abstraction in brown 

My canvas: 
Rooty humps around tree bowls 
Beneath blooming bush branches 
Along Flowering paths  

My palette:  
Earth, all the shades  
From mahogany to ebony. 

My motif:  
Circles and curves 
And deep loamy earth 
The contrast of browns and greens 
That beautifies the beautiful. 

 

The Spark

I picture you sitting at your desk 
In your room in the apartment 
Or maybe at a table in the corner
By the window. 
It’s the window that’s the key. 
What you hear through it 
Will change you.  

Right now, you are looking at us below
Through the screen 
Its thin metal grill
Pixelates us into small boxes
That disappear to your sight  
As you gaze through them 
At the people gathered on chairs and benches.  

At first, it's just people at a fire pit. 
But then a woman steps up to a microphone 
That you hadn’t seen before. 
You catch glimpses of her words 
Mingling with the roar of motorcycles
Inarticulate distant shouting 
Sirens far away. 

The woman steps away from the mic. 
You expect applause, 
But this audience snaps its fingers. 
You don’t know why they do it, 
But it’s different 
And difference attracts you.  

You lean in closer, tilt your head, 
So your ear is nearly pressed to the screen 
Like an elderly woman
Leaning into her iPhone. 

Still, you only hear shards of words. 
“The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame.”
They rear in front of you, these eyes, 
So monstrous that they are alight with fire. 
They will be with you for days 
Lighting your way with wild rage.  

More snapping.
A woman sits,
A man rises to the microphone.
He reads: “There will be time, there will be time 
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; 
There will be time to murder and create.” 
Murder AND create? 
How can they be in the same line? 

Because of this, you will play with opposites for weeks. 
Love and hate, good and evil, pleasure and pain. 
Until you see the things between, 
The beloved, 
The neglected, 
The destroyed.  

You listen all night 
As each of us rise to read a poem. 
And though you can only hear pieces 
The words glitter 
Like the shattered glass necklace 
That littered the sidewalk 
On your morning walk to school 
Catching the first rays of sun 
As it rose over the skyscrapers behind you. 

You type the words you hear 
Into your phone 
And poems appear. 
Your future begins as you read them 
As worlds unfold 
Rise up 
Crash down
Stretch before you like seas of grass, 
Seas of water. 

This night echoes into your future 
Until one day 
You have the courage to write a poem. 
It is about opposites. 
About sirens and Sirens. 
The kind you run from 
And the kind you run to, 
Caught by an irresistible call.  
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