Last Day Up Da Crick, 2015

Trout season closes tonight on most of the state’s rivers, so we got out this afternoon and Jambe Longues limited out and ish was skunked. We celebrated at Wingey Wednesday at the Covington VFW Hall. We also had 13 hummingbird sightings — our first since Sept 22 and latest we’ve seen them up here? Tomorrow? We shall see. Fishing now swings to some year-round waters for coho and browns. Should be fun. Some cohos are in now, and more will come when the rain pushes them in. A great time to be in the U.P. Over. Photos from today follow:

Downstream.
Downstream.
Got to be one somewhere here...
Got to be one somewhere here…
Small, but all brook trout are beautiful.
Small, but all brook trout are beautiful.
Oops, pardon my digit.
Oops, pardon my digit.
And you wondered why we din't bring the flyrods?
And you wondered why we din’t bring the flyrods?
Low water days.
Low water days.
Okay, over that rock, and under that stick, and into that little hydraulic by the log.
Okay, over that rock, and under that stick, and into that little hydraulic by the log.
Bridge for critters.
Bridge for critters.
Miss Fish Limit Herself.
Miss Fish Limit Herself.
She got one from behind this log.
She got one from behind this log.
Maybe we should fish for rocks?
Maybe we should fish for rocks?
 Fvie hits, three fish from this tiny little rivulet.
Fvie hits, three fish from this tiny little rivulet.
Skinny water.
Skinny water.
Yeah, skunked. Me. Big deal.
Yeah, skunked. Me. Big deal.

Da Boyds Da Boyds?

This year we decided to make a list of bird species seen around Alberta Village and as of early this morning, here’s where it stands: (And BTW, tworudes showed up at the feeder this morning. It’s been 8 days since the last sightings! These are real tail-end Charlies.

  1. Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum)
  2. American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
  3. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  4. American Kestral (Falco sparvarius)
  5. American Redstart (Setophaga ruticella)
  6. American Wood Duck (Aiy sponsa)
  7. American Goldfinch (Cardulis trostis)
  8. American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)
  9. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucophelus)
  10. Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
  11. Barn Swallow (Hinindo rustica)
  12. Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)
  13. Black-Capped Chicadee (Poecile husonicus)
  14. Blackburnian Warbler (Vermivera peregrina)
  15. Black-Throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
  16. Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varla)
  17. Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  18. Bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata)
  19. Broadwing Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
  20. Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanophalus)
  21. Brownheaded Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
  22. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeda)
  23. Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)
  24. Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
  25. Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerine)
  26. Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)
  27. Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
  28. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
  29. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
  30. Common Loon (Gavia immer)
  31. Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
  32. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
  33. Common Raven (Corus corax)
  34. Common Yellowthroat Warbler (Geothlypis trichas)
  35. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
  36. Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
  37. Double-Breasted Cormorant (Phalacpro corav)
  38. Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
  39. Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
  40. Evening Grosbeak (Coccothrautes vespertinus)
  41. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  42. Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)
  43. Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
  44. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
  45. Great Crested Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum)
  46. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
  47. Greater Yellowleg (Tringa melanoleuca)
  48. Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
  49. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
  50. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes clucullatus)
  51. House-Finch (Cappodacus mexicanus)
  52. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
  53. Kildeer (Charadrius vociferous)
  54. Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)
  55. Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
  56. LeConte’s Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)
  57. Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnis)
  58. Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)
  59. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  60. Merlin (Falco columborius)
  61. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
  62. Nashville Warbler (Vermivova ruficapilla)
  63. Northern Flicker (Colapteo auratus)
  64. Northern Harrier (circus cyaneus)
  65. Northern Shoveler (Anas Blypeata)
  66. Northern Water Thrush (Seiurus novboracensis)
  67. Ovenbird (Seirus aurocapillus)
  68. Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)
  69. Pied-Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
  70. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
  71. Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enudeator)
  72. Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)
  73. Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
  74. Redbreasted Nuthatch (Silla Canadensis)
  75. Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
  76. Redtail Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  77. Redwing Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  78. Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
  79. Robin (Turdus migratorius)
  80. Rock Dove (Columba livia)
  81. Rosebreasted Grosbeak (Pheuticus ludovicianus)
  82. Roughed Grouse (Pat) (Bonasa umbellus)
  83. Rubythroated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
  84. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
  85. Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
  86. Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)
  87. Sandhill Crane (Grus Canadensis)
  88. Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
  89. Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitarii)
  90. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
  91. Sora (Porzanza Carolina)
  92. Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)
  93. Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis candensis)
  94. Tennessee Warbler (Vernivara peregrine)
  95. Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
  96. Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
  97. Veery (Atherous fuscescens)
  98. Whip-Poor-Will (Caprimulgus vociferous)
  99. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
  100. White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
  101. White-throataed Sparrow (Zonotrickia albicollis)
  102. Wild Turkey (Melagris gallopaus)
  103. Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)
  104. Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)
  105. Wood Thrus (Hylocichla mustelina)
  106. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
  107. Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronate)

