Archive for April, 2014

Reblogged from Plague Dawgs

Dear –

I got lost on my hike today. I missed a turn and ended up on the wrong side of the mountain. I was moving fast, jogging at times. By the time I realized the trail wasn’t looping around like I’d thought it would, it had started snowing hard little pellets–so heavily it was hard to see–and I’d found myself in a silent, densely forested area with no view of the gulch. I calculated I’d been heading in the wrong direction, at a good speed, for about an hour. It had been all up-hill, and I was tired and hungry, a little shaky, and thinking vaguely, yet constantly, about bears and mountain lions and what if I twisted my ankle?

I hurried back, cutting corners and running most of the way (once I knew exactly where I was) for about an hour-and-a-half. The first half-hour, hurrying through those trees in the snow, I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game. It was the idea that I was so far out, that I was alone, that I hadn’t planned very well. I was slightly panicked. I’ve had many moments like this on hikes that go slightly wrong, where I think, I’ll just take a short-cut over this hill–except the hill’s incredibly steep , and once I’m up there it’s hard to get down, and I didn’t pack any food and my water-bottle just fell from my hand and rolled down the face and is gone.

Or–there’s a black bear in my path; I go the other way, but the bear follows me, not quickly, but changes direction and follows me. For more than a mile.

Or–I’m miles from home, running out in the rangeland, no one knows where I am, and I’ve broken out in hives and my throat’s closing up and it’s very very hard to keep moving.

Panicking doesn’t help. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like where I am and that poor judgement or bad luck led me here, and get on with it (and acknowledge that things have been worse). I decided to relax in the knowledge that I wasn’t truly lost, had just gone the wrong way, that at least I had plenty of water and had dressed warmly.

I’d had to go into myself (resisting my iPod, which was packed away), and acknowledge the reality of the situation and my discomfort. And only then could I make a change. The panic momentarily flared back up, but subsided gradually and finally. I relaxed; I got off that mountain.

I think that’s why this journal exists the way it does.

It’s my way of regulating panic so I can keep moving forward. What I have to say isn’t always cheerful, and isn’t always said prettily. But I need to say it, and listen to what I’m saying. And then I can look for a new way.

It wasn’t as though I overcame some huge obstacle–just a moment of fatigue and reflexive, stabbing fear. But up there in that moment, before I dealt with it, it felt like it could have been something much bigger.

When I got home I found an acceptance letter for my story, “Exploded View,” in my inbox. It was the same story another journal had rejected within 13 hours of receiving it. “You don’t sound that excited,” Ryan said.

I don’t usually get very excited when things go right; these are little moments that make it easier to carry on with one less worry (one less story to place) and keep working. So I’m going to get back to work. Grateful that I can. And feeling–I know this is weird–but *different*. Like I’ve been through something–not just the hike. Something that was actually bigger and scarier than I’d understood or can fully grasp now. I don’t think I’m off that mountain yet.

I bought a CD at a Jason Webley show last night (he was amazing).

From “Ways to Love”:

Our minds were sharp, our bodies burning.
We gave ourselves over to learning.
How to break and how to give,
Betrayal taught us to forgive,
We stretched and soaked up everything they
Taught us well, we were first in our classes.
We learned to see through many glasses,
How to sink and how to fly,
We learned to watch each other die.
My God, this course is harder than we
Thought we had learned enough ways to love,
Still I don’t know mother where we are.




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New home: http://plaguedawgs.tumblr.com/

This diary has consumed the months of April and March here at Prairietown. It has become its own thing. I’ll be updating Plague Dawgs (its new name) nearly every day. The writing will not be polished, but reckless, and written with a very specific group of people in mind.

I’ll keep posting the big stuff here. Please feel free to explore the archives pre-March for longer, more thoughtful posts.

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Dear –

I spent the afternoon infusing my nonfiction piece with a heavy dose of tenderness–what it’s been missing and what took some time to get to–and seem to have reached the right tone and pacing; everything’s falling into place. The early, angry paragraphs offered a good way in, and now I can say what really needs to be said. I’ve had fun working in a great deal of description in this piece–not something I normally do. I really just want to do justice to the time I spent at the Center, and to the people I met there, as well as I can. I feel open-hearted and slightly removed from things, which is a great space from which to write.

(I can tell I’ve had a good writing day because everything I’m trying to say here sounds really abstract and precious; I might cringe later but I don’t feel like taking the time it would take to make this stuff sound less mystical.)

