Thursday, February 16, 2017

Zoos and Taxidermists

It’s interesting to look into the distance and see mountains. I grew up in a valley between mountains of the Boise Foothills and when I moved to Boise, the proximity was close. They still loomed over me; capable of dominance and beauty over the various seasons of my life. It wasn’t personal and the growing distance now allows the mountains to stagnant from dominance into backdrop. An approachable horizon that blooms in midday when the fog burns away under the heat of the sun. From this distance the valley of my childhood would be less than a gulley with a snaking creek and the trickle of water would be no more.
I’ve been struggling with the multitude of voices in my head. I can isolate individual patterns and recognize influence, but the content is marginal at best. Within them all is my own. Subdued. I’ve made a life of dwelling and built up enough guilt that my reflection wears plainly. Perhaps this is pain to me, stagnation, but I fear that the likelihood is the person who I am closest to feels this the most. And now experience repeats itself and the safety of that childhood moves further and further away, the proximity of that love; now it may be that distance is insurmountable and I backtrack to a better vantage point.
The gap will not be closed. The beauty of travel is the forward motion as it merges with strain and builds on the body into a glaze of sunshine and sweat. There’s not enough time to turn back. There’s always an opportunity to look back. Close or far that reflection is seasonal and colored by the light. Do I try to control the world? At times against any backdrop I look for something like a sign to impart some piece of meaning onto the landscape. I look for a symbol to authenticate and explain my life.
I don’t long for meaning or significance as much as a pervasive quiet. My dreams are chaos and lumber disproportionate to memories of peace. I think that peace aligns itself more with exhaustion and being spent, the road to peace is incoherent shouting until a break and a breath. I don’t know if you can hear me or you’re listening anymore. I need a zoo to separate the differences between myself and myself. To look into true reflections isolated by role and moment and know exactly what manifests. I need these still lives, caricatures of myself, I need to hire a well versed taxidermist and allow them to study.
Twice in my travels I looked at their work. Once, in Montana, I slept outside a school for taxidermists and entered at night while it was closing to look on the largest moose I’d ever seen. The antlers were huge. The bright ceiling lights cast the shadow like a full moon against a tree and I felt small. The exact control may not have been who the moose was. The carcass brought to life, though, carried a magnitude that took me back to the Bryce Canyon. I walked among the life work of a man who caught and captured, stuffed and manicured each prey he chose. There and now I wish for a zoo, captive, with these moments to reflect on. The stuffed snapshot of each self that I have been for a moment.
It’s hard to trust. I’ve never trusted anyone as much as you and I worry what that means. But, I’ve looked at myself here before. I know what this looks like. There is a variety of reflections available. Beyond this horizon, looking back, I can see stalled moments on the mountains that I’ve climbed. There on a crossroads I’ve always chosen and thought, no, this is the most beautiful moment of my life. There is no separation between the unbearable weight of beauty and the fleeting satisfaction of silence. Yet, more than the beauty, I right now yearn for that silence and that painful exhaustion.
I do not think I am condemned and I do not think there is a distance too far between that can destroy the ties that bind. I know that I miss who I am when you are there. I also know it’s very hard and words have fallen short, turned from strokes to brute force. I can’t reach out, so I’m reaching out, and I thought you should know that if you ever come looking. At the very least, I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have needed. I haven’t been here before and I understand the pressures you are under. I think my name would hurt again here. I wanted to share all of this with you, and I’m proud of what you’ve just finished.
There is something in the distance. In the morning it burns. In the evening it is lit on fire again. Again, again, again. Always repetition and cycles and behind it all is a cycle I long for. Why is time so short and forgetting so long? I never get far from poetry. It lingers and explains my own inconsistencies and then I’m left reflecting and reflecting in silence because I do not speak. I hear these words now. I’m saying them out loud. I recognize the voice and have a piece of control. It’s not getting too far away from me and its patient. Subdued.

