I Got Ants in My Pants and I Want to Dance

It’s time to write a little reminder note to myself to remember to watch my two children walk across the fresh-cut lawn in bare feet.

When I read interviews with writers bitching about how hard it is to write, rewrite, how the writing profession is like some kind of density of misery with no space for relief, I wonder what’s the point of writing if all it ever does is make you feel bad, bad about it, as well as put a bad taste in your mouth.

Today I overhead 2 people reminiscing about their youth. Remember when we….Remember how we…. Remember that girl who lived in the next town…. Remember those fantastic empty relationships with anything or anyone…. We drank so hard, I remember nothing….

I wouldn’t go back to those days if you paid me.

I just finished Edward Carey’s amazing Observatory Mansions. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Pithy, clever, unusually constructed, non-linear, comic, dark, depressing, bathetic, easy on the pathos, not trite with honesty, and wholly human in its depiction of fictional characters. I loved Francis Orme for his wickedness and his compassion for saving his dead brother’s remains. I have already requested his novel Alva and Irva from the library and look forward to reading his YA novel Heap House set to come out in September.

Last night I pitched our tent in the back garden as a way to get away. And next week, I’ve booked a 2-day camping adventure for my family at Lake St. George. We haven’t gone anywhere in years. Not since the children arrived with their soft toys. Sometimes I tell my wife, let’s pack our portmanteaux and move to Normandy. I could teach English to existential street kids. But we have no savings. And my wife doesn’t speak French. Neither do I, but that wouldn’t stop me.

It’s raining here in Maine. Grey sky like liver and clouds like onions.

I must go and clean my house. I never knew household chores could be such work. I think I was swapped at birth with a working-class baby. I want a castle, no disposable income, and some national trust to turn my castle into a tourist attraction while my family and I live in 10 rooms and I proudly state that all I can do is write, stoke the fire, catalog the inherited treasures, and never get involved with casual work.

Here’s some Iggy. And if this song doesn’t make you dance wildly, then you really have no lust for life. And shame on you.

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15 Writing Rules for The Bored With Rain

1. Stop and go away for another day.

2. Back onto the curb and avoid the puddle.

3. Collect in empty bottles and store in pantry.

4. Spill on head of annoying writers.

5. Contemplate the spaces between the drops.

6. Separate the old drops from the new.

7. Splash in another’s puddle until you’re wet.

8. Get over the other’s puddle.

9. Don’t listen to the rain.

10. Walk about in the rain until drenched.

11. Dry out your shoes.

12. Wear wet socks all day.

13. Remember it’s never about something, it’s about everything contained in a single plop.

14. Wash your greasy hair in it.

15. Watch it slide down glass as long as you can.

16. Do with the rain what you will.

Here’s the London band the Woodentops.

About the Size of It

it. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wa. It’s not like waiting for the post. That comes every day with stuff I don’t even want. “He looked around him, and then looked around him again. And then stood still in the middle of the empty floor. “Gone,” he said.” John Crowley, Little, Big.

Here’s Robyn Hitchcock.

Nocturne

The crickets are working the night shift. The moon is face down like a Joker. Was that an owl? Maybe it was the clock, forgetting it was a clock. The children are asleep, soft toys at their sides, the day like a carnival ride in their dreams. My two cats will not settle. They scram and break dance on the floor. A moth flutters for the safety of a corner light. The crickets go into overdrive. A blueberry and peach cake cools on a wire rack. The overhead fan whirrs for the day that’s passed it by. Somewhere in the sky, a bat loops and skirrs out of sight. If I switch on the outside lights, all I ever see are shadows reaching back towards the dark woods. Car headlights swerve around the bend and beat it down the hill like hounds. There’s no sign of the neighbourhood fox. Maybe he’s hunting. Maybe he’s curled up in a bundle of ferns, trotting to a faery realm in his dreams. If I really listen, I can jut make out the sea’s soft susurration. It wants the moon so badly on its watery back, it cries against the rocks and seaweed. A bonfire spits and pops across the way. The sea is a memory to the people roasting marshmallows like clouds from high noon on long sticks. This is night. It might get longer if I stick around.

Here’s one of my favourite bands, the Stranglers.

A Simple Summer Shower

A simple summer shower. It passed so quickly, you might have imagined it came from a Hermann Hess novel. Now for a short time, it’s a world of water stains. You watch the dark cloudscapes pass and wonder if the world should end will it be a collection of dark clouds parked high above like a mass of belching trucks. Better to think life will just take a very simple and amazing new direction and fly off like a cardinal into the greenery. At least the echinacea, phlox, columbine, and tickseed in the garden got themselves something else to think about besides the bugs and the heat. August heat, trapped in the air, sluggish, percolating in the humidity that bangs about like a drunk. There’s not a breeze. Not even a dog barks. The children are quiet. August. Time to think about something else.

Here’s some Oscar Wilde: “One’s real life is so often the life one does not lead.”

August Arrives in the Dark

It’s Lammas and I’ve been reading W.S. Merwin. There’s a line in his book of prose, Houses and Travellers, that won’t leave me be. It’s in the piece “August,” which is appropriate. It’s a line that tells of a widow who forgets everything and goes out calling for her dog even though it’s dead.

That is August. That is me. A time when my little vegetable garden out the back is working overtime with its last bounty and would go unnoticed if it wasn’t for my wife who continues to water and tend to it while I become forgetful and wonder where this tasty, warm tomato might have come from.

This is the time to harvest. And some of us do, and some of us don’t.

This is also the time of sacrifice for a better future harvest. I wish I knew what to sacrifice for better days, what to ditch when it comes to self-gratification, what to keep and share. There’s so much to learn and yet there’s a voice in my head that goes: “All that stuff you think you have to do, you don’t have to do.”

I wish I heard the grasshoppers. They are so loud and clear at this time of the year.

The sun now is rounded with a golden glow as if it’s stretched its light and plans to pull back, renew, savor something for itself.

Something has definitely happened to the bread and the wine…. I wonder why I don’t feel like I am something else? Maybe I should simply stop thinking about that something else and become something.

“Little soul little stray/little drifter/nowhere will you stay.” Merwin

I rove in a restless band of emotions. I go out and call for the dead dog thinking it’s still around.

I also read George Saunders advice to graduates that was posted on the NYT. It’s a pithy read from a wonderful man who also happens to be a wonderful writer (I wonder if one leads straight into the other?). And although this past January I graduated with an MFA from Stonecoast, I feel more like a middle-aged worrier with light years behind him and regrets echoing in his small ears and not so much like a bright young thing with a bounce in his worn Docs. But I still love this advice. It’s like some kind hand that rocks my writing chair:

“’Succeeding,’ whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that ‘succeeding’ will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended…. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.”

Ah, those big questions. Here today, gone tomorrow. In for a pound, out on the streets with a pence. But you know what, I’m going to let Master Saunders’ advice sink in like a spirit level, unsteady at first at the sudden and unexpected drop of the ego. I think that kindness that he speaks about, that is hard to maintain, is a kindness that actually starts at one’s own door with the bottles of milk. I can imagine starting with kindness towards oneself leads towards the bigger questions and hopefully that luminous part builds and builds but doesn’t weigh you down but lets you drift on through to the other side.

I hope so. Then I won’t have to go out on some August night calling for a dog that’s long dead. I can go out and watch the stars.

Here’s Dead Can Dance.