I’ve been moving forward with 5-GULCH in my head–not so much planning scenes as gathering a feeling for the characters, which will sustain them and me to the end. Also continuing with the summary. Today I feel confident–totally, serenely confident–I will finish, and it doesn’t feel like a delusion, as it sometimes does. It’s just a feeling, this confidence, but today I trust it, and I’m grateful. It’s not going to be easy–I struggle with everything on a technical level, on a logical level, on every level, but at least I truly believe I can finish the thing. Taking the full weekend off–from writing and from job-hunting–seems to work every time. I just need to get outside and walk around. And we ate so well, all weekend, and made a little campfire every night. The backyard’s littered with artichoke leaves.

I should probably think about moving this diary to its own home at some point; I just wanted to see if I’d keep it up. It was meant as a way for me to break into the day’s writing, but instead I’ve been using it to summarize what I’ve been working on. Ideally, I’d like to use it for both.

I have to stop now and play with the cat; she’s crouching on the floor, staring at me with dilated kill-eyes, and I can’t let her down. Time for the red dot and the orange rope, and then we can go to bed.

– t

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Dear –

So tired my fingers are twitching as I type. Climbed all the way to the top of the mountain and beyond with maybe forty pounds in my pack? Tick on my neck–caught in the little furs along my hairline, so no bites as far as I know. No writing this weekend, I think. Maybe tomorrow. Honestly, I saw in black-and-white for a moment. 

– t

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Dear –

Enjoyed working on my nonfiction piece about “the Center” today. It’s nice to write quickly and without any real pressure after toiling away on 5-GULCH for so long. I have to be mindful of tone, and I need to provide quiet and texture, but so far it’s coming pretty freely. And luckily I have notes and emails and nightmarishly vivid memories to fall back on. (Still, my ghost-hunter piece took a year.)

5-GULCH news. Spent the last few hours summarizing the scenes I’ve written so far, tracking connections, plotting chapters–I’m not done, and I think it’s helpful, so I’ll continue tomorrow and possibly the next day and however long it takes. Maybe I can print them out and paper my office with them. At this point I might need some kind of visualization. I know people make word-clouds. I’m betting: gulch, ocean, piano, house. Paint, boys, Sweden, hip.

What else. Tried to convince the guy at Job Services to let me print off stories, but he said no.

This can’t be interesting.

– t

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Dear –

A long day of errands.

I spent some time tonight working on my novel in an abstract way–mapping out scenes and trying to make sure it warrants expanding into a novel-sized ms.or if it’s meant to be something like a long novella. I think I can justify the lengthier word-count; I just don’t want to force it to be something it’s not. Sometime soon I’ll need to make a summary of the scenes I’ve written so far so I can have a better sense of the threads that need tying up or woven together.

I had some fun blasting out a rough beginning for a nonfiction piece I’ve been planning. Here are a few paragraphs:

“You have a lot to offer this world. Thank you for sharing your heart with our youth,” Gretchen wrote at the end of a particularly shrill series of emails (“I truly wish I could understand how ‘management’ (aka me!) could have better met your needs” and “If you feel up to enlightening me–“). This was the last time we communicated, aside from exchanging pleasantries the few times she came downstairs, in two weeks. I wrote, “Thank you for honoring my decision to move on.”

It was two days after Christmas. Danika and I were taking the van out for outreach, which we’d begun once a week on Friday afternoons—not quite the 14 or so hours Gretchen and the luminous Ashia were logging in our grant reports, but a good start after nearly a year of very little outreach at all.

I didn’t know if I had a lot to offer this world. But I did know there were places in the world better than the Center.

My time there reminded me of the opening few paragraphs of The Haunting of Hill House: “Hill House, not sane … holding darkness within … etc.” Better yet, it reminded me of Pet Semetery, which we watched with the kids on the projector on Halloween (one of the rare moments Ashia and I agreed on a movie): the earth’s gone sour; you don’t want to go down that road. And so on.

It was a horror show, my own personal haunted house, a sour patch of ground, and I was walking off the set, finally, I was just walking away—which is something that the characters in horror narratives since the dawn of time are never able to do. It’s one of the times being a writer is handy—knowing how the story goes. Poor Eleanor crashes her car into a tree; Louis gets stabbed by his zombie wife and the Ramones play over the credits. Avoiding tragedy could be so easy, and yet some people run headlong into disaster and doom—because they’re lonely, because they loved somebody, because they can’t forgive themselves for something. They say, I want to live in Hill House forever. These ghosts, these angry dead, are my friends.

– t


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Dear –

Productive day. Largely to do with getting another round of job applications out of the way so I could finally focus. Got out of the house, too, which was nice. I haven’t been going to coffee shops in the interests of saving money, but it was worth it. I like people-noise sometimes — so I can block it out.

Stayed up too late finishing a new scene. Happy.

(Didn’t read much today — maybe that was part of it? No extraneous voices in my head?)

– t

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