Essay: Rocks Can Speak

When I was a very young lad, one day as I was walking along a well-worn path, I noticed a stone of interesting size and shape. The stone briefly entered my short span of attention, as did many things lying about my undiscovered world at that age. I don’t recall many other details about my surroundings that day, but they no longer matter.

That was the first time a stone was not just another rock lying among other random bits of littered scree. Certainly, similar discoveries have occurred thousands of times throughout my life while walking, running, hiking, exploring, or just hanging out (thinking or not). This was a simple event that works as my metaphor for many other life events involving discovery, reason, and doing.

The rock was just lying there among others, perhaps for a thousand years or more. I wasn’t yet thinking in geological or historical terms. Stones have served many purposes after they were formed millions, perhaps billions, of years ago. There it was on the ground with others just where my eye located it. It had probably been moved around in one fashion or another over the centuries. I had no way of knowing, nor did I care. Even before approaching it, I was mentally making my I saw it first claim.

Living organic things come and go. Almost all life forms have appeared for a time and then were gone. Over 99 percent of life is extinct. Some rocks may contain fossilized records of past lives, but most are just inorganic minerals. I was not the only child who saw rocks, sticks, or other items as things naturally intended to be thrown about. Getting the right rock and throwing it brings a feeling of success. Skipping rocks on water is a universal rite of passage.

Looking around at the organic things today, I realize that most are less than 100 years old, and less than 50 in current forms. The complexities of the laws of thermodynamics (physics) change things, but we only see the now.

Neither I nor the stone said anything, Rocks don’t talk or hear in the animal sense. But nature can speak to us through both organic living things and through inanimate objects, such as rocks and fossils.

As I moved, the rock played its role as a lifeless stone like billions of similar objects covering the surface of the Earth. Rocks are infinitely expert at going with the flow. River rocks spend so much time tumbling in the roll of water they lose their edge and become rounded. The rock I saw did not sparkle, twinkle, or do anything spectacular. But I saw it. I squatted and half bent over so I could pick it up with my hand. That was many years ago.

More recently, I picked up another rock – my first in years. I carefully examined it, top, bottom, and all sides. One learns that by picking things up, especially rocks, one must carefully examine the item to ensure it is a lone stone, and not one littered with objectionable attachments. It must be just the boy, or now the man, an old man, and the rock with no another surprises.

While I didn’t bother to analyze it, the rock was local Austin limestone, or chalk rock, which is said to have formed in the window of 100 to 200-million years ago. It didn’t matter, and at the time, what I was looking at was just an old rock. Or was it?

Ideas are like stones. Once you pick one up, you must examine it, and only then decide what to do with it. As with stones, I have dropped ideas, put them in my pocket for later pondering, or threw them. When throwing ideas or stones, one must distinguish between discarding, sharing, or targeting. The first is simply throwing it away or back to where it came from. The second is communing by tossing it to someone else. But the third is capturing the idea or stone for our own creative purposes. Like rocks, ideas can speak to us. We just need to listen.

Look both ways for material and ideas. That’s what creativity is all about.
Toss some back to the gods, share some with others, or use them within your own art.
Mind the gaps. Look there for those hidden gems.

Like rocks, ideas may be too big.

Blog News for Poets and Skeptics

Hey out there,

Was the salutation Pat Conroy used when he finally blogged (he disliked that word) what he referred to as his letters. On March 26, 2014, he wrote, “I’ve come to that point in my life when my memories seem as important as the life I’m now leading.” I understand that. Conroy fought blogging, but eventually took to it, resulting in the book A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, which is an anthology of his postings.

Pat Conroy’s Outlook

Pat touted the fact that he gave up writing poetry at a relatively young age and thus did much for the world of prose, by writing it; and for poetry, by not writing it. Pat also made a wonderful life for himself and his family by writing several best sellers. Had he been exclusively a poet, the odds would have been against equal financial success.

My Writing Memoir

I have been writing poetry (or creative prose) for a short part of my long life. In a way, I gave poetry up at young age too, by not beginning writing until much later. That was a mistake I’ll always regret. All I can do now is write as much as possible.

I smile when other writers talk about how they began writing in grade or high school, some as late as college. Well, me too, but my goal was to complete assignments for grades and promotions, no more. Bukowski began his poetry career at 35, half the age at which I began my own personal tryst with verse.

Like many others, I began writing earnestly after I fully retired. My previous careers involved extensive writing, mostly of a technical, business, or academic nature. It was not what one studies in Creative Writing or Memoir classes. It paid well enough. During my years of employment, I learned much about the craft of writing, if less about the creative and artistic aspects. I am working my recovery.