I sat at the train depot and looked out on Boise. The elevation sign close to the rails, 2731 feet, is a funny thing. As a child Boise felt low. Closer to the ground and sinking into something and here I am now sinking into something in Boise. The depot was unlocked and I climbed to the top and looked out from another peak—leveled against the foothills—where memory does not see the buildings, but there are they are in front of me. The urban expanse is always changing against the horizon, but the horizon only changes with seasons and I dream of the sun. And her straight, black hair. Shining through the morning fog like a promise. Like what the distance gives when, after exhaustion, it reveals itself to be another horizon. A perpetual promise repeating itself in the satisfaction of silence. I dream of you and I’m sorry.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How To Change Your Tire

The biggest thing to remember when your relationship falls apart, or when you have a flat tire, is it always feels like it is a pivotal moment that might define your life and it feels fatal. But, it’s not. You don’t stop being and you don’t stop moving so you have to deal with it calmly and coolly and understand that the approach to changing the tire is the most important part of moving on. Because nothing about the course of events leading up to the moment when two people exchange I love yous and when they depart is premeditated. Even a suggestion of premeditation might seem fatalistic, I want you to know that not every ride ends on a flat tire. Since you’ve learned to change your own tires you haven’t been on a single ride on your bicycle that ends on a flat tire. There’s no guarantee on the road between people and no remedy to the consequences and causalities of words and their interpretations. There is a way to fix a bicycle tire and keep moving.
It does matter which tire is flat. If it’s the front then it’s an easier experience because you don’t have to deal with the drive-train. So, let’s work through how you change out a rear wheel. Generally on a ride you can feel the PSI in the tires and you can feel if something is slowly leaking because it might seem like the bicycle is compressing into the ground. Something will feel off and though you can’t tell what it is, that feeling is something you should trust. In this situation we’ll imagine you truly got a flat. You heard the hiss, you felt the thump, and you immediately understood what happened. Perhaps there was debris from a tire in the road. The wires underneath the rubber mesh of the debris might have been protruding and after many passes under car and truck tires it might have disintegrated into a small object on the shoulder of the road. It could also be glass or rummage from a working truck, nails and screws; whatever it is, you feel like you know and have the power to fix it.
Just remember before you start fixing it, a flat tire is an offering of distance. It’s easier to carry tools than hope on the road and on a bicycle you need to be ready to help yourself. I’ve found flats on bicycles after a long winter of no riding, however, if you’re involved with cycling over any period of time then the tire will go flat. I’ve had my heart break out on the porch, like a slow leak, and felt it follow me inside to a night of deflating. I’ve woken after rides with a flat from a slow leak. If the risk is a guarantee, it is important to chase it and accept the offering because flats can always be fixed, and most risks earn rewards. The flat tire is a beautiful annoyance that shatters the delusion of comfort and sparks self to the surface; enjoy it.
Because of your experience outside of Levingston, four flats in one thunderstorm and a night spent under the overpass of a highway shivering in the rain, you fix tires well the first time. Let’s use that day. You’ve been out for two and a half months. The day has separated in valleys and rainstorms and you’ve gotten your first flat. It was after passing the debris of a tire, though that experience will be different this time because you’ll fix the problem and you won’t only change the tire. This time you’ll only have one flat.
It’s sunny. Too hot for comfort, but it is the dry heat of the west, Montana. There is a collection of trees off the road. Dismount, lift the back, and roll the bicycle over to that clump of cedars. Remove your front bag and turn on your phone to see if you have service; don’t wait, set it aside, and continue the task at hand. Remove the tent lashed onto the back rack with two small bungee cords and set it on the ground. Hopefully there’s some grass to sit on, if not, use your foot to clear the bark away from a single spot and avoid any loose rocks. Now sit down and make yourself comfortable.
Remember enjoying the experience of the flat is through the approach. If it is a guarantee, then approach it with an earnest desire to rectify the situation and be in it. Don’t move too quickly through the process. Check your surroundings and make yourself at home underneath the shade of a tree, or any shade, if you can. You don’t need too much, but you might enjoy a break from the sun and this is your break because you’ll have spent some time fixing the tube. Enjoy it and make sure to drink water. I know I always enjoy the beginning of the experience, and sometimes I get frustrated, but remember that you know how to fix this and how to keep moving. This is fixable and it will make you feel better about everything. Because you can fix it.
