My Own Rampant Anomie

Sometimes sitting down to write is like being a piece of chum thrown to the sharks.

Ok, it’s not that bad. But something is always circling my chair. And it’s not my two cats. Or some mouse who’s found himself trapped, my two cats sneaking closer like the two killing machines they are but somehow disguise by all their listless slumber parties.

And it’s not the fan, rotating at a steady speed, keeping the room cool. And it’s not the pesky moth who has flown in to flutter like some great aperçus in the limelight. And it’s not the stack of books like precarious towers of babbling all within giddy reach and yet easily toppled. And it’s not God in his wide-wale cords and scuffed slippers, sipping on the matter of the universe, drunk with humanity, burping out the long stench of lies, with a wicked hangover of taboos.

It’s something, though. Something complex, paradoxical, multifarious, a kind of Voyager 1 in the outer solar system, orbiting, gathering info. And I’ dealing with termination shock as the electrically charged words become denser and hotter and slower. And maybe I really have entered this glorious polyphonic space where what I’ve written will turn out to be this modernist fiction that some pettifogging Brazilian writer will label as twit work. Or maybe it will be nothing more than a horsefly that stings a horse that bucks a rider who squashes an ant who carried a scrap of bread from the table of a writer who confounds, amuses, enlivens, angers, breaks hearts without bothering to put back together and splits the brain pan into sizzle and pop.

That something that keeps me company is a bit like gravity — a force everyone agrees on but nobody has atually seen or even truly explained. It’s the gravity of knowing you’re no good mixed with the moonage dream that you are better than all the rest — you live as a supernova and a red dwarf all in one big bang of creating a work of fiction.

And then that something leaves you at the speed of light and you are left sitting in your writing chair nursing a mug of tea and watching the moon like it’s a burlesque dancer and you can’t wait for something to shake loose and expose the truth that as a writer you simply keep yourself amused and engaged in the world by writing.


Domesticated & Wild

Our eldest cat, Calamity, died. She was 16. Everyone is sad around the house. My wife and I got her from a shelter when we first moved to Maine ten years ago. We’re all going to deeply miss her.

I didn’t always like cats, though. The kind of pets I have always wanted are a fox or a crow or a hawk. But my wife keeps telling me these are familiars, not pets. She’s right.

But I’ve come to love cats, their independent nature, their aloofness, their sleeping habits, their intelligence, their sensualism.

And their wildness.

Yes, they are domesticated animals, but just look a cat in the eyes and you can sense their wild nature staring you down. Dogs on the other paw are completely domesticated. You’d have a hard time witnessing their wild nature, unless, of course, they bit you.

But cats! Even the way they stretch is wild and unpredictable. You feed them and house them and, yet, they still hunt and kill and at the first opportunity will make a run for it when the front door’s opened.

I know that’s why I like having them around. I like to know there’s some wildness in my life. I don’t live a crazy, stormy, turbulent and boisterous life. I live a quiet one: I work at my job, spend time with my wife and two girls, clean the house, shop for food — I do all the never-ending chores of a domesticated existence. (Like Flaubert wrote: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you can be violent and original in your work.”) And I enjoy it — there is a pleasure in just simple things.

But having cats makes me remember that I have a wild nature, too. I’m not just a domesticated, civilized human being. I am also a wild creative person. That’s where my wildness lies, in the imagination, when I sit down to write at night, typing away, immersed in my fiction, my cats racing around the house, playing and caterwauling, hunting and prowling, stretching and jumping from one height to the next.

That’s when I feel like I’ve chosen the perfect familiar.

Vestigial Prejudices and Pieties

I like Easter. It’s got all the fantastic elements of a Gothic tale: the Nosferatu Christ risen from the tomb to feast on the soul of humanity.

We had choc eggs and a new little gray kitten at our place. So that makes 3 cats in my house now!

I love cats. There’s this wonderful poem by the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz in his Road-Side Dog collection where he speaks about the sensuality of cats. And cats are sensual. Lounging and weaving in and out between your legs. And when they sleep, they roll and narrow their eyes to a sultry pout.

I have found that yard work soothes the soul. I cleaned up our backyard yesterday evening. It was so glorious out. But I can’t believe there are weeds already! It amazes me to see green shoots and new life, I always think, how the hell can plants and flowers (especially flowers, the dandies of the natural world) survive winter? But they do.

And I got to see a barred owl up close and personal. Our neighbour works as a wild animal rescuer and she had this barred owl in a cage in her trunk. It had been hit by a car this winter and was blind in one eye. Very cool bird. I want one for my shoulder. Actually, I like those tiny saw-whet owls. I need a familiar.

Ah, the wonders of living in Maine. Wildlife abounds.

“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.” Vladimir Nabokov