Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Circular Logic

When I was a little guy, I thought of growing up, what it meant to be an adult.  It was not as deep as it sounds.  I probably imagined super hero would be one of my career choices.  On the list of things that would come with adulthood was driving (were I denied the power of flight), a bigger bed (mine was just fine, but Mom and Dad had a big bed, so I thought it was a perk), and a house (though I couldn’t see why I would ever leave my Mom and Dad, and my brothers and sisters).

In order to earn those trappings of adulthood, I thought there was something that I needed to be able to do as soon as I could, and that was writing right.  I didn’t think they would let you be an adult until you could write like my father - with a fountain pen and in cursive.  I was sure in due course I would be bequeathed a fountain pen, but I knew the cursive part would be up to me.  Oddly, I never believed cursive would be something I was taught.  I am unsure why, maybe I conceived it to be an organic process, that once block print was mastered, Darwin would do his part and I would either naturally begin writing in script or I would go the way of the dinosaurs.  Now dinosaurs are undeniably cool, but their extinction was not to be emulated.  So I set about practicing in earnest to help evolution along.  I used paper and crayon to write notes, passages of meaning and weight.  Each line the same, a string of connected loops, a spiral across the page.  I could not read what I wrote, but knew whatever I put down on paper in this fashion could be read and understood by those more highly developed than I.

Well, I’m settling into my mid-fifties and I finally have a fountain pen that I used to draft this blog in script in my journal.  Darwin has smiled upon me – yet I am a dinosaur.  A very few years ago, I saw a news item of a teen who had taken the stand in a trial.  She was asked to read a note that had been entered into evidence.  She looked at the note and said she could not read cursive.  Just last month, I was with my grandson.  He was helping me with a project and I wrote some instructions for him.  He looked at the sheet of paper, and asked me if I could print it out because he was not that good at reading cursive.  Schools aren’t pushing cursive any more.

As with other social ills, I blame the computer, the tablet, the cell phone.  We have circled back to a time when learning typing in high school was a necessary skill if you had any hopes of entering the business world.  Typing is being taught again (now at a younger age), only it is called “keyboarding.”  Now everything is written and read in 12 point Times New Roman block print or something equivalent.  The handwriting in my journals will become the new hieroglyphs sooner rather than later.  People will open them and tilt their head squinting and see not collected letters forming words and sentences and paragraphs, but a string of connected loops, a spiral across the page.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Eastern Wisdom

Late afternoon clouds, low
moving over Pikes Peak as faux mist.
Weak translucent shade
pulled over the proud peak’s silhouette,
a massive wall rising from the prairie,
both gateway and barrier to the West.
The low cover a pale disguise
seeking to evoke the Appalachians,
eastern grandfather of the Rockies.
Where mist is the white hair of old age,
draped across shoulders
that have born the weight of war
and across eyes that have seen
the birth of a nation and
subsequent hemorrhage and healing.
Wearied by it all, yet patient with its people.
The Rockies represent a different world
of coarse courtesies and jagged prose.
Whose stark and rugged good looks
bow before the grace of eastern beauty.
Whose brashness has little to teach,
and much to learn
From the wisdom of the East.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Death of the Son of Santini

Last night, Pat Conroy died from pancreatic cancer, and I sit today in shadow.  I have cried some and simply sat to feel about the edges of the void.  The biggest part of that void being the recent loss of my mother, it’s boundaries brittle and tender to the touch.  Now Pat Conroy’s loss has left those tenuous edges ragged and torn.  And so I sit here at my keyboard, fingering the jagged tear wondering if I can draw the blood of spirit to cleanse this wound, to help me find the flow of words to say goodbye.

Before I chose to step on the writer’s path, reading had already chosen my pantheon of gods to follow.  It is comprised of a small damaged group of fearless authors with Pat Conroy at its head.  What granted this high post to Pat Conroy was not just his gift of language, but that he was the antithesis of a god.  He did not seek tribute and supplicants.  Each book he wrote was in turn an offering on the altar to the congregation, his readers.  He was not granting forgiveness, but seeking it.  He saw his hurt and anger and weaknesses as demons that might be exorcised through lyrical incantation and exposure to daylight.

The son of Santini was in his own way a fighter pilot like his old man.  Only Pat’s plane was literature, his armaments his words, and his wars were racism, sexism, bigotry, giving voice where voice was demanded.  He helped to pave the way for women at his Alma mater The Military College of South Carolina, he stood in protest against the Confederate Flag at the South Carolina State House, and he took the time and effort to lovingly teach black children on the isolated South Carolina Island of Daufuskie when the school board and society wanted nothing more than for them to just disappear.

It seemed to me from reading Pat’s books, that the primary architects of his disastrous childhood and pain-filled adulthood were both his mother and his father.  I think most of the books he wrote were attempts at forgiveness (of himself and them), and attempts at healing the deep wounds to his spirit.  With his last book, The Death of Santini, I believe he had finally achieved that, limping sweat covered across an ill-defined finish line, if not at peace at least in some kind of equilibrium.

In simple terms Pat, your writing always made me want to write.  Your words stirred me in ways I would never have expected combinations of letters to be capable of.  Thank you for not shying away from the world.  I miss you, goodbye.