Shift the bicycle into the smallest cog on the rear wheel and then loosen the quick release. At this point you would have to loosen the brakes, but since Estella, a Trek Portland, had disc brakes you simply have to grab the top of the wheel tightly around the tire and lift the bicycle off the ground with your offhand. Now push the wheel out of the dropout and make sure the chain doesn’t stay caught on the gears. Set the wheel on the ground close to where you will sit with the cog aiming up and lay the bicycle frame on the opposite side of the drivetrain. Remember that you don’t want to muck up your chain or your gears, but you can’t hold both things at the same time while trying to fix something. You need to let the frame wait and solve the problem at hand, and it will be fine, lay it on its side. Sometimes bicycles need breaks too.
Take your front bag off your handlebars and bring it with you to the ground. Sit with your legs crossed and pull out your tire levers, your patch kit, your new spare tube, and your phone. You don’t have service, but it is a beautiful day and it might be important to take a picture. Take a picture, but not of the road or the cars, or of the valley that you’re currently in. Take a picture of the wheel leaning against Estella, and Estella lying on the ground. The picture doesn’t mean anything to anyone else and it doesn’t capture anything about you except to say that once you were where you are and knowing that is enough. I know that’s enough. You know it too. We’ve always been dealing with this since we started.
You, on the page, are the actor working it all out. You are the fantasy of my trying to understand what happened. The present consumes me and I’ve always tried to impart something to you about it that might later come back to me because our relationship is symbiotic. You have always been what I need to remember when I write you correctly. A reminder that life isn’t the consequence of a moment haunting the self beyond the point of redemption. Life is a constant and fluid experience. You are the extracted grace of what I am. It’s an unnecessary burden that I give to you, but as much as you are the permanence in black, you are also fluid. You exist perpetually being written and embodying the good things that I recognize and try to point out and keep close like lessons. I will always be learning from you because I don’t know how else to learn. I continue to work hard to teach you and create you, an act that builds me in the present.
Turn your phone off. While you are out on the road, other people are going through life and they don’t actually believe this is anything other than some sort of privileged fad. That will be true enough, but this is special. I know that. You know that. The road is salvation from the time when I’m drowning in lines, the promise of the lines of the road seem like the maintenance that I need to make you stronger. The hardest thing to remember is that I need to approach myself with the same intentions that I approach Estella. You do it though, and well, you grow and forget the haunted feeling of past lovers. Even if sometimes you reminisce it is not bitterly.
Take your tire lever and align it with a spoke, then insert it under the bead of the tire and flip it over the rim. If you’re having trouble, put a second lever further down the rim, then flip both sides to allow the bead to pop out easier. Straddle the tire on your lap and let the wheel face away from you, the tire resting on your chest, and pull the lever along the rim while rolling the wheel. The lever will circulate along the bead and pop the tire out on one side of the wheel.
I sometimes forget, and I forgot then, but you should always remember, and now you will remember that after the bead is popped is the moment when you can change the future by dealing with precision to fix the present concern—where you earnestly work to find out why your tire is flat. Remove the tube, pulling out the valve first, and use your pump to fill it and see what type of leak you have. If the leak is obvious you will see it unwilling to inflate; if it is simply draining then you don’t need to find it yet. Return your focus to the wheel. Instead of having four flat tires later as the day goes on, you’re going to run your fingers on the inside of the tire. First on the left side, where you won’t feel anything, then on the right side. At some point you will feel the sharp prick of metal. It will be a small, sharp wire from the mesh of a car tire. Take the tweezers out of your front bag and pull it out if you can’t get it with your fingernails.
You don’t need to have tweezers with you. But having them is a preparation for the unexpected. Sometimes you might find yourself with a splinter if your handlebar tape wears thin enough, or if you make a fire at night. It feels good to be prepared. Because whether or not you have imagined a situation, you came prepared to face it. You have the tools necessary to solve complications and you don’t feel guilty about what you did or didn’t say. What you did or didn’t do. And, I know you don’t feel guilt or anxiety about my actions because you do not own them and this is where I grow. When I give you these moments like clothes to try on in different positions and in different poses. I anticipate they will look better on you, or you will wear them correctly. I make you hold them forever, Atlas of my life, because when I am gone the lessons will carry on and we will both be better.
