July 20, 2008

Days Slipping Away

Walden Pond

Too quickly the days slip away into yesterdays. I realized I had not been here in more than a month. Sometimes it is the journal of my inner life and some times I just have to leave it alone. There is a great deal of change and uncertainty in my life these past months and many times I am too worn to stand the thought of even another moment in front of a computer screen trying to get my thoughts together. These are trying times and the decisions I must make will have long term consequences. Once again I am torn by the conflict between my conscience and my checkbook, between security and uncertainty. But we are all in good hands.

When life weighs too heavily I fall back on the comfort, the consolation of a good book. I am currently rereading The Hobbit. Gandalf does not seem so much like the serious wizard here as in the later books. I also recently re-read the Lords of The Rings trilogy and watched all the movies over again. I first read through the series many years ago when I was too young a reader to really understand the magnitude of what I was reading. I was spurred to catch up on these old friends by a posting by Deb On The Run here in which she mentioned Tom Bombadil. Finishing The Fellowship Of The Ring then watching the movie led to disappointment. The movie seemed not to be as good as I had remembered. With The Two Towers it was the opposite. The movie and the book were both engaging.

One of the things I find most interesting about Tolkien is that these books are just part of a much wider and deeper invention of his imagination. And he was a very well respected scholar who wrote one of the most seminal and important papers about the great Beowulf poem (one of my favorite literary works). Tolkien was one of the first to treat Beowulf as a work of art and not just an artifact of history.

I also recently finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. First novels just don’t get much better than this. This story is so well written and rings so true it feels like an autobiography and it packs a powerful emotional wallop. As a bit of a (hack) writer myself it’s always a moment to savor when you come across such a craftsman. From the very first paragraph Hosseini pulled me in and I read in every free moment.

I also just finished Gone For Soldiers by Jeff Shaara. I’ve read two of his other books and found then to be good solid writing but with no surprises. This book is a re-imagining of the Mexican-American War through the eyes of (for the most part) Gen. Winfield Scott and Capt. Robert E. Lee. What I found most interesting about the book is how many characters show up here who went on to play pivotal roles in The Civil War. Besides Scott and Lee there is Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, James Longstreet, George Meade, George Pickett and Joe Johnston. I also learned a great deal about this war that finalized most of our nation’s permanent boundaries. Mexico was forced to cede Texas, New Mexico and California. This was Manifest Destiny in its ugliest form.

This is also the war to which Thoreau so strenuously objected in “Civil Disobedience.” Sorry for this tangent but Thoreau is a personal favorite of mine. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Thoreau:

“He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the State; he ate no flesh; he drank no wine; he never knew the use of tobacco; and though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose, wisely no doubt for himself, to be the bachelor of thought and Nature.... No truer American existed than Thoreau.”

Thoreau’s Walden is one the great books. The passage below is some my favorite writing:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it.”

These words never fail to inspire me even when I fall so short of the ideal.

In honor of Thoreau here are a few recent photos of our flora and fauna.
Almost looks like an alien landscape but it's just the tidal flat when the tide is out.


King of Peace said...

Here's an honest reply: You are not a hack writer, even if your job often requires you to function as one. You are a gifted writer who needs a project big enough in which to fully discover your own voice—a voice you will first either discount, or have little faith in, or even fear—but one which should be set free.

There are at least two non-fiction books in you now: One of your own upbringing and relationship with your father and the rest of your family, another of of your boss and his life and family (particular appropriate at this point of closure).

You also have fiction brimming inside you and trying to spill over.

None of this answers questions of life and checkbook. But there must be a way for you to fully open up your creative side and make a living in the meantime while doing so.

your friend,

Anonymous said...

Wonderful to hear from you again. And a very moving entry; thanks for sharing.

Prayers for the decisions to be made.

James the Thickheaded said...

Folks forget that at the end of the Civil War, a number of the generals on both sides served as pall bearers at each others funerals. The Civil War seems to me one of those that really was a family war. Folks loved each other. Fought with each other and buried each other like family.

My family was on both sides. Sometimes within the same family unit... others just in different branches of the family later joined. Revolutionary War went the same way, too. There the family split as well. Losers went to Canada... others stayed here.

You might enjoy Robert Patton's book on his grand father... the heralded General George S. Robert and I went to school together in the early years... and I thrilled to read his book. Recently got good review for his first fiction, too. It can be done. Hang in there!