Catching Up

Been awhile since I could blog — computer gliches, the usual bull from that world of unreality

Singular night last night as Jambe Longues, Shaksper and I sat on the deck to watch the sky show — a tetral Super Moon/Harvest Moon/Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse. We had clear skies and lots of stars and no clouds until almost the end of the show, a fine ending to a productive day. People are always asking, what do you DO up there for all those months. Yesterday is a good typical example (except for the eclipse, which was special.)  I typed all morning on the ms for 5GR, then went to work on two new Moodles (doodle drawings I do when the mood strikes me). I had sketch both the night before I went to bed, one called How Much is That Wolfie in Your Window and a second, called No Sap Left.

The skull scene comes from a window in MTU Professor Rolf Peterson’s storage building and the second comes from an abandoned farmstead on the treeless rolling hills just north of Covington. As media I’m almost exclusively using brown paper grocery bags (we’ll call it recyling), some wildly colored acrylic inks, good olde India Ink, German-made Lyra Rembrandt poly color pencils, Lyra Super Ferby color pencils for the ham-handed, and Swiss-made Caran D’Ache, water-soluble wax pastels, which our dear friend Doet Boersma introduced us to. I’ve always loved pastel pieces, but found the chalks to be too damn messy for the likes of me. These crayons literally mash into each other to blend beautifully and not a speck of dust!

We had sockeye salmon steaks for dinner last night, and a glass of wine and then I worked by phone and remote with our friend Rick Kienbaum to fix the computer’s ailings and after that went over to Dave Stimac’s workshop to grind and polish a half dozen large agates, none of which turned out to be much. I’m just learning the grinding game with a cab machine. I fear I’ll lack the patience to work specimens to “smoothity.” Good re-inforcement here for all creative endeavors because patience needs to partner with creative spark.

The book travel schedule is beginning to acquire some dates.  Saturday, Oct 3 we’re at Snowbound Books in Marquette. Monday Dec 7 I have a speech at the Gladwin District library where I have a lot of fine and enthusiastic fans. Sat Dec 12 is the the author picnic at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo and Sat Dec 19 I’m meeting Bonnie Jo Campbell at Lowry’s Books in Three Rivers. Not sure if I’m supposed to sign or just catch up on some professional business. Whatever it is, will be great to see her and her schedule is truly crazy. Don’t know how the woman finds time to write, but write she does!

Meanwhile, Jambe Longues is suddenly overcome by the desire to hunt agates, so we’re off to the EUP for a few days to see what we can find. Supposed to be a stiff NW wind tonight over there, which is encouraging. She was packing the truck with gear while I kept pounding on manuscript. A few days in the cold air on the shores of the Great Gray Lady will be terrific. We tried to hunt this summer but too many flies and too many people. PURE Michiqan might be delivering on the investment. Part of me hopes so and party of me .. well, never mind that. 

We’ve been here in Alberta five months now and it seems like we just pulled in while snow was spitting yesterday. My old Michigan State Journalism advisor George Hough recently passed away. He was 94 and I didn’t even know he was still among the living. And now it’s too late to reconnect. He was one of those special influences in my life and ironically my journo friends Lane Wick and Billy Krasean also had him as an advisor, as did the late Margaret Lee who was four years behind me at the J School.

What follows are some moon shots from last night’s sky circus, followed by photos of most of the Moodles from the past two summes. 

Our hummingbirds (we call them rudes) are gone, the last ones showing on precisely the same day as last year, September 22. We have crowds of robins and juncos and pine siskins cycling through and the turkey vultures have already fled south. My old pal and partner Steve Burton bagged a nice bear with his bow last night, and there are bear hounds-men all over the plains and woods. Glorious Fall is upon us.

Let me finish here with a though from novelist John Steinbeck: “A novelist is a kind of flypaper to which everything adheres. His job then is to try to reassemble life into some kind of order. Wah! Over.