Once you’ve removed the wire from the tire it’s time to fix the tube. Fill the tube with a puncture with air until you can hear the tube wheeze. Run your hands on the outside of the tube to feel for the air escaping. If you cannot feel for it, and I have more luck with this, listen to it. Put the tube to your ear and wait to hear and feel the air push toward you. When you can hear it try and move your finger over the hole. Once you’ve done that lick the tube. If you can’t visually see the hole, wetting the tube will force the air to bubble past the water. It will be obvious where the problem is and that is the first step to fixing a problem.
I imagine it’s easier to listen closely for what is broken than to try and find it reactively. I’m trying to work through an experience on the porch. Close proximity, words whispered in the growing dark, listening closely for the pop. Words can articulate that something has gone wrong and maybe actions are the wheeze of the tire going flat and the exit of someone else walking home is the flat. There is no patch to offer solace between mistakes when those mistakes are choices. But, those choices were mistakes and it was impossible to know that except for it to wheeze out and fall flat in the growing distance between a lover leaving and a muted pain, growing to a knowledge of absence. But the echo of a hurt voice only resonates a hurt in the distance between and it doesn’t heal or fix with insistence like a patch.
So, open your patch kit. I’ll make sure that inside is a variety of patches, a sander, and extra glue. Try and clean the tube off as much as possible of grime and dirt. Sand off the area where the tear on the tube is. Apply rubber glue or guerilla glue to the tube and the patch then put the patch over it. Grab your tire lever and use the back of the scoop to create friction through fast rubbing to dry and harden the glue. Look up and enjoy the view. There is no growing and indeterminate absence here. It’s windy and you can see the clouds swirling on the horizon and storming, and you know this will be your last flat of the day. You will ride through the valley between mountains on a road like an oxbow river in the rain laughing and you’ll camp on a nice grassy field.
Let’s assume that the tube is fixed. It’s fixing, gluing itself back together. You have done the work to allow things to get better and now you have to wait. Maybe it’s time to enjoy a cigarette on the road. I know I rarely let you smoke because it is a problematic suggestion on paper, but this time since we’re reimagining something together, you take a cigarette out of your front box and put it in your mouth. Now light it. As much as you can continually change and transform and better yourself, there are things that I know I will not stop even though I know they are absurd. I’ll think about this new absence now, but back then, think of the last love that left you. Remember how she ruined ‘hiii’ because of how goddamn sweet that spelling tasted? Leave the goddamn behind. That’s just me getting in your way. Remember how sweet the ‘hiii’ tasted? How your phone would blink red and you wondered if it was a ‘hiii’ from the distance now nonexistent. How with four characters you felt completely immersed in yourself and connected to another permanently. The word like something out of a John Donne poem.
Smoke the cigarette thoughtlessly if you can. Remember that the flat tire tried to bring you to the surface and let you confront the day. Delight in the present state of matter. There won’t be any animals because the highway is the bridge between civilization and nature, but the absence of both, the absence of the picturesque or the sublime—the forgettable space. Copy-pasted versions of landscapes that could be anywhere and that is where you find the most comfort. It’s crazy that suburbs seem so new, landscapes have been replicas of landscapes in the West since explorers compared experience to the past. Delight in the stories written about a place like this.
I know we can’t blame the explorers though. Every confrontation with something new is a reminder of something you have once experienced or seen because there is no other way to approach the world. It is the constant reminder you face that you are in fact not special, just an experience everyone is having. And that’s beautiful because you can recognize how important it is to be earnest and to deal with others fairly and try and impart to them something of yourself and not criticize them if they take something from you that you didn’t want to give. When you understand we are not special, you can know our interactions make each other special. And this is reassuring because you will always give it all, and I know I try to remember that when I’m falling short of you.
Your cigarette is dying and you ash the finale and rub it into the dirt. Take the butt and put it into your bike box, as much as you dislike the smell of stale smoke that reminds you of what you do to yourself, you don’t leave remnants of your presence on the road. Because owning the experience is more than enough and more than you could ask for and taking that away from someone else is an unfair laziness. Grab the wheel, the new tube, a tire lever and settle into the waving shade of the trees and the sounds of leaves like Aspen chimes. Settle into where you are and understand here is the pursuit.
Fill the tube with a little air. Enough to give it form and remove the wrinkles in the flatness of its curvature. Give the tube its own shape back. This step is important to remove a significant chance of pinch flats. Those generally occur when the tube is stuck under the bead of the tire and you attempt to fill it. With the tube filling and retaining a shape it will naturally stick into the throat of the tire and you can feel more assured that you won’t pop your own tire out of haste. Put the tube in valve first at the hole in the wheel. Don’t just put the tube in before inserting the valve, say what you feel when you know you mean it.
