Month: July 2014

Curiosity and The Oncoming Storm

Part of this blog is basically for me to practice what I preach- lingering and the like. I will discuss the craft at times, tips and lessons I provide my students. Successes and dealing with less than success, as well as redefining the word. But I like the zen of writing – of staying in the moment. It’s a good practice to get into, daily or weekly focused writing just to write on a specific moment from life and exploring the scene without worry of publication, just enjoyment and introspection.

 So here is a moment:

The Target store was on the other side of the bridge. I liked crossing the bridge, not just for its imposing nature, or that often the subway would zoom overhead, no longer a subway but a behemoth flying across steel and shaking the concrete world I was walking in. What made the walk even more of an adventure was the family of falcons that lived at the top of the girders. Each trip would bring some evidence of their existence. Once they were actively attacking cars that dared to cross, more dangerous than a troll and gruffer than any billy goat. There were a few cameramen filming the action, and soon the falcons caught sight of them. Often though, I just saw bones of animals along the sidewalk, sometimes a torn wing or beak would fall from the iron above and I’d know they were feeding.

Storms can come strong and sudden in New York. You can leave in the sunlight and come out to find the Nothing has taken over and Atreyu doesn’t live in the city. I could see the gray clouds pushed by winds overtaking the light, and was rushing to go home before the rains hit. Of course, some things in life are futile, especially if you like a good story when it presents itself, of the hope of one.

I was at the little gas station grocery store, that meant only a few more minutes and I was home.   Three blocks down, cross the street, two blocks uphill and then turn up another hill and I was there. Safe from the building winds whipping my hair.   But just as I hit the grocery a woman outside asked me for help. She was an older woman, older than me at the time at any rate. She looked tired. She had a thick accent and asked me for food. In her hands was a treasure chest- not a small one either, but one that she had to wrap her arm around. It was obviously plastic, and had plastic gems haphazardly glued on it.   In her other arm was a stuffed beaver of equal size. How could I resist her plea for food? I invited her into the store and told her I would buy what I could afford. I had about 7 dollars on me, if that. She walked around the store pointing to things and asking me to explain them to her. Fruit roll-ups- are they good? She asked. I told her they stick in your teeth. She asked about various nuts and candy bars before settling on a bag of granola. Then we went to the cooler.   I glanced outside. The darkness wasn’t complete, but it was on its way there.   I cursed myself under my breath and went back to answering her questions.

In the end I bought her a can of Monster and the granola. When we stepped outside she asked where New York Presbyterian Hospital was.   I asked if she had the money for the bus and she showed me a Metrocard. The bus, I told her was across the street. She thanked me, maneuvering the stuffed beaver and treasure chest so she could open her granola, and walked in the opposite direction of where I had pointed.

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On Lingering

One of the things I always tell my students is to linger in their writing.  In fact, one lesson is devoted to the art of lingering.  What is lingering?  Allowing yourself to stay in the moment, as it were, as a writer.  To stay on an image, an idea, in scene, for a longer time than you may feel comfortable with and allow yourself to really explore it.  To not turn away.  I have had my students write two pages on whatever they decide to linger on.  Once I gave them all links to random Wikipedia pages and they had to linger on things like Elephants, Amazonian lilypads, and other random things.  Sometimes, depending on the class, I have had them sit outside and write about what they see.  Once, they had to sit outside for fifteen minutes with their eyes closed and then write two pages about the experience.  It got really interesting results especially in this day of constant interruptions and connectivity.  I had to answer a note from a parent that yes, that was their daughter’s homework.

I think it’s important for artists to be able to stay in one place.  You can always edit down, but the longer you examine something the more fascinating and important it can be come.  Don’t give anything short thrift.

I hope to post some of my own lingerings as the blog progressions, just snapshots of staying in the moment.

With that being said, er, written, here is one such moment, albeit shorter than I’d make my students write:

 On The Bus

I watched a beetle crawl on a man.  The beetle was small, maybe fingernail sized at best (and I bite my nails), dusty black with red markings.  It was a kind of milkweed beetle I see all over town on the sidewalks and plants.  The man and I both had our heads turned, watching the rain dripping down the outside of the bus window, the interior fogging with our breath.  It seemed lonely, this existence of us on the bus not talking, staring out at a world blurred by our own breathing.  I thought of alerting the man to the beetle walking around on the back of his jacket, of tapping him on the shoulder, invading the moment with speech and touch.  Each time I was about to break the perimeter the beetle crawled around front.  I thought for sure he’d notice, just as I was noticing the slight dirt in the creases of the back of his neck, the way specks of gray were already showing in his cropped black hair.  But when I was about to the bug crawled back, thread-like legs moving with fierce insect determination.  I fancied the tiny creature his pet, tethered by an invisible leash long enough to let it crawl around his shoulders but nothing more.  Then I watched, transfixed, while the bug squatted (who knew something so tiny could squat!) and voided brown pointillism between his shoulder blades.  It was just three dots, one after another.  I marveled at this turn of events, for while I had heard of dung beetles, I never thought of dung coming from beetles.

The stop signal rang, the bus hissed, the doors opened, and it was time for me to enter the rain and walk the rest of the way home.

Welcome!

Welcome to my new little home on the web!  Here you’ll find a selected biography, my musings and observations, links to awesome people and things, and whatever else pops up (except, hopefully, pop-ups.)

So get that cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy!