Old Pal Mike “Goose” Vairo on tour of national parks, sending photos from time to time. Cool stuff. We live in a huge, gorgeous country.
Just back from 38th annual Bullshido Fishing Camp in Baldwin MI (Lake Co). While there had chance to spend a patrol day with CO Angela Greenway, mother of two, who leads an interesting life. Earlier this spring she was involved in rescuing three cubs from a mother struck by a vehicle and killed. They took the cubs to Gaylord, medicated and checked them, then covered them with Vicks Vaporub to wipe out human and their mother’s scent, then placed them with a sow nursing two cubs. They put the cubs up a tree and when last seen they were coming down to mama. All that can be hope is that she accepts them. Extraordinary steps for three wild animal. Week before last a boar was hit by a vehicle up near Tustin and dove into heavy cover in the median and CO Greenway was summoned to the scene where she and a Troop put the animal out of its misery, est weight 300 lbs plus. She stopped by home so her kids could see. Animal to heavy for her to rassle it alone, so she tied a rope to it, looped rope around a tree, and pulled it off the truck. All in a day’s work. The day we were out we encountered a dad and two sons hunting frogs to eat the legs. Neither of us had ever encountered froggers, but a ten year old boy gave us a thorough briefing on identiffying malde and female bullfrongs. Too funny! It’s great to see kids outdoors with dads and moms.
Will be appearing at the the Presque Isle Community Library in Presque Isle Wisconsin, 4 P.M. Monday Aug. 25. Join us if you can. I’m working hard on new short stories at the moment and messing around with some bird’s eye maple. Here’s a fish I’ve imagined from a rough top cut. Will make interesting wall hanging, I think.
Yesterday was a wonderful day, which began with me refereeing a barking match between Shagsper and a long-eared owl, at 0500. Breakfast in Covington. Then listening to wonderful American music from US composers as I wrote, and worked on a short story and later started Rick Atkinson’s THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT, and found myself transfixed and deeply moved by the raw emotion of the final hours before D-Day, and all the things Eisenhower had to bear, largely alone, filled with self doubt, yet steeling himself to deal with the pysychological effects of all the young men already lost in Africa, Sicily and Italy, and all those to surely perish going into France. Whew. Atkinson pulled all the stops on this one, the third in this WW2 trilogy, even gives us a line from Shakespear’s Henry V, from a scene on the night before the battle of Agincourt, “He which hath no stomach to this fight/Let him depart.” There it was, centuries later, the challenge to every man and woman in uniform that day, said in only ten words.
There was not a single firecracker or rocket last night, nada, first time in our memory of such a quiet and serene night. We laughed, remembering one fourth we spent on the pontoon, catching bass on every cast as gaudy fireworks exploded overhead and we sipped on a good red wine. That was nice for then, and memorable, but the solitude here and time for careful reflection and thought if far better for us. The dog hates fireworks and we do too. Toys of juvenile fools, demonstrating I have no idea what. Four months
left up here. It is going so damn fast! Some photos for your appreciation. Over.
We had lunch with Wally and Bob Kent at the Moose Track Inn over dere Michigammee, eh. Good peoples.
I have just finished reading Carol Brightman’s biography of the late Mary McCarthy, WRITING DANGEROUSLY: MARY McCARTHY AND HER WORLD. (NY: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 1992). Crawling through the 700 pages I kept wanting to learn something that would tell me why I should, as a writer, be the least interested in Ms. McCarthy, her celebrity life, screwy personal life or anything else. This time, as always, I read as I always do, first for content and edification about the subject, but secondarily looking for nubbins of potential poems or short stories, and getting ideas for titles of anything I might later want to write. Other writers have their own ways. These happen to be mine.
Mostly what came to me was a very odd and largely disturbed and knee-jerk life marked by deep interactions (Even biblically) with the country”s then self-appointed literary intellectuals (as sort of mafia, if you will). McCarthy was smart, talented, glib, snarky, political and contentious. I did make a note to acquire some more of her work to read (having read The Group) long, long ago. I’ll now try to find THE STONES OF FLORENCE (having once been a resident), VENICE OBSERVED (a place oft visited years ago) and her essays collected in ON THE CONTRARY.
One thing in the bio that caught my eyes was McCarthy’s references to “the literary rackets — the Hollywood racket, the New York cocktail-party racket, and the Stalinist racket, which in her mind had all become indistinguishably at a certain point of time in the Sixties. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I sat back, picked up a pen and started a list of modern “rackets” which is a code word for cliques who try to look over an control literature, either pushing it in their own images, or pushing people to conform to certain values, or to control the purse-strings and promotions to make sure only people deserving, by their valuations, can make their way forward through the commercial writing morass. My list included the academic literary racket, one of teachers and critics, another of teacher-writers, the MFA program racket, the small journal racket, the beleaguered literary women of america racket (an extension of feminism), the small club of NYC or Long Island racket, the Community Let’s all read the same book racket, and the neighborhood/circle of friends book club racket, and finally the library racket, all of which function as minor mafioso in the world of literature in books, each with its own claimed territory and vassals. A racket, after all, isn’t much of a racket without some organized element pushing, fostering, and controlling it).
At seventy plus (egad, my eighth decade), with three decades in the “author racket,” I find myself positioned pretty much far outside the perimeter of such mafioso and their rackets, and silly games. It seems to me that it’s difficult enough to keep the pedal to the metal, creating verse, prose, cartoons and paintings in various forms, and more importantly to keep the production up, pushing raw material to finished product on a regular and steady basis. This, after all, is where you actually make a living, not in living the road life talking about work, but by actually doing the work. It certainly makes me wonder how some people can flit around to all these extraneous things AND do their work, but this makes me then wonder if a lot of writers are not as enamored of the hardness of the work as I am. I like the grind, look forward to it every day, sleep it every night and nap. Which makes me wonder how others find solo time and space to do the real work of our chosen profession. The answer, I confess, eludes me still.
The greatest part of the puzzle in this is why my colleagues would bother spending time in such settings. Most of the writers I know (the real ones, not the skaters and wannabes) are loners by nature. Most of us possess adequate social skills to get along reasonably well in a group and some of us are good enough to fool people into thinking we are social creatures, but mostly this isn’t true. Some of us can turn it on when we are”outside” because that is what that part of the job requires and when that part of the job is done, we crawl back into our shells and plod forward. The point is that we are seldom gregarious and those of us who think enough of each other personally, find ways to interact and help one another and we do it without hoopla. You take care of your own kind and you never let a pal down: Pretty simple rules when you get right to it. When people ask me what the writing life is like I generally answer the same, work, work, and more work. Thanks to luck and my genes I am able to read fast and write fast (compared to many others). The largest part of my work takes place in my mind, not on the keyboard beneath my hands. The typing, first draft part is to some extent anti-climactic, though the actual writing often veers off in unanticipated directions and as the writer you have to either give in and follow along, or excise it and get back to your track. Either way, the mind part is far more cumbersome and time consuming than the building-the-story on paper part.
That’s it from here. Lonnie saw her second wolf of summer yesterday, not 300 yards from first sighting point. We are on the edge of territories for two packs her, the Arvon Pack and the Alberta Pack. We have some deer, which is why they are here, and lots of beaver, which is summer quarry, and no coyotes, who, like hunting dogs, do not prosper well in wolf territory. Kari Price, the boss of the campus here is by training a naturalist who is a wild plant guru. Lon is learning to ID various flora from Kari and the latest discovery is pineapple weed. Look it up. Very aromatic, when crushed in your hand, and aptly named. DAY 61 since we arrived, snow and/or rain 32 of those 61. Half the year is gone and the days are now slowly getting shorter, but it is a long march to fall. Not out adventuring much. Wrote three short stories this week and got ideas for another 4 or 5, which I’ll probably write later after I think on them some. The titles of the three are “DELIVER US TO EVIL, EXCEPT THAT’S NOT HOW LIFE IS, and MAWINZO, HE PICKS BERRIES.” Pushing two dozens toons and 20 poems, and output seems good. Even got the camp cartoon book all set for later this month. Will post couple of photos in a minute. Over.