Thread the tube first into the throat of the tire, then thread the tube into the tire. Push it inside the tire so you can feel the partially filled tube in the throat of the tire and can prepare to put the tire’s bead into the rim of the wheel. When it’s inside, use your thumbs to roll a section of the bead into the rim at the opposite end of the wheel. The spokes will be facing you as you do this. You might take it as an opportunity to pull between the sets of spokes and see if the tension is correct. If the wheel is not true, you will feel it when you reattach the quick release and ride because the wheel will wobble and it will create consequences in the long term. But, check the tension because you know it feels good to try and fix things, even if you don’t know how, and knowing what something is wrong stops a lot of problems from getting out of control. Like when I walked away from her in the snow, tracks leading away and you instead turned back and saw that in her eyes she didn’t mean it, and it turned out differently. Make sure the wheel is true because you can’t see what’s behind you when you’re pushing yourself forward.
With the first section of the tire put back into the rim, continue with both hands, moving in tandem up each side of the wheel. Roll the tire itself with your thumb and continue moving toward the top of the wheel. As you get closer the tension on the tire will increase as the bead creates a horizon line across the rim. This will happen when you’ve got about a six inch section of the tire left revealed on the outside and it needs help to go into the rim. Always try to roll horizon over the rim with your thumbs. Roll on the outside while letting your palms slide across the outside of the tire and push upward toward the middle, like you are crimping the tire’s bead into the rim. If you can’t, you can use the tire lever to follow the inside of the rim and it will do this for you; you can do this though and each time you do it strengthens you.
And I guess strength is not actually what I want for you. Each time you do this it increases your endurance to make it through a hardship in your life with precision and poise; it teaches you to remember to respect the tasks that you chose to accomplish and to respect the weight of a job well-done. I’ve seen you in a moment or two where I felt close to calling you beautiful, but your beauty is in what you do and it has nothing to do with how you look. I know I feel a harbored collection of resentment within myself for what I think, but what you do is beautiful and on the road you’ve never complicated that and you’ve shied from opportunities that would take away the beauty of the act and taint it with desperation. I applaud you for that; I applaud you for your tenacity; I applaud you for changing tires well.
The tire is in the wheel, but you need to check for pinches of the tube sticking under the tire again, because pinch flats are a problem. Roll the tire back and look into the rim to see if you can see any buttons of rubber are sticking out. If you can, then use the tire lever to push it onto the opposite side of the bead. Do this around the entirety of the wheel on the side where you inserted the tire. By this time you might feel the desire to lament the flat. Don’t, you will cover all the distance that you set out to cover because this only matters to you and because you are building the worth of yourself by continuously challenging what you are capable of, you don’t have to worry about anything. The guarantee of distance is only limited by the restriction of time and you haven’t committed to an impossible task, you’re here for the moments where you excel.
Grab your pump and attach it to the valve-stem and start pumping. When the tire is full it will feel like a rock. 120 PSI is very strong and you won’t get close to that with your hand pump. You should try toward that though. Pump it as tight against the tire as you can until you cannot move any air in without a serious amount of effort. You will be passing a town somewhere and there will be a place with a pressure-gauge pump that you can use. Don’t even question that, ask door to door if you want; strangers are much more generous and open to you. You look like someone with purpose. The amount of gear you carry with you screams intentions beyond the place you are at and I wish I could figure out how to carry intentions in person, but you’ll be fine.
I should be you. You sound great and so resolute and useful. I love how open you are, how willing to experience for the sake of the experience. The hardships I put upon myself are acts of penance with a mixture of deep and genuine satisfaction. In some ways the idea of penance seems stupid. I feel it makes sense though. I thought I’d be dead by 20 and I acted like it and I’ve been living in compunction since my conscious developed a conscience. There’s just something nice with spending 9 months only interacting with strangers you never see again, and while you can remain attached virtually to your past, you only project your experience of the hardships, and you savor the journey. And maybe there are some people who know me who need to see me suffer; at least I know that I need to see that. But, you can be the written detail of a prayer. Because bicycling for long enough becomes more spiritual than any attempt to intone a chant.

