Lately, when I want writing inspiration, I find Sherman Alexie.
When I need grounding, I read anything Molly Gloss.
When I want to know whether I’ll be writing when I’m in my 70’s, I read my friend Tony Wolk. I also read his friend, Ursula, who is now 80, but daunting with her bold silver litcrit yin yang rodeo buckle.
The other day when the wind was blowing in 40 MPH gusts, I went for a run. Just to see. I live in an established suburban neighborhood anchored with trees that had danced with storms since my grandparents ran wild: mighty oaks, old growth fir, and two jolly green poplar that on clear nights bookend the moons of Jupiter; towering over a younger wiry crop of developer-planted dogwood, cherry, and maple. The wind frantically dipped the tree tops, whipped up leaf demons, and bullied small branches to the ground. It tried to push me around, but I’m skinny and, without leaves or needles or webbing, don’t have much lift. One big gust tossed a cat–a fluffy little tabby with ears like lateen sails–out of the skirts of a big fir and into my arms (really, onto my shoulders) as I jogged past. I whooped and she howled and dug in, burying her nose in my armpit. The tree stood on the lawn of a white neo-colonial with a red front door–red for good fortune in finance–so I carried her there and rang the bell. A friendly older gentleman answered, a lawyer or professor or other professional orator from his demeanor, he swept me in and thanked me profusely while scolding and cooing over the cat–who rumbled in response to “Oh now now you are now now puss puss.” His wife–younger and lovely in her own feline sort of way–exclaimed and rubbed noses with little Onnyannpp, offered me a cold cloth for the blood, and insisted I stay for tea. Three cups and one photo album of adventure vacations and graduations later, the cat twining round my ankles, they conferred briefly nose-to-nose then suddenly offered one of their daughter’s hands in marriage. I smiled apologetically at my new dear friends and held up my left ring finger. Then I told them about my three sons of marriageble age: one a budding economist in the blossoming field of online publishing, one an athlete developing a method for knitting bones with sound, one a musician who speaks three Eastern languages and laughs at jokes in six. And so you find me here in the first row of pews on the groom’s side, with my own beautiful wife, holding kleenex in one hand and my little daughter’s hand tight in the other, waiting for the bride, hoping that the wind howling outside has not blown her away, and wondering if there are two feet sticking out from under this little church, rapidly curling and ready to drop a pair of sparkling red shoes.
[This odd little piece started out as a handful of sentences about how it was windy, I went for a run, caught a cat blown from a tree, returned the cat to her owner, was rewarded with an offer of marriage, countered with an offer of my son’s hand, and ended up in church for the ceremony–a sketch of of initial conditions and unpredictable outcome (leaving out the background info for all parties that would make the outcome far less random). Then I started dropping in more language, and shaving; dropping in and shaving (like a homeless guy in a public restroom on the mornings of successive job interviews). I stopped after I’d seriously exceeded the time I’d given myself to work on the piece, thought it was either droll and wacky or flat and wacky with a few sparks, but “good enough for blog (vanity press?) work,” and not good enough to send out. I’m focusing more on productivity instead of my usual practice–smothering a piece with love that I only mean to flirt with. But I can use pieces like this as phrase and idea banks I might draw from later, and I’ll continue to play with the theme of apparently random outcomes.]
My heart thuds and whooshes in my ears all day long. I notice it more at night, when the world is quiet. The doctor says my EKG is normal and my blood pressure is par excellence. Extracurricular reading says it might be anxiety. I’ve been anxious all my life and maybe it’s just catching up with me. Dry observations aside, it annoys the hell out of me. Time to dust off the old tai chi again, I think–long form, Yang style, the way I learned it back in another century.