On Memories and Life

So, getting back to Conway’s quote on memories and their importance. I now lead the life of a writer and blogger. When people ask me what I do: I write. My memories, like Pat’s, provide seasoning, if not substance, to everything I write. Sometimes I think that since I started so late, I need to catch up. Now, I write all I want and about whatever I desire. I feel like I am making up for lost or wasted time.

New Blog Site Announcement

This blog site will continue as a literary blog for my poetry, essays, and anything related to writing that I want to share, but I have created another blog site. It is called Dispassionate Doubt: Broodings and Ponderings of a Pensive Skeptic.

I don’t like to post things unrelated to literature on Our Literary Journey, even though I wrote them. Furthermore, during the month of April I will post a poem each day on this site, related to the challenge of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). Additionally, I will post every weekday for the A to Z blog challenge on the Dispassionate Doubt site. In subject and substance, one will have nothing to do with the other. So, I will have two blogs. I think many of you do also.

Poems of February 2019

This completes my second month writing a poem each day of 2019, as a self-challenge. The topics, subjects, or titles of the 28 poems were:

  1. Placid Place (finding peace after fighting)
  2. Morning
  3. Why? (do we do things we do?)
  4. The Stone (also working an essay on this)
  5. How to Die
  6. Paths
  7. Tranquility Shit
  8. E-Day (Emily Day)
  9. The Call (a life-changing phone call)
  10. Changes (in life)
  11. Basic Good (me, maybe)
  12. Master (becoming one)
  13. Miracles
  14. Weeds (literally)
  15. What It’s Like – Old (on aging)
  16. An ekphrastic poem: An Old Boat (also one about painting my portrait)
  17. Dancing Trees (In the wind)
  18. Death by War
  19. Play (literally about playing)
  20. Midnight Writer
  21. Streets
  22. The Florence Diner (the place and people)
  23. Perception (differences in how we see)
  24. I’m Alive (celebrating life)
  25. Coal Miner’s Son
  26. There Be Dragons
  27. That Old Time Rock and Role
  28. FUBAR

To view the new WordPress blog site, click on the title in the announcement paragraph or here.

Look both ways, but remember it rises in the east and sets in the west.
Learn how to find Polaris, the north star.
Mind the gaps, the wonder, and the mystery of life;
of being, and of the universe.

Poetry: A Strain of Madness

The pathetic bitch just lay before my eyes,
we each blamed the other for her horrible lines.
I had once dreamed of her as a flawless beauty,
but her loveliness was soon all too fleeting.
Everything about her soon disgusted me.

She beamed as I hacked away and mutilated her.
Such beatings were horrible, she no longer was fair,
not lovely as once I’d imagined. She was my obsession,
she had to be better, no – I demanded perfection.
I swore at her, insulted her, I’d not let her rest.

Her excruciating pain was caused by my emasculation,
as I twisted her limbs, she bled and cried out my damnation.
I never shed tears. I was her god, her creator; I owned her.
Angered I was, by what she’d become in my hands.
No longer did she sing her sweet angelic song.

Her nightmare was my blind fury. As her cruel and ruthless master,
I swore obscenities and pointed out her flaws; her heart was shattered.
I pondered her shredding – me killing her. Where could I hide?
Should I kill us both? Maybe that was it; murder-suicide.
Thus ending our miserable suffering, both would just die.

Without me, she would not exist. Mutilation continued;
I hacked off pieces, yet that suffering twaddle endured.
I attached new members, only to rip them away as crap;
I ignored her cries for mercy as I tossed her limbs as scrap,
replacing them with her rip-torn skin; still oozing blood.

Was her beauty hidden or gone? I ripped at her face.
She was mine to mold, to satiate my perverted desires.
Everything, from her disfigured hair flowing down
to her awkward stumbling feet, was to gratify me.
Her suffering would end with my metered pleasure.

I deemed us inhuman. A mere dullard of life, all that she was.
Her reasons for existing were meeting my ruthless demands.
She failed. Each day I emptied myself into her, more beatings.
Her tolerance for my impatience stroked her pleasurable feelings,
her loving and caring endurance infuriated me all the more.

I was disgusted. All that time. All the work. All our suffering.
Yet, lain before me that pathetic little twat blamed me.
Exhausted, I thought this would be the end for us both.
Barely breathing, her heart murmuring along with mine,
our time together had neared its end, soon it was done.

One final scream! And then; calmly I stared, feeling a bit proud.
My anguish gone, I muttered the sounds of her words aloud
just as she set them before me. Slowly, she began to change.
That poisonous little worm became my lovely butterfly.
She smiled at me. Then she pouted, both sensuous and shy.