Stand up and wipe the dirt off and prepare yourself to return to the sun and the revolving storms, the blinding light and the pursuit of the horizon. Put your wheel into the drop out, first pushing the derailleur down to open the chain, and attach the wheel to the frame. Pick up the frame and tighten the quick release and try and wiggle the tire to make sure it is both true and firm. Put on your panniers then attach your tent with your bungee cords and put your front box onto the frame. Now, return to the road and be better than I am.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

First Drafts in September

I have always had a strange experience with sharing work that I have done, but nothing has been as awful an experience as turning in the first draft of my thesis. On Wednesday I had around 180 pages finished and on Thursday, I turned in a draft cut down to 122. I cut two chapters that I felt were incomplete from a novel.

I wonder if the experience of waiting for comments, not on the quality of the draft, on the possibility of a defense changes over the course of a week. And does the time to wait mean anything? It’s very weird to move from a world of deadlines to a world of waiting. Between the two I prefer the world of deadlines because deadlines carry an inevitability more than the trial of waiting feels inevitable.

Looking back on my experience at Florida Atlantic University in the MFA, I see the value of time to pit myself on a table and work. I entered the MFA interested in fighting with rituals of personal work outside of a professional duty. MFAs in general provide a period of time drenched with intellectual duties. There are real world assignments: teaching, preparing, grading, and paperwork encompass a very impressive amount of time compared to your own work.

Duties abound in life. Responsibilities pile up. A job is an agreement to trade effort and energy for the livelihood of a social status, social health, and comfort. At the end of the day when given the choice between doing your own work and choosing to do that is an abyss in one way or the other is a false choice. Both are equivalent. Whatever happens during time, you will reflect on that as a waste of time.

I write this directly aware that if I am unable to defend I the time spent on the draft will feel like the same waste of time that could have been spent consuming rather than expunging. It is an interesting moment. Another moment that is tangibly important. Perhaps the thing I wanted to touch the most in the thesis was that tangible moment where things culminate together into something that matters: the thesis became an incarnation. It doesn’t surprised me, I thought I’d share it though.

The interesting part about all grinds to do something is they inevitably come up against a threshold into the next tier. Whether or not you enter the threshold, the feeling of coming upon a barrier to progress is an essential step toward the feeling of membership with the gatekeeper’s group.

