Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Confucius Wept and Other Sorrows

Josh at a crossroads in Idaho.
Rainy night. I am reading Annie Dillard's "For the Time Being" and it's knocking my socks off. Really this book is written true to the form of essay I first fell in love with. It doesn't lead you, it leaps and trusts you know how to follow. She writes of the Xi'an soldiers buried with Emperor Qin...over 10,000 sculpted clay soldiers. "Before me, at my feet, the clay men swam fully formed from walls. Beyond me, in the distance, living farmers worked fields."

She speaks of the dead and the infant as the two ends that might save us but utterly fail. We follow her to a hospital where newborns are washed in conveyor belt fashion before being snugly wrapped and returned to their mothers.

And of death, everything in these first two chapters seems to be swirling softly like a certain river current around the topic.

"Confucius wept. Confucius, when he understood he would soon die, wept." Yes. As we all must.

So much can be said/known in this poetic form of essay; in seemingly abrupt changes of subject we're given the gift of following what I'd call "true-thought" patterns (not to be confused with unedited writing). The mind leaps and turns and curls back around and through this process it brings 'you' the truth of what it first set itself to knowing. Though of course 'you' are the mind. Or, the reader, in this case.

At the cross-roads stood an abandoned house with thorny vines growing up around its glassless windows. The land was too open and treeless, the highway too close, for the house to be any sort of teenager haven, though inside we found graffiti and a couple old beer bottles.

We were on our honey-moon. I was writing stories for Robin Hemley...one about a murdered girl too closely rendered to a sister of mine which Hemley suggested was "too much," the murdering, when in truth I was trying to hurt my father for some old sin of his I was still nurturing.

Two things: One, I briefly read Philip Graham's blog this morning Imaginary Social Worlds and realized that I do live in the past and in the imaginary future most of the day. There are a few exceptions to this, writing, for one. Admittedly, writers seem to be absorbed with imaginary social worlds but in fact I think a lot of writing has to do with creating necessary realities within the strange hodgepodge of our existence, creating truths, and I think in many ways this is a form of survival or a way of surviving.

The second thing: I also read woodbird this morning a blog by former VCFA MFA writing student and Vermonter: In Of One's Own Robin blogs about a cabin in the woods by her house that she built with her father as a 16 year-old. It reminded me of the journey to art that often takes a deeper form in our teenage years. I spent a lot of time painting, followed by a lot of time driving my red Ford Aspire down back-roads of back-roads where I'd just park and smoke cigarettes and write poems, alone. There was nothing else like it. I doubt, actually, there ever will be.

House at the cross-roads

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