We reached out to each other one final time.
Soon, she would be with eternity, but somehow still mine.
I wept as my pleasure mixed with regret and my sorrow.
After setting her release for after sunrise, tomorrow,
I abandoned my poor little poem to whatever might follow.

Bill Reynolds, 9/4/2017

Know the gaps and mind them well. Look both ways, or deal with hell

But he who, having no touch of the Muses’ madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will get into the temple of art – he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted; the sane man disappears and is nowhere when he enters into rivalry with the madman. ~ Plato, Phaedrus

Hence poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. Aristotle, Poetics

Love the art, poor as it may be, which thou hast learned, and be content with it, making thyself neither the master nor the servant of any man. ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Four

NaNo Rebel – One Week Done

Telling my story
Telling my story

In the first five days of NaNoWriMo, I’ve written 11,000 words toward the goal of 50,000 before midnight of November 30th. Since my personal goal was 2K words a day, I’m ahead. I have picked up on several things about my writing.

  • I am not isolated. My wife comes and talks to me routinely, and I go talk to her. I have vacuumed the house, gone to meetings, and done shopping. I answer phone calls (not doing surveys or talking to telemarketers, and I voted early), and I go for walks.
  • I have time available to write. Being retired, I could write all day and night. But I can take time for a football game, and maybe some NCIS or Blue Bloods. I read about what I am supposed to be doing: writing memoir. I talk to people, often about things having nothing to do with writing.
  • I think my weakest writing skill is the art, the creative parts, the telling of the story. I blame my experience with technical writing for part of that. But for this memoir, I continue to work on my skills to show and tell from my POV at the time. Can I be both protagonist and antagonist?
  • If I read a sentence that I wrote last week, I will change it. It will be better, but the challenge is to write, not to re-write and edit. This slows me down, but it looks like I can semi-comfortably write a maximum of about 3-thousand words a day. I did 2,800 twice last week.
  • I made an outline, a spreadsheet, and a memory list. The list has turned out to be the most valuable. I never look at the outline or spreadsheet. My only problem with the memory list is that I write in chronological order and the list random.

img_0833-1

  • Here are examples from my list:
    1. Working to pull out coal stove and put in gas hot water heater and gas stove for cooking.
    2. Looking up at Dad realizing I was looking at a drunk man who didn’t care. I had eerie feeling that he resented me. I was not seeing my father.
    3. Helen Hxxxxn (Whitey) BB gun. Tomatoes.
    4. Peggy Rxxb and the Rxxb family.
    5. Carol Mxxar and Joe Mxxxxen
    6. Dog named Rusty and my treatment of the dog
    7. Age 5 birthday party
    8. Danny
    9. Raised by both bio parents…first in fam….Linda was second, but hers divorced (he left) right after Linda graduated high school
    10. Mom’s relationship with my half-bro, Danny, and my view of it.
Write. Just write you must.
Write. Just write you must.

I will be writing this memoir for a long time to come. I’ll win the Nano challenge and complete this memoir, but not anywhere near at the same time.

I miss writing this blog, but I choose not to do both.

If you ever consider writing memoir, I suggest it. For me, it’s not about the book, it’s about me. I still have a lot to write and things to decide. Do I want to write about something or make it available for others to read? Those dark “things” about me? I work at keeping the words and stories on my intended spiritual track, but in my mind, everything relates – particularly during my formative years.

The following excerpts from my memoir are from two more dramatic events, both relate to a nun who taught me. Context is that I had just learned that the same nun who taught 7th grade will be teaching 8th next year, then we jump to what I was worried about.

Blues Brothers movie, my fav part
Blues Brothers movie, my fav part

….“Mom, Coughlin is 7 to 12th. Can I go to 8th grade there? I’ll go next year anyway.”

“Now, Billy-boy. Why wud ya? Jist graduate St. John’s. After I see ya graduate, God can take me. It’ll never happen again.”

“I’ll graduate Coughlin, Mom.”

8th grade was worse than 7th. Even Father Burns was afraid of Sister Mary Siena, and for good reason. She was the tyrant of the school.

Gerry Dxxxxe sat behind me. As I was turned around explaining something of extreme importance to Gerry I heard, “Mister Rxxxxs, what is the answer?”

“The answer to what, Sister?”

“Young man, you better know the answer to the question I just asked the class.”

After I suggested that she asked one of them, the anger-crazed dark shadow in black habit grabbed her instrument of torture and death. As she stormed down the aisle heading at me, in her hand was the yard long wooden pointer. It was round, about the circumference of my thumb. She yelled for me to standup and turn around.

As it turns out, blows to the flesh behind the knees with such a pointer are not soon forgotten….

At times, how I saw it.
At times, how I saw it.

Life is interesting,
look both ways and mind the gaps.