How Much Is That Wolfie in the Window?
How Much Is That Wolfie in the Window?
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The Wolf Who Saved The Deer

[Note to readers. The New Edition of Covered Waters: Tempests of a Nomadic Trouter, is out now. It includes a lot of new essays and reflections. What follows is one of the new pieces. Enjoy. Joe Heywood]

One winter day sometime before 1965, my friend and teammate Bill Haeger and I drove north to hunt rabbits. We stayed at his family’s  cottage on the north end of Torch Lake, and hunted a swamp between Torch and Lake Michigan, a nasty tangle of briar  jungle and  home to a large population of rabbits.

All morning we took turns beagling for each other, one man climbing up, and bouncing on piles of brush, the other posting to await escapees. We were serious pot-hunters to be sure, and looking forward to frying rabbit flesh in a pan, and cold beers to wash it down.

            Bill and I played on the same MSU lacrosse team line as forwards (attackmen), with our pal Dave Wagner.  Wags was our finesse man.  In our senior year the three of us were tri-captains. Bill and I were then both in the range of 210-230 pounds, solid as raw, purple steaks.  Both hunters, we were gritty, sandy people and made this trek every winter from East Lansing.            We played the same style of game, one with an excess of aggression and a modicum of touch, both engaging the opposition with a kind of steely no-quit determination that isn’t easily described to those who don’t have it in their marrow. During the season we were inseparable, together constantly, and in the off-season as well, often with beers in hand, and Coral Gables bar bands blasting The Twist and Louie Louie in the background.

            It was a Basho kind of day: “Winter solitude/in a world of one color/the sound of wind.” We have just pounded our way through the deep swamp and thigh-deep snow. We wore boots, but not snowshoes. Too much climbing around and over brushpiles for les raquettes.  They were for other times and other places. It was nearing noon (or maybe it wasn’t). The day was sludge-gray and we were within sight of Lake Michigan and winter swells heaving relentlessly onto shore, stacking up ice castles.

            “Something’s out there,” Bill said, squinting at the lake. He always squinted, helmet on or helmet off.

            I looked and saw it, a speck of dark in the swells, a log perhaps?

            “It’s a deer!” Bill whispered, his voice tight.

            We immediately headed for the ice shelf and sure enough there we saw a doe riding the swells. We watched the wave action bring her to the undercut shelf, suck her down into the undertow, and spit her back out to the lake. How this would end seemed clear, the only question how long it would take. We could see that she was oh-so-close to being able to flop up onto land again, but we could also see her tank was almost empty, and the big lake had no intention of letting go of her.

            No discussions took place. There was no need. We were friends and teammates, and just as we were on the playing field, we instinctively knew what each other was thinking, and likely to do next.  We looked hard at the ice shelf. Bill said, “I  can reach her.” Not I think I can, but I can, simply stated, intent born of the gut and ironclad will. That’s Bill.

            He got down on his belly and crawled forward. When he got to the edge, he  stretched his long arms over the razory lip of the  shelf and waited as the deer rode toward us. I got down, and took  hold of his boots, getting one under each of my arms, the anchor in this play. There we lay in silence,  college boys, hearing only the cold thunderclap  of frigid waves shuddering up and down the beach and feeling the fine spray in the air, coating us. If we stayed too long or fell in, we knew we would be frozen into the beach until spring breakup.

            Bill made a stab but missed. The deer went under, pushed by waves and gravity down the sloped shelf beneath us. We waited and saw her pop up again about  twenty yards out. She immediately began to swim toward shore.  When she  rose on the next  roller — a millisecond before she  would be mashed under again, Bill grabbed her ears and her neck and head, and with one mighty heave jerked her onto the ledge, his adrenaline at full steam, and  heaved her skidding on her side past me. I pulled Bill back, and we got up, both of us grinning stupidly.  We looked at the doe, who was stunned and not ready to get up. We had done all we could do.

            He looked at me with his stupid grin, said, “I don’t think we have a future in the circus.”

            We did not linger out on the ice.  Clearly the deer was in a place that calved and we did not want to repeat her bad luck. Our clothes were drenched from the snow and slush, and the spray and water puddles on the ice itself. We were, after the adrenaline dump, wet and cold. We both knew hypothermia could come on fast, with a very negative outcome.

Our packs and shotguns were back on the edge of the swamp.

