Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Searching for the Library

I need to write a new poem.  And while a poem seems to be slowly coming to the surface like leaves in a heavy rainstorm, so far, it's eluded me.  I have dreams like that.  Dreams that feel like they’re coming to the surface, but when I wake up, they’re gone, submerged into the dark mud of my night world.

Could it be the oppression of snow?  We’ve not had this kind of snow before.  The relentless piling of heavy chunks of white on top of everything, week after week.  I suppose we could get used to it, but we’ll not get the chance.  By the time we’ve accepted all the inconvenience and danger, it will be spring.

Where does creativity spring from?  People talk about having a muse.  I suppose that’s an interesting theory.  Like being in love and being inspired to give the world everything you wish for your lover, or maybe love of an idea that lodges in the mind like a familiar.  I think it has to do with energy, some kind of physical chemistry. When I reach out for that, it just eludes me.  Could be the season or just the nature of my work these days.

Managing a database is like having a virtual orphanage or school.  Each child’s progress has to be recorded, and graded and graduated to adulthood.  Some get adopted.  Some repeat and repeat until you have to send them out into the world, ready or not.  Sometimes they get into my sleep, these bits of data, struggling to coalesce, to become discrete and assume or assert identity.  When I wake from dreams like that, I feel cheated. 

I’d rather have one of my recurring nightmares than a dream about work.  My nightmares follow two patterns.  In the first one, I’m driving my car and I come upon a somewhat familiar route, but it looks different and I get lost and hopelessly unable to find my way.  Sometimes I reach a cul-de-sac with boulders toppled everywhere, or cliffs with trees growing along the sides, or other times the road turns into a canal.  Then I have to get out and walk.  Sometimes I miraculously have a purple umbrella or a white raincoat, or some other helpful item.

In the second nightmare, I’m in a school.  It’s usually a huge building with a very tall elevator, and I’m always looking for the library, which is in a mezzanine and not easy to find.  You can’t get there by the elevator.  So I go up or down the stairwell, stopping on floors and wandering around, hoping to find the entrance.  Sometimes I wander into places I’m not supposed to be, where marble corridors and hunt pictures presage executive suites.  So, if I don’t find the library, strange people arrive and try to draw me into things I don't have any interest in, and I get more and more lost. 

But once in a blue moon, I do find the library, and it’s magnificent, with a high-domed, ornately carved gold ceiling, very high windows and tall, tall shelves of books.  An old Oriental carpet is worn in places, and there are stuffed arm chairs.  It’s just heaven.  And of course, no matter how I try to memorize the doorways, I always have trouble finding it again.

You can surely see how searching for libraries and being lost in a wilderness could be more fun than holding the reins of a database, or shoveling inches and inches of snow around a car that’s totally inadequate for the season.

Maybe creativity, like dreams, is just an escape.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


It occurs to me that freedom is an overused word
Freedom to abuse the earth
Freedom to abuse women
Freedom to spend money you don’t have
Freedom to put toxic chemicals in food
Freedom to market dangerous drugs as safe
Freedom to censor news
Freedom to force workers to work unpaid overtime
Freedom to raise prices and rents indefinitely
Freedom to rob from pensions & social security to pay for wars
Freedom to use those excess oil reserves
Freedom to drill anywhere you please for oil
Freedom to spill oil in a gulf
Freedom to spill radioactive waste into an ocean
Freedom to allow fracking waste to pollute soil and water
Freedom to bomb people with drones in a foreign country
Freedom to drive a car without emissions controls
Freedom to dump waste in a fresh waterway
Freedom to arrest and torture people
Freedom to jail immigrants on suspicion alone
Freedom to spy on people’s emails and conversations

This is different from
Freedom to marry whom you choose
Freedom to worship God, gods or nothing at all
Freedom to express yourself on the internet and elsewhere
Freedom to travel outside your country
Freedom to buy a house in any neighborhood
Freedom to apply to any college or job
Maybe freedom isn't what we mean anymore.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Published a Book - Now What?

I was reading this essay by a novelist who got really depressed when she finished her novel because she had expected that it would have given her a sense of happiness, a sense of freedom and completion. But no.  Instead she felt empty and burst into tears driving down the highway.

I felt something like that after publishing "The Silver Reindeer."  I didn't get that writer's high I was expecting. Not even when I finished the final draft and put the last touch on the painting for the cover.

Huge breakthrough.  

Achievement is not happiness.

There is no end to the string.  It's a continuous thread that may or may not meet itself somewhere on the other side of the universe and form a circle.  And even if it does, I may not be around to see it.

I tell myself (and you, dear reader), if you want to paint a painting, there is no goal.  There is no end point to be achieved.  It's an experience, something to enjoy deeply in the moment, an experimental effort that may or may not find a pleasing place to stop.  You might say, okay, let me stop here before I screw it up.  Or you might say, hold on - I think I'm going to start over.  Or you might just say, "Cool."  Stop and have a drink, and admire it where it is, in all its unfinished glory.

As for the books, the poems, the stories, instead of seeing each one like a little mountain of endless tasks, why not enjoy the process again?  Read them over again just for fun, and not pick away at every phrase and paragraph?