Tag Archive: inspiration


Giving it away: Prelude

giving-it-away

Note to self, scratched in the back of “On Writing” by Steven King.

Lemme go ahead and put this out into the world: the prelude to my book.

It’s not perfect. It’s not edited (at least to any degree that I, as a professional editor, would admit). And it probably ain’t final. But it is. So there. Here. Read it, free of charge and with my compliments.

Early this year, I warned that this blog might not be pretty, so I guess this is one way of delivering on my word.

If you want to share your thoughts or impressions, feel free to comment and feel free to push it further into the world. With the caveat that I’m doing this for myself and my muse and not for others, I thank you in advance.

Prelude

Spires of smoke rose above the city of Kigaru, wedged between the twin mountains of Mizuyama and Kayama. Thicker, darker columns – from the larger kilns and blacksmiths – reached the greatest heights before dissipating in the cold winds of early autumn. Lower, lighter threads of smoke spoke of more humble origins, of temples and family hearths.

Surrounded by the mountains’ mist and the fog of the bay, Kigaru bore a shroud about and above it. The tops of its tallest trees were bare, exposed to the whipping winds – all but the ancient ginkgo tree inside the Himeji Temple grounds. Leaves yellow and gold clung to its branches, holding fast against an approaching winter. Proud, perhaps, but no less resplendent, they’d eventually succumb to the rhythm of the seasons, falling, with few exceptions, together.

One fan-shaped, yellow-gold leaf floated down, just missing the top of the temple wall and coming to rest just shy of the gravel footpath. It landed amid the ceramics covering a ragged tatami mat.

“Aren’t you lovely?” asked the old man, picking it up and studying the leaf. He cast his gaze over his shoulder to the 1,000-year-old tree in the courtyard. “And no doubt lonely,” he added with no hint of sadness. “Not to worry. You can stay with me for a time.” Between a weathered thumb and forefinger, he rolled its stem back and forth, back and forth before tucking it into a pocket inside his coat.

Voices and commotion rose on the other side of the wall. The throng of temple visitors, moments before meandering through the gate and along the pathway, quickly split apart at the insistence of three horsemen. The old man and other seasonal vendors like him gathered the goods at the edge of their mats, trying to keep their wares from being trampled by pilgrims who were trying to not get trampled themselves.

After the riders passed, the crowd reunited. Another vender, a younger woman – a potter, a novice as judged by her crafts – leaned toward Jinbei, who had already brushed dirt of his tatami and began setting out his crockery.

“Say, weren’t those Nakagawa riders?” she not so much asked as confided.

“Mm-hmm,” he mumbled an answer an agreement. “Didn’t expect to see them this early.”

“What? Early in the day?” she asked. “I hope I don’t have to make a habit of saving my goods getting crushed.” The young woman righted a set of thick teacups. “I thought I’d be less dangerous here than on Sochira Street,” she said with a bright laugh that reminded him of the leaf in his pocket.

“The season. I mean early in the season,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see their family crest before the Autumn Grand Ceremony, attended by all noble houses – the Nakagawa clan and lesser estates. That’s not for another three weeks.”

She arched an eyebrow. “And so?”

“And so, they don’t enter this holy ground except on such occasions, except when it’s expected, when it’s required of their station.”

The young potter had stopped setting out her goods to look at and listen to the old man. “Then why were they here?”

He was quiet for a breath. “Beats me,” he answered, then returned her attention. “But whatever the reason, it was important, judging by how quickly they left took off.”

She kept watching him as he got back to work.

“Who knows?” he said, allowing himself a grin before feigning reverence. “Maybe they all achieved simultaneous spiritual enlightenment, satori, and each of them wanted to be the first to brag about it to Lord Nakagawa.”

Such a jibe could get him struck down – he knew it, as did she. Yet she chuckled, covering her mouth with her hand and trying in vain to muffle her mirth, like the yellow-gold leaf in his pocket.

Until the end

Steal like an artistIt’s National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as #NaNoWriMo … I think. Otherwise known as 30 Days of Self-Inflicted Anxiety for would-be, could-be, perhaps should-be writers. I’m not in this year.

But serendipitously, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I found myself finishing up “Steal Like and Artist,” which I had started months ago, stopped to blog about at a low point (with myself/career, not the book), and never completed reading.

Write between the lines
One thing that stuck was the idea of being creative within confines. Of time, of energy, of space.

Net: confines can foster creativity. So I gave myself a page and decided to fill it up with long-hand — no more, no less. What follows is what happened next. And what follows that is a typed, altogether more legible version.

until-the-end

…scribble, scrabble, drabble on the memo pad I babble…

If you start, you may not end where you wanted to go. But when you stop, you’ve reached an end. Not the end, perhaps not your intended end. But you’ve gotten to the Omega to your Alpha.

Maybe for this, it’s here.
Or here.

Apparently not.

So the push comes from the scratch inside your head. That in turn scratches the pen across the paper. Dang, my arm is tired already. Just this far in.

But there is an intoxicant at work here – it’s blue ink, lines no longer barren. Thoughts reaped, harvested across the line like bundles of wheat across a valley floor – gathered together. Upright, spent, but with life-giving power.

There’s an opportunity in each line. Tabula rasa is it? Blank slate? I dunno.

So as I scoot toward the end of the page – cresting halfway – between accomplishment and anxiety. What I’ve said vs. what I’ve written.

But I’m only pushing myself to fill the page. To reach that Omega.  This is my constraint. This is my Incredibly Shrinking Goal – not to be feared. It should fear me.

Stare long enough into the Abyss and it will stare back. I am the Abyss. I am the unfathomable. I am without limit. The lactic acid builds in my arm, as the ink drains in proportion. Here – take this last line and absorb my ink, my words, my creation, and retain it until the end.

50 Cents Worth of Wisdom

Quick post for today, on account of the spotty WiFi at Emory and the fact that I may have to scram at any given moment.

We’re back at Emory University Hospital for the installation of a PEG tube, a typical pre-chemo procedure. That translates into my working around campus, checking in on my friend, and trying to get some work done. None of which am I meeting with much success.

In short, I’m operating on a gumption deficit, and the two cups of Starbucks haven’t gone far in bootstrapping me up. Gotta get rocking somehow.

Inspiration is where you find it

Enter a used-book sale in the lobby of Emory University Hospital. Sweet. I like these things a bunch, and if time permits, I scour spines for the rare gem or interesting title. Among such page-turners as The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to NYC, I spot a dog-eared tome that fits the bill for today: Shelley’s Poetry and Prose. Can I get a hell yeah?

A coupla quarters later, the paperback is mine all mine. I took the book and myself outside for some sun, which we both desperately need, and opened it up to “The Mask of Anarchy” and found what I needed:

“Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number–
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many–they are few.”

Boom. That’s what I needed. Great poetry, sure. But what speaks to me most is that fact that this speaks to me at all. I mean, Shelley wrote this on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester in September 1819. Yet, now, 191 years thereafter, I find resolve in his words when faced with a situation nothing akin to what spurred him to write those lines.

The answer to the question “Why?” is found via a penciled-in note on the inside cover: “Shelley on language, p. 513, para. 5.” I turn to it obediently and read “A Poet participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.”

So I guess it was his intent to write so his poetry related to those of us beyond his age. And he’s done well along those lines. If his inclusion in many required-reading textbooks wasn’t enough, I’ll vouch for the guy based on today’s experience.

Thanks, Shelley. Rise like lions.

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