All writing is travel writing. It's about what it's like where you happen
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
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.
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
Choosing the dreams instead.
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."
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.