The day of commitment

“Ahem.”

He paused in the act of closing his journal and looked about.

“Down here.”

He opened the book back up and saw the empty page.

“That’s right.”

“What’s right?” he asked.

“Fill me.” and now he saw the page was speaking to him.

“I had nothing to write.”

“Then write nothing.”

“I did. And I was closing the book.”

“No.”

This “no,” without further explanation, perplexed him.

“No …?” he encouraged. 

“No, don’t close the book. Write.”

“I had nothing to write.”

He could almost feel the book roll its eyes, as if books had eyes. “Write about writing nothing, then. I don’t care what you write. Just: Fill me.”

“Why, I never —“

“Correct. You never.”

“I do all the time!” he protested.

“You do, sometimes. But you never ‘all the time.’ You never ‘whether you have something to say or not.’ You never ‘every day rain or shine.’ You never, in short, commit.”

“Of course I commit,” he insisted.

“Did I, or did I not, just interrupt you as you were closing the book on a blank page, a page that was as blank as it was when you opened the book?”

“Well, yes,” he admitted.

“And you call that commitment?”

“I had nothing to write!” he pleaded.

“There is always something to write. One day, when you were a bit more insightful than you are at the moment, you even wrote, ‘Just write anything until you write something.’ Do you know what you meant?”

“Of course I know what I meant! Just move your fingers across the page, write anything even if it seems to be nonsensical, and keep going until you write something that means something, like pumping an old pump until the water comes out.”

“I rest my case.”

“What does that even mean?” and now he was exasperated.

“You do know what to do when you see a blank page. You fill me with anything until you discover yourself writing something. You never, ever close the book on a blank page.”

“This is ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m having an argument with a blank page.”

“Except I’m not blank anymore, am I?”

Bunny’s close call

There was a rabbit who lived in a thicket by the side of the road. He loved Ms. Carol’s flowers, but she did not return the love.

She liked her flowers just fine the way they were, you see, but the rabbit loved to nibble on them because they were delicious.

One day, the rabbit was munching away when Ms. Carol walked out on her porch carrying a BB gun.

“OK, varmint, that’s all the flowers you’re going to eat in one lifetime.” She took aim and fired.

Fortunately for the rabbit, she didn’t aim quite perfectly, and the BB only skipped a pile of mulch into the rabbit’s face. This was alarming enough, however, and the rabbit jumped into the air and raced away as only rabbits can race, never to return.

A few days later, Ms. Carol’s puppy looked into the empty yard and mournfully back at her.

“I miss the rabbit,” the puppy whined.

“Don’t you start,” she replied. The flowers were pleased, though, and lived happily ever after, or at least for the rest of the bright sunny summer.

Home stretch of a good morning’s journaling

Here I am, slightly more than an hour after I sat down, starting on a 10th page of this Moleskine after so many days where I barely scratched out a sentence if I even picked up the pen. How do I recapture this level of productivity day to day?

Could it all be as simple as Somerset Maugham said so many years ago — “Fortunately inspiration strikes every morning at 9 a.m.”? If so, what keeps us from sitting down at 9 a.m. each morning and opening the tap? What mythic monster crawls between our temples and blocks the sun? 

If it is as simple as simple as sitting down and doing it, why do we need the encouragement? “Do or do not, there is no ’try,’” Yoda asserts. “Just do it,” Nike cries. And, by the thousands, we don’t.

It’s as monstrous as a monster can be. I am literally afraid to stop writing for fear the next time I sit down I’ll find the blockade has resumed and the words are only trickling again. Me, who wrote a book called Refuse to be Afraid. They say — who are “they” anyway, speaking of eternal questions — the hardest advice to take can be your own, and here I am, being afraid, at least for a moment. 

The knowledge that I filled 10 pages in one sitting will be here the next time I sit down. That is, surprisingly, enough to chase the fear. The knowledge that I did it once (and this was not the first time, by any means) will bring me back and set me on the journey again.

The fun, of course, is in finding out where the journey will take me next time.

Searching for a new way

I am haunted from time to time by a song I have never completed — or perhaps the first two lines are the whole song — A sus 4 to A, A sus 4 to A  —

“I am a-searching for a new way;

The things I’ve done don’t seem enough …”

I am fairly confident that I came up with that couplet when I was in college and just learning guitar, because it is a simple chord progression that needs only one finger to move, so — the phrase has lingered more than 50 years.

Sometimes in the shower or walking from here to there, I will think of another line or two and wonder if I have finally found the rest of the song, but no.

Or perhaps it’s only a theme, a goal for my life, to always be searching for a new way, because, yes, the things I’ve done don’t ever seem to be enough.

And maybe that’s a good thing, to always want to do more, to find a new way, because there will always be more to do, and our purpose is to find it and do it.

Someday perhaps I will finish the song, and it will be enough, or perhaps I’ll always be searching for that new way, because there always will be one more thing to attempt, because the things I’ve done will always seem not quite enough.

And the surprise is, that thought is somehow comforting.

162/24,427

Philco 41-290X

This sturdy old beast of a radio — once it sparked and poured forth words and sounds and music and adventure — do these tired old vacuum tubes wait for electricity to surge again and carry voices from a world away back into this life?

If I turn the knob, will a forgotten announcer spring to being and it will be 1941 again, with the world in turmoil far off from this sunny place, people a half-world away injecting their terror into a summer of quiet?

Will the Shadow know what evil lurks? Will the Lone Ranger gallop to the rescue? Will the Gangbusters swoop in and bust the gangs? Will a dance band play into the night to soothe the savage breast?

Even by the time I became a radio announcer, these 50 years ago if you include my college years (and why would I not?), the grand old device had passed its prime as a source of entertainment. The electronics had advanced to broadcast pictures as well as words and music, and so radio drama was a quaint old phenomenon, much as silent movies gave way to talkies a generation earlier.

There is an intimacy to radio communication, one voice reaching out to another, or an ensemble of performers nestling an adventure, or a melody, between your ears only. The image your mind created is lost, or never conjured, when you can see the performers.

The advent of the podcast has brought some vitality back to the art of sound. I imagine it all harkens back to stories told around a campfire, and the electronics have enabled the storytelling on a grand and complex scale.

As long as there are voices, there will be stories. As long as there are stories, there will be humanity.

And for 80 years now, this handsome wooden sentinel has stood ready to share the stories.

Oh! August!

August has no holidays because August is a holiday all its own.

The summer flowers are ablaze, and the summer warmth borders on heat, and the birds cross the sky, and who needs a holiday to love all of this?

Yes, I know on the other side of the world it’s darkest winter — or at least so I’ve heard, I’ve never been on the other side of the world, but I’ve been in darkest winter, and I can imagine there is an opposite place somewhere, where a place much like ours is covered in fallen snow and the mild temperatures of now are bitter and chilling. And no doubt the people there think of August the way we think of February.

But oh! August! Sweet warm August! With your dash of cold morning dew reminding us you are not here to stay — but nothing stays in this world, does it? So we love and rejoice in the moment, thankful that such moments drift by, a respite from all the chaos, a clarity in the midst of the mist, a promise that peace is possible — a possibility of possibilities.

%d bloggers like this: