On Remembering An Almost-Overdue Deadline For Work That Was My Idea, In The First Place – #poetry

glowing coalsWhat must be done,
Must Be Done.
I can procrastinate all I like, plumb
the depths of my lazy rationalizations
all I care to, excuse
my inaction with a chock-full
calendar…
But what must be done,
Must Be Done.

It’s not like I didn’t know
it needed doing.
It’s not like
I could have gotten out of the commit-
ment I
myself
signed up for.
Duty calls — but I called first.

 

2006

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Aftermath – #poetry

Aftermath

leaning birches

I.

Now, walk up the road, to see what’s what.

And yes,
Everything does look like it’s had the shit torn out of it.

Because it has.

Five major winter storms in four weeks.
Two of them coming
after the official start of spring…

I remind myself, this is New England.
These things can happen.
Especially in the so-called, alleged spring.

There are plenty of pictures and stories
to prove it.
A whole forest leveled overnight is nothing
to take as a harbinger of
The End.
It happens more often than you’d think.
More often than we
remember, short
memories
that
we

have.

 

fallen snapped off trees

II.

Winter was kind to us
Until March.

Then came the surprise fury, the dumping of meters of snow.
Refreshing our memories of an Earth we ignore, till
she demands our full attention
for a day or two.
The takedown of trees and lines and power, phone and cable television,
essentially
all the ballast of our modern lives.

The chain snapped free of the anchor, just as the wind picked up.

Any chance of us getting off easy this year
Was gone by the third storm.

The only consolation being that the snow covered up the damage it had done.

No more.

No, here we all are
in our dead, twisted, contortions of devastation lite,

Tired,
so
tired, what with everything
that’s going
on.

But still knowing full well that we got off easy,
considering
that a lot of those trees could’ve fallen the other way, and hurt us
much worse than they did.

I, for one, have a hard time saying “snow storm” without preceding the noun with an expletive adjective.

Fucking snow.
Fucking storms.
Wrecking our recollections of that vibrant autumn that got a late start,
but still rewarded us with so
much
color…
Canceling out the promise of Spring – right around the corner, we’d
hoped – after such
a bitter
cold
snappy
couple of months…
Dragging our thoughts from anticipation
to immediate exigency,
our cabin-fevered minds kicking
and screaming like kids who can’t get on
the ride they love most
because they got there 10 minutes after the gate closed.

True, clearing fallen limbs and filling out insurance forms
is a far cry from not getting to ride the teacups,
but still.
Bruises, lacerations, pulled muscles, and a monster
burn pile stacked on the far side of the yard
have a way of affecting the mind
as well.

Eh, never mind.

We all know this is the price we pay for such beauty, as we reckon
with nature’s less welcome interruptions.

We’re all adults here.

Still,

I’m glad that shit’s over.

Road-killed frog

III.

And up the road I go. No heavy jacket needed today. But then again,
not a light windbreaker, either.
We’re at that point where the roads are wide enough to comfortably walk again
without getting run over,
which means you warm up quickly — long strides, pumping arms — and then
half a mile later, you’re stripping off
layers.

Chill wind on my neck — Should I have worn a scarf?
Hot gusts rising from my torso as I move, mixing with the cold.
No.
I should not have. I’ll be fine.

But never mind me.
Look around.

The forest… the woods… Oh…

Splintered, frayed, stripped, bent, flayed, snapped, crushed, battered, lost, dwarfed, amputated, ugly.

Gone.

Amid this musty, dusty stack of kindling we used to call the woods, the sound of spring peepers echoes,
their guttural chirps filling the enlargened air that used to be crowded by
living, growing
tree trunks.

Frayed, snapped-off toothpicks of once-towering Ash, Hickory, Maple, Pine.
The frogsong rings free, where it used to bounce off all those hard spaces.
They seem now both
fewer
and more
than I remember in past years.

And in the vernal pools, growing trees look all the more precarious,
their days numbered
knowing what we know about trees rooted in soggy ground
when the winds pick up.
Vulnerable as the road-killed peeping frogs who just wanted to cross
the asphalt ribbon of death
to do what they do in the spring season.

The warning signs for drivers to slow down seem no more effective
than our expectations
of what should happen, weather-wise, in March.

Against the backdrop of pattern-defying weather,
I turn the corner of the road.

Past the burned-out shell of a house that once stood here.
Car coming….
Step off the road and in
to what used to be the widemouthed entry of their driveway. Look around – look around.

Someone
has been here with the mower.

It wasn’t this clear last fall.

Maybe the original owner finally wants to sell the place.
Or
the town has complained about the mess.
Or
something new will be built on that spot before long.

I should see piles of deer droppings.
But no.

broken-down garage

IV.

A rustle behind me.
I turn and wave to the neighbors across the way
watching me
from their darkened screened-in back porch.
If they wave back, I can’t tell.
Too dark on the inside.

Seems they’re keeping an eye on this place, perhaps to buy it.
Perhaps
to figure out what the heck is going on over there with all the brush and small trees disappearing from the lot between
when they leave for work and when they return home in the evening.

Each day, a little bit more is gone, as though
the shoemaker’s elves got bored
making shoes
and decided to clear underbrush instead.

Now step off
the road and onto a path leading back into the conservation lands. Through woods blasted lower than
they were last time I was here.
Falling branches,
felled trunks,
logs blocking the path,
some of them sawed off,
others broken.

Someone has put in a yurt on their field, with a small shed beside…
it looks like maybe a chicken coop on wheels…?

Amid the storms’ devastation, new construction is like a stable armistice, bounding
the arboreal battlefield
just beyond the rock walls,
spelling out how we still go on, no matter what.

A yurt’s easier to put up than a house.
Quicker, cheaper, in some ways
just as good.

And you can do it.
So, some do.

fallen trees

V.

Clouds are coming in.

I’ll have no shelter till I get back home.

Turn, put the path beneath my feet
and the deadfall
behind me.

Return to the road.

Turn back towards my house.

Whatever has happened here in the last month has happened many times before, and it will keep on happening.

Keep walking.

Accept what comes next.

 

April 8, 14, 15 2018

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Waking up to something better… picking up where I left off

morning fog over a pondI love when this happens. I woke up this morning with the solution to the sticky problem I’ve been having with a manuscript I’d all but given up on.

I started a novel back in 2015. This was for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) during that November. And I was making good progress with what I felt was a really interesting storyline. It’s basically the tale of a woman who meet one of her college friends after 30 years of almost no contact, and notices some striking difference in the way she behaves and interacts with everybody around her. It’s about how we connect (ha – no surprises there) and how we perceive others (and ourselves), when we learn new things about them.

Of course, I had to throw in some technology too… so the main character is one of the founders of a startup that’s struggling to finalize it working proof of concept for investors.  There’s tension there, too — generational tension, programming languages conflict, even a bit of Emacs vs. Vi contention. How could I resist? 😉

Anyway, I was making really good progress with manuscript some four years ago, and I was sure I was going to be able to get it done by the end of November.

But, of course, life had other ideas, and I ended up getting stalled during the last third of the book. Actually, it wasn’t just life that stalled me, it was the technology piece that I was writing about. At the time, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the company’s fictional approach. I thought I understood the underlying issues the company was aiming to solve. But the more I got into it, the more I realized I didn’t know. And the less confident I felt writing about that whole piece of it.

It wasn’t something I could fake, without undermining the whole premise of the book.

It’s tricky, right? If you’re going to write about something, you’d better know more than a thing or two about it. You can’t write a novel about dogs if you really aren’t familiar with canine characteristics, behaviors, and all the things that make dogs… dogs. Likewise, you can’t really write about technology if you don’t understand it, especially if you’re writing about a company that’s developing an innovative product that’s going to solve a sticky problem for an entire industry.

That derailed me pretty well, so I tucked the manuscript and my notes into a couple of manila folders and put them on a book shelf where I wouldn’t lose sight of them, but they wouldn’t get in my way. Every now and then, I’d look over at the shelf with a sense of longing… and then get back to what I was doing.