We  hurried back to the swamp edge,  and immediately began hunting for dry firewood from deep under the rabbit-piles where some dryness was sustained. After a while, we gathered enough to make a fire, and with some fire starter from our packs and some dry moss pulled from a spruce, we made fire.        

We are focused only on getting dry and warm. We are too far from our vehicle to hike out. We needed to get warm and dry first and quickly. The fire began small, but took, and we fed it little by little, until it got going on its own, greedily gulping heavy seashore air.

            It is about this time that we noticed the doe was at the fire with us, watching our every move. She stood between us as we took off wet wool coats and wool sweaters, put them on sticks, and jury-rigged them close to the fire. We are there perhaps an hour, can’t say how long for sure now, because we weren’t paying attention to time, then and all the while our doe remained with us, looking from him to me, to the fire, and occasionally we saw her glance out at the rollers that surely would have killed her.

            When we were finally warmed enough to think clearly and the fire had dried the wool coats, we donned our gear, grabbed our shotguns, slid into our packs, and started hiking east, paying no heed to rabbits.

The doe walked beside us all the way out to the Corvair and we kept trying to shoo her away, but she stubbornly stayed with us.   We opened the trunk and stashed our packs and unloaded guns, and tried again to shoo her away from the road, but she still refused to move and our last look was “our” doe standing where the car had been, watching us.

We know deer are not human, but in the strange moment this had been, you had to wonder what was going through her mind.

            This is one of those things you seldom talk about. I hadn’t even thought about it until MSU had the 50th anniversary of the lacrosse program and we all came from all around the country to be together again as a team in East Lansing.  At breakfast or over cocktails, Sandy Haeger (Bill’s wife) said something about the deer and Bill mumbled “nobody would believe it,” and the story went untold. I think.

            We took no lives that day in the swamp and had a bunny-less dinner of eggs and bacon and toast, or something.  And beer, of course.

            Today is the day before Christmas Eve Day, 2014. I was standing outside this morning in a cold icy mist and this memory came flooding back to me. Bill Haeger graduated from MSU in 1965, as did Wags and I. Bill served in the Army and afterwards joined the automotive industry, where he rose to be a senior executive with Cadillac. He married his college sweetheart, Sandy, and they are still married, more than a half century later. Wags joined the Foreign Service and made a career of it, also marrying his college sweetheart, Mary, and they too are still together and he, like me is now a novelist.

            The heading on this story may seem confusing until you know that Bill Haeger was known by his friends and teammates throughout our college years as Wolfman. As a lacrosse line we were The Wolf, The Wags, and the Wood.

Those who’ve never had the challenge, privilege, and intense pleasure of joining that dance of ferocity and compassion that was and is lacrosse (and later that of flying) will never quite understand the unbreakable bonds that are forged, bonds that endure over time.

Shakespeare knew.  

It’s corny, but I love those guys from  the days of those beat-up playing fields, and the crewmates I flew with in another time and place. But flying is a story for later in this recounting, and this tale is now almost ended.

I am reminded again of Matsuo Basho, that sage poet of Seventeenth Century Japan. He was (as I am) the son of a samurai. Wrote Basho, “A man infirm/ with age, slowly sucks/ A fish bone.” We are all of us from that long-ago time, now infirm with age.

 The fishbone is memory. 

 

Here's the new cover.
Here’s the new cover.

“Sporting With Hares and Cultivating Cucumbers”

ALBERTA, BARAGASTAN — Septemember 9, 2015: During breaks from poring over the copy-edited manuscript for BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY (Lyons Press, Spring 2016) I have been reading from Frank Jewett Mather Jr.’s A HISTORY OF ITALIAN PAINTING (1923). Having lived in Italy as a kid (and having briefly attended an Italian-only school), I’ve always had a soft spot for the country, it’s culture, people, and history. Not to mention its scenery. As a kid in Florence I was able to explore some of the great architectural and art works that had flourished there, many of which were still there, and which led to the so called Golden Age of Italian Painting. While Michaelangelo and Raphael dominated the golden times, it was the work and thinking of Leonardo Da Vinci who plowed a lot of the theoretical and technical ground that led the way. Even better, he wrote about it, and what I find interesting is a lot of what he talks about for painters, applies to people in all creative pursuits. I read an 1882 translation of Trattato del Pittura (which I think translate to Treatise On Painting.)

As a side note here, I’ve labored since Humanities coursework at MSU thinking that Leonardo’s creative breadth was part of his entire career, but it seems this is not quite how it was. Though he may have been thinking about all sorts of things he eventually tackled, up until he was 30 or so he was primarily a painter. As he methodically studied painting and its theories, he reach certain aesthetic and conceptual conclusions he then translated into his work, and after age 30 his work, critics say, changed to a more subtle and calculated end, than when he was younger.  And as he passed into his thirties he began to stretch in new directions:  inventions, civil and military engineering, sculpture, architecture, and physiology. Some of his paintings went (and remain) unfinished and many great works so painstakingly studied and proposed in his sketchbooks never advanced past that cartoon stage. Imagine my surprise and joy in seeing his sketches referred to as cartoons!  I take the word, “cartoon” to be a synonym for artist sketches, and after a life of knuckle raps for doodling and cartooning, here I find the great master operating in the same venue. At some point he stopped painting and moved on to a panoply of other interests where he showed his customary meticulous, methodical, analytical approach to everything.

Leonardo and I might have been sympatico. Who knows?

What he was, was largely a loner and individual worker once he had his own workshop. (Artists’ working areas in those days were not called studios).

One of my brothers once said to me, “It’s easy for you, you’re so gregarious.” I was floored. I think he confused a certain ease in social situations with gregariousness, which by some definitions means a tendency to seek out companionship in flocks. While it was true then and continues to be that I am comfortable in a lot of group settings, the reality is that I rarely search out such conditions and, in fact, often do all in my feeble power to avoid them.

If I have a skill it’s what DeQuincey  (CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER, circa 1820s) said of himself. Which was that he had always prided himself upon the ease with which he passed from one sphere to the next. He called this ease of moving through different segments of society conversing familiarly “more Socratico, with all the men, women and children who might fly in my way.”

Such ease of mixing is surely a gift, a minor one to be sure, but a gift nonetheless. I possess a modicum of this, yet I prefer solitude, which English author William Cowper described as “sporting with hares and cultivating cucumbers” – a simple, unencumbered life.

The great Leonardo believed that artists (writers, poets, etc.) ought to be solitary , especially t those  moments when they were speculating and thinking about what it is they and we do, and how best to do it. In the great master’s view, “the more people in close to you, the less you are.” I’ve made this point many times about writing, that it’s an antisocial activity with distinct social goals. He probably would have said it better.

Da Vinci wrote, “And if you say (to others) ‘I will withdraw myself entirely…” I will tell you that will be held a madman, but lo, thus doing,  you will at least be alone.”

I have friends who are truly gregarious and socially conscious, who pass their lives in the community doing truly important and socially valuable things, especially for other folks, but my friends have little or no appreciation for or understanding of solitaries. They appreciate art, but have little clue about what it takes to take something from an notion to a physical thing – a book or painting, or poem. As a result, withdrawals of individual such as myself are sometimes viewed askance as anti-social or even a rejection of all things outside, but this view is superficial and wrong-headed.  Solitaries are not rejecting anything (other than potentially wasted hours): we are trying to achieve and hold focus, not for hours, but for months and years. And as we age this becomes more difficult and time becomes a more valuable and depleting commodity. So, we step away from the tribe, out of the main current.

Some lessons from Leonard:

1.“He who flees shadows, flees also from the glory of our art among the noble spirits and gains it with the ignorant herd, which desires nothing in painting but beauty of colors, forgetting entirely the beauty and wonder of showing a flat thing as if it were in relief.” For a writer this seems to mean bringing characters to life with all the subtleties that life may possess.

  1. “Without good theory, no good practice is possible. The artist should be in a filial relation to nature, admiring and imitating her directly, not through the eyes of other artists.” He seems to be saying, look at your subject and make your own way based on what you see and based on what you believe you are trying to accomplish. Sound advice.
  2. The first thing is that you consider the figures, if they have the relief which the place and light demand… (next) is that the scattering, or rather distribution of the figures be made according to the way in which you with the story to be.” (Note here he refers to the painting as a story.) “The third is that figures be alert and intent on their particular purpose.” Leonardo talks of painting, but might as well be talking about writing. He seems to be saying that the setting ought to be real for the story and the characters appropriate for the setting, that you need to select the right characters and have enough of them to tell the story, by keeping them focused on the story and their purpose. Fine advice for all scribblers and daubers.
  3. “The most important thing that can be found in the theory of painting are the movements appropriate to the mental state of each being – as desire, scorn, wrath, pity, and the like.” This seems to call us to make sure characters are as believable and true to the story’s life as they can be. This doesn’t mean the world it the story must be “real or realistic,” it means it must be appropriate to the world the writer or artist seeks to convey.
  4. Says Da Vinci, “the painter who does not doubt learns little. When work surpasses the judgment of the worker, that worker acquires little, and when the judgment surpasses the work, that work never ceases to grow better, unless avarice prevents it.” He seems to say here that you can’t sit on your laurels, and to grow, you have to keep pushing yourself and what you are trying to accomplish.

I’ve always believed that all forms of art and its makers share central principles, from theory, to concept to technique, and motivation. For more than a decade I have been creating a world  I’ve laid out serially and, in that world continuously seek to grow the characters in various ways, as well as to continually seek tighter and tighter writing. All serials, including life itself, must end and eventually one must push on to other things. My guess is that such other things for me will involve what some critics call magic realism (Fabulism, etc.). This is defined as more a mode than a genre, and means creating a highly detailed, realistic setting and letting it be invaded (matter-of-factly) by something too strange to believe. (It’s the writer’s job to use his or her craft to make the “thing” believable and to fit. This mode has long been characteristic of certain of our Latin American writers, but it also pretty much defines THE SNOWFLY. More of this ilk is certainly in the cranial pipeline.  Mode or genre, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the work on paper, and how it sits with the reader.

We learn by analyzing and criticizing our own work and  with the craft and extra eyes of editors and the various functions extant in the traditional publishing industry.

Leonardo advised painters to emulate poets, “who cancel some of their verses and make them better. “Writers call this revision and it is often at the heart of the creative act. Says Da Vinci, “Revising as one goes along is necessary because you must understand that if such a composition in the rough will meet the needs of invention, it will please all the more after it has been adorned with the perfection appropriate to all its parts.” Revision equals refinement and polish. This is good advice for all undertakings in life.

As I sat to type this piece, I basked in the glow of two hours of pitching small flies from the banks or our lake, catching a dozen and a half small bluegills and finally, my first ever brook trout from the waters of Ford Lake, a gargantuan eight-inch specimen that took a waterlogged grasshopper pattern that sank into the weeds. No doubt the trout was down there seeking cover, but when this bushy little thing sank near to it I suspect the little red feather tail wiggled like a worm or something alive and it struck. The fly is an odd grasshopper pattern a friend tied for me years ago, with a bushy head, green and gold body and a small red tail. So now I have to think about the future, and find flies I can drop into the underwater jungle to see what we shall see.

Jambe Longues is working her way through the pages of BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY, and when she finishes, I’ll type in my changes and return the ms. to the publisher. I thought not once of the ms. or writing while I fished, which is another lesson I learned long ago, that creativity is spurred on by doing things that do not apparently relate to what it is you are trying to create. Focusing the mind on something as significant as fish, allows brain chemicals to percolate, or whatever  the proper term is for what goes on in the unconscious.

Earlier  this morning I drove to the Baraga County Memorial hospital to have my monthly INR check and it was a hair low (1.8, the goal being to be between 2 and 3). So I will change my rat poison dosage for a few days and go for a recheck next week.

The simple  life: total focus on fish and nary a thought about books or such. Everyone should have some sort of simple pursuit in their lives. I love being lucky enough to be able to arrange my life in such a way as to have the solitude to write and paint and think. And especially to read.

And herein (therein?)  another great reward of reading: A book published almost a hundred years ago has rewarded me with insight into the thoughts of a great creative presence who lived  a hundred years or so before Shakespeare.  Books are gifts pushed into the future from the past.  How fortunate for all of us. And to close the circle, had I not lived in Florence as a kid, I might never have picked up the book on Italian painting at St. Vinnies in L’Anse. I think the price was half a buck. Wowzer.

Tight Lines, and a shot and a beer: Over.

Friday Night Football and Some Thoughts on Writing

BARAGASTAN, ALBERTA — Friday, September 4, 2015Friday night and we’re listening to Michigan State vs Western Michigan football at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo.  The weather both hither and yon  is sticky hot and it hardly seems time for football, but reality  reveals that most high schools ATB (albeit perhaps statewide) have already played the second games of their 2015 skeds this week.

From our little campus village, we can get MSU football only on WUPY FM out of Ontonagon. This broadcast outfit is part of what our MSU homer announcers call the Michigan State Football Network. I say homer announcers because the homerism is so blatant and laid on thick as syrup; it reminds me of certain commercial media network  that proclaims neutrality in reporting.  (e.g., “We report, you decide.”)But makes no attempt at same and blatantly lays its own colors deep into every report. The day of neutrality in reporting in the U.S. at least as a goal, seems long gone except in some few  major media. Never mind that the political right accuses anyone who disagrees with them as being liberal (which I assume is something like being a commie back in the early fifities). So it goes. Back in J-School days our profs, all seasoned professionals, hammered us to keep ourselves and our personal political opinions out of  our reporting and to endeavor to surgically keep stories focused on facts. This recognized, of course, that selection of facts is in itself editorial and slanted, but the point was made over and over to keep working to get reports neutral. One gets the feeling this is no longer so, at least among practitioners (which is where it ought be strongest). And maybe I’m just naïve. I also joined the USAF in 1965 because I thought it was every American’s duty to serve.  Few agreed, at least in terms of acting on what they believed. But that’s ancient history, and so too is neutrality in reporting. Tsk tsk.

As for the Spartan Football Network, someone at Ford Motor Company (or is it some finance arm of theirs, I was never certain) ought to monitor what the hell their copywriters are putting out to the public. Insipid at best, downright pathetic stuff.

My favorite quote from today came from an NPR story, an interview with the husband of the female court clerk in Kentucky jailed because her religions convictions made it impossible for her to sign same-sex marriage licenses. Said hubby: “We don’t hate nobody.” I’ve since learned that the clerk’s lawyer is appealing her contempt sentence  and I wonder, could this be something more than a simple morally driven individual wanting to stand up for herself. Who’s paying for this appeal? and now we have to wonder if this whole deal was arranged as a way to legally challenge the changes in the law made possible by a recent Supreme Court decision. Makes one wonder if this is like the 1925 John Scopes deal, by which high school science teacher John Scopes was used to legally challenge antievolution forces. If it quacks like a duck, eh. Back at MSU’s J school, we were taught to follow the money decades before that phrase became fashionable.

All of this and the usual political gibberish reminds me of a comment in this week’s NEW YORKER, “Political debate in Israel is vigorous, if not always elegant, often summoning the old Hebrew phrase (epigram?) that describes a dialogue between deaf people.” We should be so lucky as to have even a little elegant political debate in this country: Americans don’t debate: we yell, like placard holders at rallies.

Donald “The Donald” Trump is the latest of our 10-year-old debate emulators, yelling “You dumb-heads! You losers!” Seriously, this gentleman who was born rich and makes out to be self-made, this person wants to be our President? This person who quips to a crowd (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) do we even NEED an election? Okay call me paranoid, but I remember similar sorts of drifts in other countries and those did NOT turn out well. But we shall see and it the unlikely event we end up Trumped it will be no less than we deserve for letting it happen.

Great fish camp this year, our 39th annual and consecutive in Lake County. Al, Bob, Reg, Lars and ish kabible, and we even managed to catch some nice Pere Marquette River brown and rainbow trout (albeit all  under six pounds). Size ain’t everything. Some photos from the fest follow this blog entry.

Football underway, salmon running, it’s the last month of most brook trout fishing in inland waters, and we’re down to a short haul before we point the caravan south for winter.

Labor Day weekend here is projected as semi-tropical (which reminds me of the old Russian saying, “Nothing except optimism is required of a weather report.” Same same in You Pee — always.) While others labor at play this weekend, we’ll play at labor: Lonnie on jewelry and I on the copyedited typeset proofs of BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY, the tenth Woods Cop story. I plan to leisurely work my way through the proofs. The book will come out next spring, stay tuned for exact month of publication, or check Amazon or one of the on-line sites, which are pretty good about previewing the stuff in publisher’s pipelines.

I can’t believe all the venom over immigration. A friend yesterday insisted Pope Francis is advocating open borders for the US, so I checked it out. No such thing I can find, so I can assume only that my pal got this off one of his talk radio sources, who tend to distort things. My friend has a sign in his workshop proclaiming, LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE.”  I told him I agree, but it’s a better thing to have than the French Pox. Apparently liberalism is not highly contageous in certain circles.

I say phooey on hooey.