The object in hand felt good though. Even cut with 60 pages absent, far short of my own expectations, anything could feel like something and that something felt like everything. It will be interesting to go about the rigmarole of bureaucratic processes if I am granted such leave.

The most amusing moment is in conjunction with that palpable surprise. While riding a bicycle across the country or simply on a short tour at some point there is the sensation that the thing missing is not the thing you’re experiencing, but the ability to share what you’re experiencing as you experience it. You always wonder if the proximity of loved ones or friends could change that experience and could make the ownership seem shared by more than just you.

Or at least, I always wondered if these pivotal moments of change could be more than they seemed if shared. I don’t know, but I do know that the more you experience them the more you change and that change prompts you to be more if shared. And you share more. And you grow. The emotional bonds of life compound if you allow yourself to have them. The way you see yourself changes the more you allow yourself to grow. But, it all hinges on seeing yourself as better than you are.

Richard Brautigan and his quick witticisms buried in really awkward writing still pops up in my head. I still remember the opening of the strange book In Watermelon Sugar. I still reference it. There is writing that is a fictional account with an aim and there is fiction that is a gesture. I read writing with an aim because it is crafted, it is easy to read, and it moves me the physicality of the book and movement itself. Then there is writing like Brautigan’s that is a gesture. It haunts me. It sticks around and it’s staying force bounces between the strange place it was formed and the obvious reasons why it should not stuck. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Return Amidst an Absence: Hello from Here

The last time I actively tried to update this blog I ended a race with a dislocated kneecap. I did not continue to post here because I’ve not had a great amount of interaction off this place. Which is to say, it’s been a one-way street of communication without the feeling of a callback.

It is amusing to me, thinking about that, and knowing that I titled the blog Postcards from Here. Postcards are naturally one-way communications that can’t be responded to. I don’t know why I let that hold me back from trying to communicate, but I think in a lot of ways I expected the embarrassment of trying with no audience to outweigh the usefulness of this space. But, because I’ve never tried I don’t know whether or not that is true.

On my longer tours, always 50 to 60 days in I reach a moment where I have an epiphany that is a continuous and lifelong epiphany and seems very obvious when it arises. Over the last month I’ve been in Alabama writing with limited internet access. Perhaps that allowed the epiphany to occur, or perhaps it was the content I was writing: the bicycle tour in extended-form that allowed it to re-occur.

Regardless why, it returned. Every day on a bicycle feels the most important because you wake with an objective, you work hard the entire day toward your objective, and you fall asleep with the completion of that objective in the distance x days away (x being somewhere between 1 and 90 or y). The monotony of a grind in real life overwhelms this distinct sensation of productivity. It doesn’t have to though, if daily life was full of immediate, short-term objectives then it would occupy the sensational space of traveling. What is special about traveling is the end that starts the second of the beginning, and until the end everything is important because it leads to a sense of getting the most out of it.
I intend to try, or put more effort into trying to make this epiphany a reality. I know the sensation of feeling every day. Feeling every day distinctly. When I return to life from a tour I can never distinguish life from a video game because the games I like include unwinnable grinds. I’ve equated life to an unwinnable grind that offers incremental improvements. It’s more about the experience though. I aim to focus on that and return myself to a daily sensation of improvement.

I will agree with what I had left here: Love can change the world. We should love more people and we should tell them every day that we love them. We should not feel guilty for feeling guilty.

I don’t know if I really ever did want to regularly document my life. To regularly share. I’ve never done that and because I’ve hidden a lot of my life consistently, the idea of sharing intimate things of the mundane that I hold special seems really far away from something that I am comfortable with. I think above all I fell short of my hopes of sharing because I don’t share. I’m not naturally open. The postcard is proof of that. To share is to receive and I’ve only ever wanted to give and then run away hoping what I gave was good.