But this morning when I woke up, I found a way through. I realized I could write much better about a completely different type of technology that’s much more familiar to me, and which I really do know inside and out. I understand the ins and outs, the persistent issues, as well as the opportunities a better solution would provide. Heck, I even built a similar solution over 10 years ago, when I was noodling around with some ideas I had.

So now I can take a step back, rewrite the technical pieces, and really flesh out that part of the story in a much more satisfying manner.

The main thing is that I do justice to the story, as well as readers. The last thing I want to do is insult anybody‘s intelligence, and I also don’t want to overreach if I don’t know what I’m talking about it. Some people can fake it, but I’m a terrible liar, and anyway, I’d just as soon write about something I’m intimately familiar with.

So, now I can go back to work on my novel. I’m probably a lot closer to finishing it than I think I am.

We shall see.

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Brought together from a distance

Beloved Distance

setting eclipse moon near a small mountain The setting eclipse near Mount Wachusett

One of the amazing things about distance is how it can really bring us together.

Watching the full blood blue super moon eclipse yesterday morning, and then watching rise that same moon rise last evening, I was struck by how that shared experience connected like-minded people — all because of distance.

Yesterday morning, my partner and I watched the moon as it sank in the west, as the upper left-hand side was gradually obscured by the earth’s shadow. We hadn’t realized that the moon would be setting at just same time when the eclipse was at it’s peak and the moon turned red. But as we watched it sink towards the horizon, trees hiding its descent, we realized if we didn’t do something, we were going to miss the full drama of the eclipse.

We were both still in our pajamas, and it wasn’t…

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Now on Amazon Kindle – Beloved Distance

Beloved Distance - The Separation That Connects Us to All

Beloved Distance is now available on Amazon – in Kindle format.

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Beloved Distance is picking up speed (after only 2 days)

Daily usage statistics for Beloved Distance in January 2018 showing huge jump in visits and traffic

Stats are picking up for Beloved Distance 🙂

Well, this is fun! I just checked my humble stats (not my full-featured analytics package) for a quick overview of how things are going over with Beloved Distance, and yes, people are taking me up on the offer of the free eBook for the rest of this month. So far, 64 people have downloaded the free ePub version, and that’s just in the last 2 days that it’s been available. At a rate of 32/day, that would come to 11,680 copies in circulation in a year’s time — not a bad run for a book by a (relatively) unknown author daring to venture into territory usually reserved for people with a lot more letters after their names, than I.

The thing is, I really believe this book speaks to so many of the issues we’re facing today — isolation, separation, alienation… and how to make sense of it all. And it deep-dives into what makes us how we are. That deep dive brings up some pretty reassuring facts: namely, that we may be full of separation, but by our very natures, we are built to connect. There’s no way around it. That’s just what we do. It’s who we are. It’s what we are. Full stop.

No matter who the messenger is, the message is critical, in these times of fragmentation and dissolution: We are built to connect. Our bodies do it billions and trillions of times, every waking day of our lives. We wouldn’t be alive, if they didn’t.

And that, to me, is a message of hope… From deep within our cells to the outermost aspects of our lives.


Want to read Beloved Distance?

Order Your Print Copy Now

Or Download a Free copy of the Beloved Distance eBook (gratis till 31. January 2018)

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Somehow, this book is different

To date, I’ve written and published over 10 books. Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, essays, mythology… you get the idea. Actually, I’ve written more than I’ve published.

Some were more important for me to write, than to put them out into the wider world. It was an exercise for me. It served its purpose. ’nuff said. They moved me along to the next project, the next book, the next poem… whatever was supposed to come next.

I’ve written largely in obscurity, lo these many years. I started writing when I was seven or eight, completed my first collection of short stories when I was eight. Wrote a YA novella when I was 10 (or 11 or 12?). And I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve devoted to writing on (pretty much) a daily basis. It all blends together. And to be honest, all the publishing has felt like a natural progression from the writing itself.

In the past, I would simply publish as a matter of course. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. I’d just get it out there…

This time, though, it feels very different. Beloved Distance feels different. This has been a multi-year project, which really got its start over five years ago, when I began to really take notice of our neurology. And while I have read a whole lot of words about how the human neurological system works, the pictures have actually been the most transformational for me.

I mean… look at that! Who wouldn’t be fascinated by it?

