THOUGH I WASN’T ALWAYS

Why do I keep trying to understand

the list of many things that I do

 

not? I carry around a fifty-

one-year-old weathered scroll

 

inked with a variety of unknowns.

Some, once understood—now

 

not. Many new, others ever-

changing. The list

 

grows. If “life is what happens when you are making

other plans,” why plan?

 

Why do traits that attract

turn into reasons to leave?

 

Is life alone settling,

fate, or just giving up

 

on the game? Why use the word

forever when nothing is?

 

How can a lifestyle choice threaten

others? How is walking in rain

 

therapy to some, yet loathed by many?

How do crows know I am

 

a friend, though I wasn’t always?

How does a special animal change

 

a person’s life? What do you do

when they go? Why do tough

 

people sometimes betray the code

and cry? Why do some become monsters

 

instead of protecting

their children? Can the kindness

 

of an outsider make enough

difference? Why does the pain remain

 

when the damage is long

gone? How do butterflies

 

know to show up when you need

them? If writing can be an antidote

 

for depression, can it lead

to understanding? Is philosophy

 

a gift, or an over-thought

burden? Destiny, obligation

 

calling (words that are larger

than life) can you really

 

see them coming?

Herman Hesse wrote:

 

I have been and still am a seeker,

but I have ceased to question

stars and books; I have begun

to listen to the teaching my blood

whispers to me.

 

Was there an event that opened

his eyes to this

 

realization or is it the wisdom

of a tired traveler?

 

When is it okay to let go

of questions and simply embrace?

 

The surprises never

end. Perhaps it’d be healthier to lean

 

back: let the bad be curses

and the good, magic.

 

This poem started with my piece Why from the “Write to Understand” writing workshop taught by friend Matt Love  on December 10th 2016 in Astoria, Oregon and evolved over time thanks to the help from another writer friend of mine Tara Hardy .

 

Why

Why do I keep trying to understand the list of many things that I do not.  I carry around a fifty-one year old scroll of weathered paper inked with a variety of unknowns.  Some once understood – now not.  Many new, others ever-changing.  The list grows…

If “Life is what happens when you are making other plans” – why plan

Why do traits that attract – become reasons to leave

How is walking in rain therapy to some – yet loathed by many

How does a special animal change a person’s life – what do you do when they go

Why does pain remain when the damage is long gone

How do butterflies know to show up when you need them

If writing can be an antidote for Depression – can it help with Understanding

Destiny, Obligation, Calling (words that are larger than life) – can you really see them coming

Herman Hesse wrote, “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.”

Was there an event that opened his eyes to this realization or is it the wisdom of a tired traveler?  When is it okay to let go of questions and simply embrace?

The surprises never end.  Perhaps it’d be healthier to lean back: let the bad be curses and the good magic.

img_5416

As always I learned while enjoying my day at the “Write to Understand” writing workshop on December 10th 2016.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Nobody Likes A Coward

“It doesn’t rain at the end of July, the forecast is wrong.  My motorcycle trip to the coast won’t be cancelled.”  I declared one beautiful sunny day.

“Okay, well yes it’s raining, but it’ll stop – it is July.”

Mike stared at me in silence.

Are Norwegian’s more stubborn that Swede’s?  Ah who knows, I laugh at such things.

We put our rain gear on in silence and rode out into it.  My open-face half helmet allowed the drops to hit me with a blinding sting.  Twenty minutes later we stopped to buy a better helmet at the Harley Davidson shop in Tacoma.

“You riding in that?” asked the pretty cashier.

“Yes!”

“Where to?”

“The coast.”

“Oh – really?  Be careful!”

After the monsoon experience on Interstate 5 we stopped at a Barbecue Restaurant to warm up, eat and pour out our boots.  No one said anything – everyone looked.

“It’ll let up, has to” I laughed.

“Sure, it’s gonna” Mike laughed back.

After the winding roads and fresh tarred construction we stopped for a beer at a Peninsula Dive Bar.

“Cheers to stubborn!”

Clank!

***

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.36.04 AM

As always I learned while enjoying the “Rain” writing workshop at the Fort George Brewery on January 23rd 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Liquored in Astoria

“Well isn’t everything more fun with a crazy bitch!?” flies out of the mouth of Mark the merchant marine, as a drunk couple finally stopped quarreling and left in a cab.

“Why yes it is!” laughed Erica the bartender.

***

Earlier I had taken a nap to put a break between a long day and a social experiment.  More than the rest, I wanted to look through the lens of not really feeling like going out, but doing it anyway.  Walking in the rain, across the street to the Workers Tavern, washed my face and cleared my head.

