Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Note To Self

I don't know how to do this.

Let me be clear. Not transparent and fragile like a window, per se. But explicit. Direct. Unambiguous.

I am not qualified to write the story of my life.

I've had little official or professional training. My college experience was littered with good intentions and unfulfilled yearning for courses of intense study, practice, and development of the art of writing. I've had a few stints here and there-- my "record"-- of assignments, accomplishments, if you will. I did not work at the college newspaper or on the yearbook staff. I've held a number of jobs with variegated duties, but none of which should be listed on a resume as writing experience. Sure, I wrote a few articles for the Davis Food Co-op News, sprinkled in a letter to the editor here and there, wrote for my current employer's employee newsletter (and experienced that glorious ecstasy that only a severe scrubbing by an editor can provide; followed by the whittling of my content down to the bare vanilla bones, removal of any independent or creative thought in a hypersensitive attempt to avoid controversy (gasp!) or allow un-homogenized thinking to be encouraged (nay, condoned?) to the drones of the hive... Uh... there I go again. Where am I? Am I still in a parenthetical phrase? Is there anybody else here with me? Let's see... blah blah blah... oh yeah-- press "shift-zero"), but never have I held the title of writer. Not even in a qualified manner, like "technical writer," or "grant writer;" "travel writer," "copy writer," ... type-writer...

Anyway. I cannot prove my worthiness of your trust as you join me on this journey to the center of "me" (and back, hopefully...). But I can tell you this: I am the only one that has been here, with "me," every day of my life. I've even been paying attention a fair amount of the time. I don't think anybody else can make that claim. Okay, so they could, but not with any degree of veracity.

Read on, if you must. I know I must write.


I was going to explore some parallels that I've noticed between the current presidential campaign and my own personal campaign to transform my life into more of what I desire it to be... But after that bowel movement of a paragraph above nearly split me like a rack of mutton (to borrow from Tom Robbins), and upon further contemplation of the subject of politics, I realize the wiser path to take, either holding hands with Robert Frost or playfully riding piggy-back, is the one less taken. I think America's media conglomerate has got the politics angle, if not fully covered, at least buried under tons of something. So. Dietary fiber, and onward...

A friend mentioned a word during a discussion of writing the other day that usually has the effect of me breaking out in some sort of highly disturbing rash-- Research. (Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.) But what better way to build a set for one's play, to breathe life into a place and transfuse it with life, movement, and culture, than to flesh out some details (um, facts?) from the collective literary perception?

Ew, I do so resist the act of being scholarly. The cheeks of my backside start to cramp as I imagine my pedantic march to the library (yikes! the "L" word!) to wrestle with Dewey Decimal. But she's right (oooooo-- I hate that!), and my tendency to want to sit at my comfy writing station and just open the tap and let all that life-knowledge flow freely onto the page, and leave all that, er, work for another time... well, it's just not enough. Even to this point in this particular entry, I've requited the assistance of my dictionary to make sure I'm typing the words that display the intention of the meaning at which I've aimed. But there is so much more to be added...

So I've plucked some other books from the stacks in my personal libr-- uh, collection, that I hope to utilize. In it's current state, it's as if my story is a large, simmering cauldron of stew, and looking down into the surface I see a bubble here, a carrot there... if I take a large spoon and give it a stir, there's no telling what's gonna reveal itself on the surface.

And that's what keeps me writing-- the mystery.

And (hopefully) keeps you reading...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Peace Be With Him

Heard from my mom today that my Uncle Hardy passed away yesterday. He'd been plagued by illness most of his life, and as my mom said had always been sickly or frail. She told me that at one point he hadn't been expected to live past the age of 20. Well, he wasn't called "Hardy" by accident. He entered into rest in the early morning last Friday. He was 82.

I remember his unique colloquialisms, and being mesmerized by the story telling on the rare occasion when he and his brothers and sisters were able to get together and talk about growing up in rural Georgia in severe poverty. My mom is writing her recollections, trying to capture the honor and grace of family, of kin, of blood. Like her father, who evidently was a good farmer, she is working the soil and planting seeds and tending to the sprouting, nascent essence of life, chronicling the memories of her siblings and ancestors, fertilizing with her own perspective and nourishing her reminiscence. God's speed, I wish for her.

I recall Uncle Hardy once saying "I've never been wrong. I thought I was once, but I wasn't. I was mistaken." Upon the completion of the last few syllables, his face would ease into a warm, playful grin that seemed to time-travel, if not slow the moment down to a calm, relaxed hum.

Last year, Suzy and I traveled back to the Southeastern states, visiting both Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The trip was designed around seeing the San Francisco Giants play at Turner Field in "Hot-lanta" and again at Pro-Player Stadium in Miami, FL. But the main impetus was getting back to see relatives of mine that Suzy had never had the pleasure of meeting. I'm so glad we were able to get back and visit Hardy and his wife Jane in Springfield, GA. We first drove to my Uncle Sandy and Aunt Kathie's house in Rincon, GA, and then went to Hardy and Jane's, picked them up and the six of us went out to dinner at Love's Seafood in Savannah (picture above, Hardy is on the rear right). It was a very short visit, but it was long in quality. When we took Hardy and Jane back home after dinner, we stayed to visit awhile. Then as we were leaving, Uncle Hardy pointed out his BBQ grill to me, and said he wanted to have us over for a grand cookout.