Well, okay, so not everybody, but I’m one of those people who is.

And it’s led me down this path that originally was all about our most microscopic neuroanatomy, and ended up in our most macroscopic human considerations.

Funny, how that happens.

I think one of the things that’s raised the stakes of this project is the math. Yes, math. I’m more of a words person, and I’m better at geometry than calculus, but one of the building blocks of this book is the calculations of all the distance we have within us — thousands of miles worth, to be accurate. Freaky, right? To tell the story correctly, I had to get the math right. If it’s not right, the point is lost. So, I’ve checked it countless times, from a bunch of different angles and I’ve consulted with “math people”, getting way outside my comfort zone to be as accurate as possible.

And ironically, the more abstract my conceptions got, the more concrete the applications turned out to be.

Yeah, that’s funny, too.

In one of those grand cosmic ha-ha moments, where you realize — yet again — just how interconnected we all are, and how elegantly we can apply principles from one slice of our lives to others.

Well, I’m losing light. It’s snowed all day, and I need to get out and clear my deck, rake my roof, shovel the stairs, and snow-blow the driveway. Should take me about an hour to do it. And it’s easier to do if it’s light out… So, outside I go. Thick socks and snow pants and boots and coat/hat/gloves on… snow-moving implements in hand… to narrow the distance between me and the fluffy white stuff, to close the gaps between show-covered and snow-cleared.

Off I go… and here we go…


Want to read Beloved Distance?

Order Your Print Copy Now

Or Download a Free copy of the Beloved Distance eBook (gratis till 31. January 2018)

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Sharing: The Hundred Trillion Stories in Your Head

Beloved Distance

I came across this totally by accident, last night, but it’s very much in keeping with my current work. I’ve always loved the Paris Review. It was one of my most prized companions, back in the early 1980s. I’m still a fan – here’s one more reason why:

The Hundred Trillion Stories in Your Head

By Benjamin Ehrlich

Arts & Culture

For the father of modern neuroscience, cellular anatomy was like the most exciting fiction.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, “the father of modern neuroscience.” All images courtesy Cajal Legacy, Instituto Cajal (CSIC), Madrid.

Fiction is, by definition, a world away from fact—but Santiago Ramón y Cajal, often heralded as “the father of modern neuroscience,” used it to find objective truth. Cajal spent his days at the microscope, gazing down at faint, entangled fibers that appeared to his fellow anatomists as inscrutable labyrinths. Contrary to prevailing theory, the Spaniard discerned that…

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To work in the mode of Cajal

Beloved Distance

Purkinje Cell illustration by Santiago Ramón y Cajal Purkinje Cell illustration by Santiago Ramón y Cajal

The article I found yesterday about Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s roots in fiction was a welcome addition to my overall work direction. In it, I found my own sentiments mirrored — and by one of the great leaders in neuroscience.

If we would enter adequately into Cajal’s thought in this field,” Sherrington continues, “we must suppose his entrance, through the microscope, into a world populated by tiny beings actuated by motives and striving and satisfactions not very remotely different from our own.” Cajal highlighted that subject and object—the brain scientist and the neuron—descended from the same evolutionary ancestor, contained the same physical material, and were beholden to the same mortal laws.

Here was a man who literally transformed his field, and he did it (at least in part) by reimagining the human relationship with his objects of study — animating them with…

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Beloved Distance – Book Overview

Beloved Distance

Beloved Distance Overview

In our modern globalized world, fraught with strife, violent conflict, and daily casualties numbering in the tens of thousands, separation is often perceived as the enemy of humanity. Keeping oneself at a distance from others is seen as the root of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and myriad other -isms which preclude even the slightest chance of peace. “To become a true global citizen,” Suzy Kassem sounds a common refrain, “one must abandon all notions of ‘otherness’ and instead embrace ‘togetherness’. … This is the only way mankind will truly evolve.”

A message of eradicating the distance between oneself and others resounds across the ages, from the Buddha’s warning, “There is … No sorrow like separation,” to John Lennon assuring us that if we all join together, “the world will be as one.” This perspective is practically a given among those who consciously seek our collective evolution…

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