Of a more serious and germane note I’m always interested in definitions and discussion and descriptions of writing and story-telling.  I recently ran across the following anecdote in Italo Calvino’s THE BARON IN THE TREES (pub in English, 1959): “In fact, he was carried awzay by that mania of the storyteller, who never knows which stories are more beautiful – the ones that really happened and the evocation of which recalls a whole flow of hours past, of petty emotions, boredom, happiness, insecurity, vanity, and self-disgust, or those which are invented, and in which he cuts out a main pattern, and every thing seems easy, then begins to vary it as he realizes more and more that he is describing things that had happened or been understood in lived reality.

“Cosimo was still at the age when the desire to tell stories makes one want to live more, thinking one has not alone done enough living to recount, and so off he would go hunting: and be away weeks then return to the trees in the square, dangling by their tails, polecats, badgers, and foxes and tell the folk…new stories, which originally true, became, as he told them, invented and from invented true.”

Calvino is a wonderful novelist,and he  gets the writer’s chemistry perfectly.  A storyteller has to keep going. This, of course, relates only to certain storytellers, because they are not all the same and here we turn to Virginia Woolf for comment and she immediately looks not to the writer, but to the reader’s role in writing. That sounds funkily put, but think about it: If you’ve heard me speak, you know Ilike  to talk some about how writers seek to involve readers in their stories, to find techniques to have the reader create some sweat-equity and a buy-in to that being read. Woolf is far more eloquent and tells us, “Our first task (as readers) is to master the writer’s perspective. Until we know how the novelist orders his world, the ornaments of that world, which critics press upon us, the adventures of the writer, to which biographers draw attention, are superfluous possessions of which we can make no use.” (Fiction is not autobiography: my words, not hers). “All alone,” she says, “we must climb upon the novelist’s shoulders and gaze through his eyes until we, too understand in what order he ranges the large common objects upon which novelists are fated to gaze; man and men; behind them, Nature; and above them that power which for convenience and brevity we may call God. And at once, confusion, misjudgment and difficulties begin: Simple as they appear to us, these objects can be made monstrous and indeed unrecognizable by the manner in which the novelist relates them to each other.

Woolf continues: “So, in spite of text books, writers may live at the same time and yet see nothing the same.” Therein the beauty and incredible array of subject matter, styles, themes, and stories that writers around the world propagate. To get the full benefit of such variety, the reader has to work hard and actively reach out to each story.

Virginia Woolf’s fiction is incredibily powerful and innovative, but I find her essays and criticism even more compelling, and often surpassing her fiction in both incisiveness and insight. Hers is a writer’s eye for writers and writing and here I give you her 1931 essay, “Donne After Three Centuries.”  Woolf wrote, “When we think how many millions of words have been written and printed in England in the past three hundred years, and how the vast majority have died without leaving any trace, it is tempting to wonder what quality the words of Donne possess that we should still hear them distinctly today.”

She says, “But the first quality that attracts us is not his meaning, charged with meaning as his poetry is, but something much more unmixed and immediate; it is the explosion with which he bursts into speech. All preface, all parleying have been consumed; the leaps into poetry the shortest way. One phrase consumes all preparation: ‘I long to talke with some old lover’s ghost, or ‘He is starke mad, whoever says that he hath beene in love an houre.’

“With the first words a shock passes through us; perceptions, previously numb and torpid, quiver into being; the nerves of sight and hearing are quickened; the “bracelet of bright hair,” burns in our eyes. Woolf’s writing here reminds me of the late Dutch Leonard’s dictum to wannabe writers to “leave out the unimportant stuff.”

I continue to be astonished at how much one can keep learning as we plow through our septuagenarian years. Way cool, my late pal Rusty Gates used to say with a wry smile tagging his lips. Way cool, indeed.

Keep reading, keep thinking, keep learning, and keep the damn shovel handy for bulldroppings.

Over.

Frontice for 2015 camp cartoons.
Frontice for 2015 camp cartoons.
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How the cabin looks, coming back from the river.
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From Left: Robochef(Swedish Brother #2) Peterson; Lars Swedling (Swedish Brother #1) Hjalmquist: Al-the-Pal VanDenBerg; und, Reg “Yank-Canuck” Bernard.
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Unamed hulking hump shuffling along in the river.
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Never shy in front of a camera. What it that about Canucks, eh?
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Clueless Old Men
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The Two Flags uv de camp.
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Chief Benefactor of Many.
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Motion, an unfamiliar feeling…
Our old pal Dick Schwikert, Maven of the Pere Marquette.
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Our friends are those one can visit in waders, no questions asked. Bob Peterson and Dick Schwikert, former HR floggers at the old Upjohn.