IMG_3335

The creaking door and wet stained wooden floor greeted me.  I eyed and claimed a stool at the bar.  Moments later a guy (who could be Neil Diamond’s son) sat down next to me and said, “You a fisherman?”

“No”

“Oh, I’m a merchant marine.  Anything exciting going on in here?”

As a quarreling couple brought their issues back inside from an herbal smoke break, she plopped down on the vacant stool between me and Mark.

“Really…Really!  You’re really going to do this – Now?!” barked the guy. “The cab is here.”

Silently she stared forward while I ignore them.  He moved closer toward me while pounding her with various forms of “Really!”  As suddenly she pushed back from the bar and marched outside, followed by her guy.

In the following silence I sat and watched drops slide off my beer and run into carvings on the bar.  As the words ‘Toys for Tots’ filled I noticed a sign behind the bar, “Those caught carving on the bar will be fined $100 – funds to be donated to Toys for Tots.”

Three guys rushed in like waves and landed on empty stools on the other side of the bar.  The older one seemed to lead, whether by blood or air he acted like their father.  After about an hour of noisy conversation with other locals the muscular one who’d been staring at me walked over and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“We’ve gotta stop all of this shit…” and something about “..Paris” was all that I could understand.

Father figure grabbed him and the other guy by the shirt and ushered them toward the backdoor.  He growled at them, “If we can get out of here without a fight – I can go snuggle with my wife.”

Through the evening I made eye contact with a couple of senior locals, a smiling logger and a silent disheveled Santa.  Their eyes reflected a weathered ‘Seen it all before’ look, quietly they sat and sipped.

IMG_3327

Four hours, four beers and a shot of Crown later – I’d lived in another dive bar story.

***

I enjoyed the experience of another writing workshop “Dive Bars and Dark Stories” on Friday the 13th November 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Who Knows

I just attended my third consecutive Write on the Sound writer’s conference in Edmonds, Washington.  These gatherings always bombard me with new thoughts and ideas while stirring up my mind.  The conference mental rush undoubtedly causes plenty of thought, the trick is to get some to flow out of the hand and onto the page.  One of my chosen sessions started with three writing prompts (none of which did anything for me, so I wandered off on my own a little).

***

I often lay awake recalling how good it used to be.

The days back in time when with no effort, no thought, nothing – it just happened.

At the end of a day I could just turn on the radio, lay down and drift away… for hours.

Very different from my current life – I could stay asleep.

***

The question comes up, “Do writing conference’s help you become a better writer?”

For me sharing time with others interested in learning about writing, from other writers, charges a battery (that for many years I didn’t know that I had).  So as long these gatherings stir something in me I’ll go, as for becoming a better writer – who knows?

Walking – Writing Workshop

IMG_2882

August 22, 2015 I attended another Writing Workshop taught by Matt Love at the Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon.

This was my second time in the former car dealership showroom turned brewery conference room, sitting amongst some kegs of aging beer and learning more about writing.

From the various prompts, discussion, breaks to walk around Astoria and a strong beer – I ended up with this:

IMG_2881

Ranger Bombed

I usually walk with purpose (I have a dog) and out of necessity (my back chronically reminds me) – I do this daily.  Often I simply wish to walk for no reason, to range about.  Today my purpose was to unwind my mind and let my feet range.

When walking I typically try not to think – it is my escape.  I am however easily distracted by people (not today) and architecture (Astoria has plenty worthy of noticing).  While glancing at older buildings (more refreshened since my last visit) and ruins of pilings wobbling in the river, I noticed something new.  Colorful bits of random display, knitted patches of several different people’s artwork twisted, wrapped and tied around posts, benches and a gate.  Public displays of an orchestrated effort to grab attention and brighten the day for those who notice.

Today my mind was bombed by yarn.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?

Why would someone in the position of Teacher or Advisor give an over-the-top harsh critique of a gifted writer – seeking to improve upon their obvious gift?

Is it believed that crushing someone (who is likely more talented than the critic) is somehow helpful, making them fight back and try harder?

Or is it just a display of jealousy.

This happened to an amazing writer that I proudly consider a friend.

She seems to be hurting from the opinion of one person who does not deserve the power to yield that affect on her.

I never sought to write (it could be argued that I don’t) nor expect it to go anywhere, so a critical attack on me or something that I’ve written might roll off my back with a grin and a middle finger – making me of little value in helping her.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?