All writing is travel writing.  It's about what it's like where you happen to be. 

Tomorrow happens.

He who is his own biographer has a fool for a subject.

Out by North Bend is a man makes his living running a dude ranch for border collies.  He keeps sheep.  He charges people to bring their border collies out there and let them round up the sheep.  Cyndy's friend Kim's collie, Mollie, goes out there to herd sheep a couple of times a year.

When Colleen heard this, her first thought was for the poor sheep.  "Oh, no . . . here comes another one."

He's got everything a junkie has except the junk.

This is a book called Dog Tilt.

Ritual mutilation of the young.

Later, years later, I realized that a lot of the tension between us could be attributed to merely the difference between someone dying to get out and someone dying to get home. 

I am not here for the comfort of this cat.

Not why are you upset, I understand why you are upset, but why are you so upset?

The children are hungry for teachers.

Laser image in resin.

The worst teacher fills the student with admiration for the teacher.  "I owe my teacher so much.  My whole life has changed because of my teacher."

A somewhat better teacher fills the student with admiration for the teaching.  Though this book, through this doctrine, through this methodology, through this body of knowledge, the student has come to a new awareness of the world, an awareness that would not be possible but for this one way of looking at the world.

A good teacher lets the student know that the knowledge was already there inside the student.  The good teacher sits in the shadows and points the light at the student's own processes.  The student unfolds, as a flower unfolds.  The student knows for the first time what has always been there to be known.  The student gains new respect his or her own ability.

A truly excellent teacher, a master teacher, leads the student to feel that it is nothing particular to the student's own organism, but the force of life rippling through that organism, the sweetness of the universe manifesting in the protoplasm, the power and harmony of all that is, showing up here, now, in this way, a part of everything and everything a part of it, always, accessible to any of us, now and ever.

At some point, after you've worked on it enough, anything you go in and do now is more likely to break it than fix it.

Cops and their lattes, sitting and chatting at the Green Lake Starbuck's, while they fill out their forms on their PDA's.

In much the same way that a toddler teaches you you have mannerisms, a young cat teaches you you have nervous habits.

"I'd been living in her house for three months before I found out the cat wasn't named Portia.  The cat was named Porsche."

Rabbit, hippo, maiden

Fear is not what we need more of.

Carry tea.

Let's talk for a moment about the mesolimbic dopamine system.

Wake up in Denver, knowing I want breakfast at Dot's.  Grits and red-eye gravy.  First I have to write for an hour, something I was thinking about last night at dinner, I think it's a paragraph, but it comes out a thousand words.   Scoot up to  Boulder.  People sitting on the curb outside but there's room at the counter.  Waitress with scrawny but heavily muscled arms asks if I need a menu, in a tone that implies I shouldn't.  It's been twenty years, but I ask for a large Southern, with the eggs easy, and she nods.

I live in a world where my needs can be met.

"To wear shoes."  As in, "I guess I can go to Denver and wear shoes for a week, if that's what it takes to get Unidata behind us."

Virga:   rain that does not reach the ground.

Spray paint fuchsia stomach

And for a dollar, I'll smile.

The sad truths that old men know:
The shriveled banker, the brash real-estate salesman, who have never eaten raw peaches or sung "Uncle John's Band," greedy, paranoid, joyless— they do a better job of keeping the pipes full than would those bright happy teenagers, patchouli, rice, hemp, communal sex and spin dancing.  Artists like the pipes full.  Poets prosper.  Musicians get fed.

No stony gate.  No muddy river.

The devil has lots of voices.

No more debates.  Let's sit down together and see if we can meet each other's needs. 

Choosing the dreams instead.

Rainbow sushi.

My pheromones don't work on you any more.

Fall foliage in the strip mall parking lot.

Slugs crawling out of the eyes of the molding Jack O'Lantern.

What's the matter, you run out of nightmares?

Mona Simpson reads in a narrow voice, with immense restraint, almost no inflection, reacting to the wild drama of her tale not at all.  This buttoning-down makes her seem pinched and unattractive.

When she takes questions, though, she has a broad, warm smile that shows big, square teeth.  Her eyes are then hugely blue, as she rakes her right hand through her straight oaken hair.  The eyes look straight into yours, with an openness and unreserve like that of an old, trusted friend.

I asked her how much she knows about the structure of her books when she starts writing them.  Nothing, she said.  "I'm not saying that's a good way to do it. Everyone has to find their own process."

She said she starts to get a sense of emerging shape about the fourth or fifth draft.   Of the eight or more she will go through.

I asked if this process had changed, over the course of her three novels.  She said no.  Then went back into it again.  "It's terribly inefficient.  If you write a page a day, you should be able to write a novel in a year, right?  But you notice the last book was five years ago, right?  You just have to do it how you have to do it."

"Yeah.  I remember crying in a produce section, because I saw a grapefruit, and, you know, you cut them in half for two people."

So, the story goes, Gershwin goes to Stravinski for lessons.  Stravinski says get out of here.  "There's nothing I could teach you."

Etch-a-Sketch Pictionary

Mirror meditation.

Realized last night in the kitchen that people don't particularly care for my cooking.  Oh, they eat it, and because they have manners, they'll say it was good and thank me for it at the door on the way home.  But they don't look forward to it, they don't talk about it.  The way people rave about Deborah's cooking.  The way if you got invited to Jean's you'd know he was going to make you something you would remember.  I had never really thought about this before, and although the realization wasn't devastating, it was a little bit sad.

Then I realized that I really do like my cooking.  If I go too long without getting to eat my own food, I get hungry for it.  Last night I had to make me a vegetable soup, which no one else would have consumed with any particular regard, but which was something I absolutely needed after a week on the road.  It nourished me in a way I needed to be nourished.  It talked to parts of my sensibility no food had for a long time.

I must be different from other people, in that I would prefer this food.

Then I wondered — and this part did bother me — whether all the same might not be true of my writing. 

Exercise:  Listen to your own heart beat.

The kind of person who has never unbent a paperclip.


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