Blogging may be a way I can increase the variations of how I treat accountability and work through it. So I’ll continue to blog, for myself, in the mode of postcards. Maybe these will offer something occasionally. If not, I’ll be happy to have done them and used it as an exercise to exercise epiphanies. I will try to hold myself more accountable and I will try to submit works more frequently so that I can share in more ways than this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Parasitic to Symbiotic: The Power of Form

The MFA faculty at FAU bring an impressive amount of both renowned and prolific authors for students to engage. I’ve had the chance to listen to lectures from Tayari Jones to Jo Ann Beard to Richard Ford. One comment that Ford made that resonated with me was: “Anybody who knows me for very long is going to fall out with me.” While he said this with a mixture of seriousness and humor, commenting on his own work, and his lack of a writing community, it felt true for me as well.
That sense of a fall out is a fear I’ve constantly dealt with in all social aspects of my life. I assume that I’m going to hurt someone needlessly, so emotional distance is protection. However, that attitude is counter to the reason I came to the MFA at FAU. I wanted to invest in a community of writers and take risks. A. Papatya Bucak wrote, on receiving tenure: “It feels like I ought to do something to deserve it,” and that was a feeling I felt early on in being accepted into the program. A feeling that grew when the University offered me a GTA position, and a feeling that continues to grow with the opportunities I am offered through the English Department and the Director Dr. Becka McKay. 
Within that desire to both partake in a community and to deserve that community, I have continuously been pushed by my professors to excel. The nudge for success also comes with the support to take more chances, and through this process of escalating demands and adjustments of self-accountability, I see something of my own experience reflected in Papatya’s writing: “It feels like I can try to write something better than what I’ve written before because I can risk failing.” The MFA program offers the opportunity to risk success because no matter what I write, it will be taken seriously, and there is something in that to cherish, something special.
I’m enrolled in Papatya’s course on the Forms of Prose and throughout this semester we have been working toward seeing the value in creating obstacles and restrictions on existing forms to create growth in our own writing. I’ve always valued form in poetry because of its ability to slip into the subconscious and complicate content. 
However, the forms in prose have been a different experience. Early on in the semester when asked to define what this might mean, I approached it rather literally: “it seems that form is an agreed upon process to mold content with an inherent suggestion to resist the familiar. But, form only works when it’s symbiotic with content.” This explication of form is light and timid. It feels more like an attempt to have something to say than an actual definition.
And it doesn’t surprise me; I fear the fall out with a professor even more than with a peer. I fear losing the chance to be taken seriously by someone I respect. After Richard Ford spoke, myself and a few peers walked around in a stupor of amazement at his insight and presence; a professor mentioned an annoyance that we hear incoming authors say the same things we hear in the program, and yet somehow from a new voice it is receivable.
Richard Ford’s strongest moment was during a contemplation on the serious nature of writing: “Your work is your work. It’s no less important at the beginning to you than it is to me at the end.” That, to me, is a profoundly powerful thing to say to an aspiring writer. And the professor was right to question this effervescent and short-term atmosphere because classes do deliver what we experience from visiting scholars and authors. 
Ford’s quote is also a description of what the MFA does for writers here. I love the burden of earnest expectations to not succeed or fail, but to create with no restraint. At the end of the semester, Papatya asked the class to redefine forms, and looking at my definition, in some ways, it seems that the definition of forms might be synonymous with the MFA degree. “Forms teach writers to learn the necessary tools that they can abandon. Forms are lessons in rules that subsume reader’s wants and needs with the author’s intentions through their obstacles and restrictions. Forms are invitations to apprenticeship with no master but accountability.” I latch onto that last line. As much as I want to say it is the drive of the MFA that propels work, to do so would ignore the reality that the MFA ends.
Last night I was very tired and hanging awake on the lines of a book when my mind woke to a realization. It’s a common one that I have; I see someone in my recent life and remember that we may forget each other, but we will never forget each other’s influence. I am grateful and still surprised that I am here. The conversations that drive my writing community start in the classroom. I know that, I see that in my growth; I want my professors to know.