I said I looked forward to it. But I couldn't stop the prescient thoughts which forecast that this moment would be last time I would see him. He'd nearly died a few years back from infection in his life-wracked knees after surgery to repair or replace them-- I'm not sure of all the details. (I invite my mom to fill in the cracks, correct mistakes I've made, etc.-- I'll even provide the correction tape...) And his doctors had ruled out any further procedures because they didn't feel he could survive the taxing effects of surgery, so he struggled with pain and had limited ability to get himself around.

A number of days ago, he had a bad fall, which broke his hip and injured his shoulder. Soon he was transferred to Hospice. So when I heard the phone message from my mom today, I sensed that she was weighed down with something. And when I called her back and she told me, I wasn't surprised. But as she said, even though we expect it, it's still hard. It's natural to resist the suffering, the grief, the inevitability of death; But we all get there.

It's part of life.

God's speed, Uncle Hardy.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Everybody Must Get Stoned

Rock onward with more bedrock memories...

It's so much fun being my own editor-- I enjoy all my puns and word play, and nothing ever gets cut. Even when it should be.

I had forgotten about my childhood rock collection. Thanks, Dad, for reminding me. Now I realize why you haven't forgotten-- all those times we moved from house to house, you lugged that overstuffed box of rocks, like a ball and chain. Perhaps there's even a Sisyphus analogy to be made. That would be for your blog, I'm afraid.

I STILL have some of those rocks. There's a piece of limestone, for instance, that I remember finding up at our "Cabin in the Sky" on Lake Shasta. Actually, I found about three pieces of limestone around there, and later realized they were once all the same piece of rock-- they fit together like a puzzle. Currently, two pieces are displayed in my backyard "moss" garden... the baby's tears keeps growing up and over them, so I chop it back every so often.

Anyway. Back to getting my "rocks in place," so to speak. Or write, that is.

Not sure if I have the energy to get through this all today. So I write around it, starting with second thoughts, doubts, this and that... procrastination, all. Truth be told, I'm not sure I want to tell this story. It's been with me so long, developing with me throughout my twenty plus years of post-adolescent consciousness...

I have described the ritual of placing a stone, as if moving a chess piece, affecting my perception, my universe, my perspective. A singular, simple act occurring outside of the realm of words, existing within the brief moment of the act. But the result has been significant. It's as if I am setting an anchor, digging in my toes to a foothold from which I can gather myself and leap onward.


On the island of Samos, where Pythagorus once lived, I was living out a dream. I hadn't imagined myself traveling so far away from California, where I had first read and learned about this ancient culture. My buddy Armand, who served as our host, tour guide, and activity coordinator, was sort of honeymooning, sort of vacationing, sort of visiting family, returning to Samos where his father had grown up. On this particular day he had arranged for a group of us to hike to a secluded beach for a swim "social" of sorts.

It was not an easy hike. There was a trail, sure enough, but parts were craggy, rough, and steep. But with a little patience, care, and perseverance, we made it to the beach, after about 40 minutes of navigation. Once there, I had no regrets-- it was a beautiful setting, crystal clear water, large rock "mini-cliffs" that the waves sprayed over... we swam, checked out depths and clearances, and even jumped off some of the rocks into the sea, once we'd assured our safety.

The beach was covered with rocks-- pebbles, small stones, etc. Some of the kids in our group arranged some of the larger, white stones into a love message for Armand and Melissa, the two whose marriage we were celebrating.

At some point I found myself with a quiet moment when the rest of the group was engaged in assorted activities and conversations. I had been revisiting many issues in my head, as this was a particularly active transitional period in my life-- I was in between jobs, having had my last day in the Engineering Department before leaving on this vacation. I would be returning to a "new" job after vacation-- a different job, but one I had already done as a "part-time" employee. I had really enjoyed the job, but grew frustrated with the hiring processes as time went by, as I was unable to be considered for permanent position openings in the department, even though I was already trained and performing the job at a "very satisfactory" level (to speak like management)... Also, Suzy and I had been struggling to start a family, and had received numerous predictions and well wishes from friends, family, and perfect strangers-- the consensus was that we would go to Greece, relax, get swept up in the Romance of it all, and return home to find that we were pregnant. I knew that returning home would be ushering in a "new era" of sorts in our lives.

So upon finding myself temporarily separate from the group, I revisited the ritual. I reached down, picked up a pebble, inspected it, looked at the large rock that rose in front of me, and placed the pebble in a hole that had evidently been hollowed out over time by the erosive forces of the wind and sea. But this time, the ritual was noticeably different; this time, I was filled with positive energy and an intense, vibrant, and optimistic outlook on my future. I wasn't at odds with myself or my place in life; I wasn't struggling with the great unknown, and how I was going to make my life work in the near future, or how I was going to avert disaster or failure. I was looking forward and appreciating the opportunities afforded me. It was like I had been driving down the football field to this point in my life, fighting for yardage, first downs, and further opportunities to keep the drive alive, and finally, I had crossed the goal line and scored. I was spiking the ball. I was doing my touchdown celebration.