26 August 2012

Tiger's Blood.

I was away from my home for the last few months, but I'm back to the American West. Man, this place crackles with magic in the summer. It billows with lazy pride in the faint breeze.

Driving around my hometown with the windows rolled down on a late August evening, through warm dry gentle air like a kiss on the lips -- this is what peace is made out of. I'm convinced drives like this increase the net calm in the world, and I pray that it wafts across oceans and into hearts around the globe. I know what you're thinking: fossil fuels, &c. I'm considering all that and I still think if you were the one driving, and I were in the passenger seat, you would hasten to uphold my claim.

The snow cone shacks, which sprout here each summer from the dry ground, have become sacred spaces to me. I won't let Summer go by without going to burn a candle to the gods of ice and liquid sugar, who must also be the gods of youth and sun-bronzed skin. Their oracles keep appropriately casual vigil at these seasonal shrines to the fleeting, bone-deep joy of mortality.

But without doubt the essence of the season's spark is fresh peaches. One cool point in the Mormon cosmology -- and I don't know where this idea comes from or how institutionalized it is, but I love it -- is that God enlisted the help of his noble and great kids in the creation of the world. Since childhood I've felt that in that great collaborative effort, my baby was the peach. Or at least that I fetched coffee for some assistant producer working on an early draft of the peach. I'm so happy it has done well.

21 August 2012


Annie Dillard: "One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time."

I wanted to photograph that lineup of bright enamel-painted old converted pickups emblazoned with "Danger Towing" out in Bukoto near Kiira Road. But there was always somewhere else to be; it could always wait; and now my camera's broken.

This is something hard for me: the tension between living and reflecting, experiencing and describing. I think it's a tension I'll struggle with as long as synapses fire in my brain. Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, seems determined to convince aspirers that Real Writers lead shadowy, anemic lives, deprived of the extravagant richness available to regular humans. They collect gems of experience during their brief forays from their Selectric caves, then chisel and polish them until they glow with something almost like sunlight.

That light, crafted and belabored, has an undeniable beauty and depth. I agree that the unexamined life is not worth living. But I also suspect that at some point a life obsessively and exhaustively examined also starts to look pretty Not Worth Living. We start to live life at one remove. Facebook and Twitter are just new and widespread tools for the old writers' habit: living a recursive life whose substance is describing itself.

I guess what I'm doing right now is life at two removes: writing about writing about life. But I feel like I've spent little enough time examining lately that I can stand to step back for a moment. My real life is enhanced and stabilized by my attempts to articulate it, if only to myself. Still, here I am at the end of the summer, tying up loose ends on one life while I stare down the next, with two dozen embryonic proto-essays languishing in my notebook. It's okay; I had other things to do, I was working, I was exploring, I was making friends. The only direct casualty of all that realness is those pieces, which might still see the light of day, but could have seen it with more brightness and immediacy. Instead I thought about them, second-guessed, hemmed, hawed, feared, and forgot about them as new experiences took their place in my imagination.

I guess I'm saying I want to take time to distill more sparks from my real rich lovely life into thinking and ultimately writing. But inasmuch as writing is also a subset of living, a visceral mortal activity to be drunk to the lees, I could stand to think less and act more.

A gorgeous girl introduced me to Hildegard von Bingen today, a 12th-century German mystic who had a vision. One thing she saw was the embodied and anthropomorphized Fear of God. It's a woman.