Poet Ken McCullough is former baseball teammate of mine from the days when we played summer ball in the Soo. He was a great ballplayer and is a fine poet. His new website is www.kenmcculloughpoet.com. Check it out and enjoy. He writes about the north and our spaces and places. Over. Busy writing and researching, no time for pix. But soon…. Will post Ken’s link on this site as soon as I can get my web-meister to take care of it.
I’m back on the writer-is-not character kick. Been writing a lot of poems and a few short stories in past few weeks. The poems cover a range of subjects: special Olympians in a boat coming back to St. Ignace from Mackinac Island; spring storms; the antisocial habits of humming birds; Yooper nights in bars; stray dogs; corporate PTSD; artistic license; an old man’s trout fishing; summer solstice, Yooper high school football; hyphenated lives; creativity; a message in a bottle; life ticking away. As usual, all over the place.
Where does all this come from? A phrase overheard or read, or some little thing which catches my eye and imprints in my brain (without some sort of admonishment from me for it to do so, ideas can be like stick-tites). Some sort of stimulus causes us to take something on board and then we start to think about it, not so much overtly and openly, but unconsciously down in the primordial ooze where all thought and facts mix together without labels and become a sort of thick soup which ferments, sometimes for years, sometime for hours. But comes a time when it pops up to the conscious surface and then we feel compelled to deal with it in some way. This is when I sit down (often it is the middle of the night for poems and short stories). Obviously my own swamp is the nest for all these critters, that is the common ingredient and to some extend the common denominator between pieces, but when I use the voice of I it is not Joe Heywood, it is someone else. Many readers have a difficult time understanding this distinction.
It is as poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “When I state myself, as Representative of the verse — it does not mean –me– but a supposed person.” In making her statement she referred to a work called “The Poet” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think some of this is worth recounting here as a helper in the interest of clarifying how to approach the verse and prose we read.
Emerson wrote, “the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common wealth….he is isolated among his contemporaries by truth and by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by truth and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, to the other half of his expression….I know how it is that we need an interpreter, but the great majority of men seem to be mimes, who have yet to come into possession of their own, or mutes who cannot report the conversation they have had with nature….The poet is the person in whom these powers are in balance, the man without impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream traverse the whole scale of experience, and is representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and impart.”
According to her biographer, Cynthia Griffin Wolff, “Dickinson offers her poetry not as a record of individual circumspection, however intelligent, and sensitive it might be. Dickinson does not intend to speak for herself, uniquely fashioned; she intends to speak of the general condition and for all men and women.”
Yes, all the poet creates comes through that individual’s filters and finds expression through that person’s artistic craft and skills, but that which is created is separate and not be be thought of as the creator. Rather it is something made by the creator and which is intended to stand alone. The hamburger you get at MacDonalds may be produced by rthe chef outback, but it is not him. Rather it is something he makes with his knowledge and tools.
Do writers really think about such abstruse things? Some do it consciously and with intent; for others it is a matte of subconscious and serendipitous.
Complications arise when one pens a Roman a clef, that is a fictionalized version of a real event, in which the Character A is intended by the author to represent e Real Person A. The problem with this is that there are a lot of readers who assume all fiction operates on this same convention. But it doesn’t. Very little fiction is roman a clef.
When you are reading bear in mind that the narrator and protagonist are creatures of the author, not the author himself or herself.
It’s not an issue of disguise or camouflage and it’s difficult to explain, but the voice that stimulates the poem, short story or any fiction is no the precise biological self. Rather it is a separate entity, one that speaks from us, uses our imaginations to create images and metaphors and selects words and an order to put them into, but it is something outside us.
On that note, let us march forth into the week. For me I need to find a haircut, someone who can manage to surgically render it high and tight. It is raining and the land is green.
Yesterday we went out to Keweenaw Greenhouse on Arvon Road past the Silver River crossing, to pick up the rest of our plant and flower order. there we got to see a pair of Evening Grosbeaks working the dirt road’s gravel and we were close enough to get some nice photos of these (for us) rarely seen creatures. Afterwards we stopped at the Bovine green grocer and bought the year’s first fresh Michigan strawberries. Within days we’ll have the tiny little wild ones as well! Photos follow. Over.