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.

Is That A Novel on the Phone?

This is a phone conversation I wrote for a non-existent novel about people in odd telephone relationships. Nobody was hurt during the exchange, but somebody really should have been. It was also carried out under normal conditions, which may explain the banality of it. I’m making a record of it in case the person on the other end of the phone ever wants to cease and desist at some point.

“Hello, is this God?”

Pause for laugh.

“This is Arthur Lent.”

“I was kidding, sonny. So, Artemis, I was wondering if you could help me with something.”

“I’ll try.”

“Great. I’m from Maryland, the Old Line State where women beg and men give in.”

Pause for laugh.

“I don’t know much about Maryland.”

“Never mind me, I’m as full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”

Pause for laugh.

“Are you.”

“I’m also old and forgetful and don’t own a computer or know what to do with it except surf for porn. Hopefully when you get older you won’t loose your marbles.”

Pause for laugh.

“I hope not.”

“So, Artie, I’m trying to find out if Maine has a lobster trap tree? I seem to remember it does, but all my friends think I’m full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”

Pause for laugh.

“Yes, there are 2, one in Rockland and another in Kennebunk, I think. I’ll have to check.”

“Great! Can you send me a copy of the tree, kiddo.”

“I thought you said you don’t have a computer.”

“I don’t. I’m as full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”

Pause for laugh.

“I’m aware.”

“So, can you send me a copy?”

“Like a photocopy, then?”

“Hell no, I wouldn’t know how to use one.”

Pause for laugh.

“I’m not sure, then, how to send you a copy.”

“How about you send it to my wife’s email address. Do you have a wife, Albert?

“Yes.”

“I’m so forgetful, I forget mine. Worst thing I ever did was marry. I’m so full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”

Uncomfortable pause.

“Why don’t you give me your wife’s email address and I’ll send the photo of the tree along.”

“Sure, sure. The old bag will love getting an email. Say, while I have you on the phone. Do you know the address of the Bush compound at Walker Point? I’d like to congratulate the president on another 4 years in the White House.”

“I believe the current president of the U.S. is Obama.”

“In your dreams, Andrew! That SOB don’t live in my White House. Do you know what SOB means, Harold? It means He Of Little Faith.”

“That would be HOLF.”

“Yeah, it’s perfect, isn’t it? I told you I’m full of the stuff that makes the grass grow green.”

Pause for final laugh.

“I’ll send a photo of the lobster trap tree shortly.”

“Thanks, Alice. Maybe some day you and your husband will make it down to Maryland. There’s loads of stuff here that makes the grass grow green. Thanks again for all your help. I’ll show those sons of britches that I haven’t lost my memory.”

“It’s been a pleasure.”

Dead line.

Here’s some Atoms for Peace. That would be Mr. Yorke and Flea in a skirt.

The Very Big. The Very Small.

Yes, persistence is the key to open the locks of possibility. Or at least to wear around your neck like a good luck charm.

Bless Henry Miller and Moominpapa that I have just enough talent to be able to write to keep myself sane on days when things are slower than sludge sucked through a straw. Although there are days when the writing makes me crazy. One day it flows like the River Taff, the next it’s like a dry creek littered with dead frogs. (Note: No frogs were harmed in the writing of that sentence.)

I don’t want much from life besides trying to figure out how to have better control of the ordinary side stuff of life so that I can toss all the wildness and craziness into my writing. The universe can keep its elementary particles a secret to me. I have no need for a Theory of Everything. I just have a strong desire to be loving, gentle, funny, kind, and hopefully wise. And not in that particular order, either.

I love that quiet after supper with no noise except for the sound of the clock. The soft stroke of the mourning doves’ wings. The desperate cry of seagulls, whirling over calm water. And the light fading fast like it has a late-night rendezvous.

There’s nothing to do. The dishes are in the sink. The cats are fed and curled up on their favourite chairs. The kids are playing in a distant room. The neighbours have gone inside. Even the phone finds pleasure in silence.

No interruptions. No one expecting anything. The fridge shivers and the food waits for another meal. There are no emails worth bothering with.

Sometimes a disc seems to whisper your name. Sometimes a dog barks and falls silent. And sometimes, I put on my boots and go for a walk, bugs buzzing, the active birds of dusk nowhere to be seen. If I notice a sailboat, it seems to lazily crawl home to some port.

I just sit and watch the light go.

“55 crystal spheres geared to God’s crankshaft is my idea of a satisfying universe. I can’t think of anything more trivial than the speed of light. Quarks, quasars, big bang, black hole – who gives a shit?” Tom Stoppard.

Here’s some early Police.