Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Clear, still, with serious cold – as much as ten below at night.
But clear sunny days that are slowly getting longer and longer.
KINDLING FOR THE FIRE
From time to time I create small temporary museums.
Usually from what I bring back from walks.
The first rule is that the museum pieces must be found objects – not bought.
Secondly they must be small enough to fit into the palm of my hand and thence into my pocket.
The third rule is that they must have a quality of surprise and delight.
It’s best when I realize I’ve seen them before but never really noticed.
When I get home they’re arranged in the middle of the kitchen table.
And the museum is open for visitors – usually just my wife.
Several times in spring there has been a Museum of The Small Green – little plant buds and spears of grass and moss and mystery growths.
It’s the amazing variety of shades of green that’s on display.
The Museum of the Immediate Past consisted of seeds, pods, dried weeds and stuff like that – things beautiful in death.
There was a Museum of Mystery composed of items found on the sidewalk for which no purpose could be ascertained – only imagined.
And a couple of times a Museum of Deceased Bugs.
One of my favorites was the Museum of Loose Screws – which took a couple of months to assemble from around my house and neighborhood.
There have been several other museums, but that’s enough of a list for now - you get the idea . . .
The collections are disposable, temporary, and worthless.
Creating a small museum is just a way of paying attention and staying amused and amazed.
It’s harder to create a small museum in deep winter.
There hasn’t been a new one in a while.
Because the landscape is covered in snow and ice.
And it’s been very cold - small-scale life is hidden or dormant.
There’s just not a lot of collectible stuff around.
And besides, my mind is mostly focused on just keeping warm and moving when I’m out walking in sub-zero temperature.
I did collect some small icicles.
But they were all too much alike to be noteworthy.
Though they were not without merit or utility.
I wrapped them up in separate plastic bags and put them in the freezer.
To put in the first Margarita on a hot afternoon next summer.
Having come back from a walk in the snow empty-handed this morning, it occurred to me to finally set in motion a project that had been moving along in slow-motion in the background for years.
A Museum of Small Ideas – in a book form.
Entitled: Kindling For the Fire.
The museum would consist of cepts (as in concepts) –
Short, provocative notions or images.
No more than two sentences long.
No quotations or attributions.
Either original with me, or, if borrowed, revised by me after having passed through my mental machinery.
It’s not plagiarism because most good ideas have been around a long, long time. They just get revived, reprocessed and restated.
The title of my project is an example – here’s the story.
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was a prize-winning American poet and a master teacher at the University of Washington.
After his death, David Wagoner sorted through Roethke’s notebooks and published selections in a book entitled “Straw for the Fire” – Copper Canyon Press – 1972 and 2006.
Reading through the book inspired my ongoing note-keeping.
And the title inspired my own – “Kindling for the Fire.”
Straw burns fast, without much heat.
Whereas kindling is thin strips of dry wood that ignites bigger logs.
That’s the way the creative process works.
My thanks to Roethke and Wagoner – I’m in their debt.
Most writers usually have something like this going on – notebooks, journals, files, or drawers full of scraps to be sewed into a literary quilt or made into a book – someday.
For me, someday has come.
Most writer’s minds are like a spider’s web – catching whatever blows by – some things alive and some not – some actual objects and some just ideas or impressions.
The web gets wrecked sometimes, but it seems to be in the nature of a writer to always reconstruct it and put what’s collected on view.
No matter how solitary the life of the writer/spider, a witness is required.
Sometimes there’s a book for the witness to read.
And sometimes just a small museum on a kitchen table.
Enough talk about my project.
Here begins Kindling for the Fire– in January, 2013
He was an uncomplicated, straight-forward man, with the enough courage to have a legible signature.
He was a truly independent man – the kind who could turn down an invitation to a social occasion without any excuse.
I like the feeling of well-being and accomplishment that comes from putting new shoelaces in my old shoes and tying them up just so.
She had a very sexy way of using her behind to close doors, drawers, and cabinets. A little unconscious dance-like bump-move with her butt.
He was an aging veteran of the tinseled Circus of Unrequited Love – skilled at juggling, tight-rope walking, jumping through fiery hoops, leaping from high places, being blown from a cannon, playing the clown, and doing magic. Young women wanted to tango with him, but that was all.
He founded a religion so strict and so exclusive that he himself did not qualify for admission to membership. He built a wall around the inner sanctuary and discovered he had shut himself out rather than in.
She was a quagmire full of quicksand – easy to get sucked into.
He had a lot of handles – but they weren’t attached to any tools.
Stay just as you are: bewildered, amused, amazed, and bewitched.
A cloud moving so swiftly across the sky as if it had a place it was supposed to be and was already late.
Tatemae – (ta-te-mah-eh) - a Japanese notion – the reality that everyone says is true, though nobody really believes it to be so.
Hone – (hon-eh) - another Japanese notion – the reality you believe to be true, though you would never admit it publicly.
Public truth vs. private truth.
Obla dee, obla dah - La, la, how the life goes on.
Run silent, run deep.
Don’t complain, don’t explain.
Embrace the suck.
Cro-magnon art – the mind in the cave and the cave in the mind.
He was never on time – but his timing was always exquisite.
It may be true that life is a stage, but most people don’t dress like they had a part in the play. They dress like they were stage hands or janitors or extras.
If everybody had a rank, like in the military, we would all start as trainees, move up to private, and on. By now I would be a Sergeant Major or a Chief Boatswain’s Mate – at the top of the enlisted ranks, but not yet nor ever an officer.
He named his dog “Stay” and the dog never moved.
You can’t fall down and hurt yourself if you are holding on tight to the floor.
He looked like someone who had been imagined by children, then drawn and colored in by them.
The light on the mountain at the end of the day looked like melted cheese – cheddar, to be specific.
I’d like most to be remembered for being useful – like a button hole or a toothbrush or a key or a well-sharpened pocket knife.
There, that’s enough for now.
There will be more . . .