Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks

It's 11:00 a.m., and I am sitting in my office watching the snow slowly turn the Box Elders into an Ansel Adams photo. The visual noise usually emitted by the billion things in the backyard are hushed by the slow coating of the presence of all colors as one. Winter in Minnesota. After 19 years, it still doesn't get old, while my joints increasingly show me the difference between us.

Holidays have a tendency to make us stop and look both forward and back, allowing us to assess our place and how it differs from what it took to get us here and where in the hell we might be headed. We're a little heavier than we realized, perhaps, or maybe there are a few more lines around the eyes. Maybe your interests have changed. When did you stop really caring about what that band is doing? I used to go to readings. When did that stop? When did I start caring about that status report at work, that place I swore would never get all of me? For me, it all comes in cycles, seasonlike, when we toggle between head down in the trenches and then up again to view the landscape when the time is right.

It is the day before Thanksgiving, and I sit here and try to be grateful for it all, because that's what it took to get me here. Pain, pleasure, hope, despair. It is all part of the whole. Right now, I'm enjoying some peace and calm. Later, that will not be the case. I will take each part as it comes, as we all do. Let us just accept it as a part and not try to avoid the challenging parts ("When going through hell, don't stop." ~ Winston Churchill). Winter always feels like work time to me, when the flourish of summer is removed and put away, and stark practicality takes the fore. For all of this, I will try to remain conscious of the fact that I am fortunate. I am alive.

We shall see how long I can retain this perspective. It is the day before Thanksgiving, and I work closing shift at a popular grocery store. My mantra? Don't stop.

Some music for the beauty outside. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Allowing Space

 
 
In the predawn hours I watch the sky, the small distant suns, of Orion and Canis Major shining above the southern horizon. I can easily imagine a planet among them on the surface of which someone is standing alone in a clearing trying to teach himself to whistle.                                        
                                                                                                                          - from River Notes by Barry Lopez
 
 
I don't know the names of the constellations, but can picture swords and their heroes, helmets and victory as clearly as I know my son will dream them. I'm at the river again. To the right the Mississippi and the Minnesota combine their strength and move forward past me. The current is hypnotic, the lapping waves a reminder of change. To the left it curves to the right and disappears. It is a place to come where no one cares what I sound like. I practice curling my lips and tongue, trying to convince the body I already know how. To make a noise, soft but true, one day becoming music, is the point of it all. If I am getting closer it is because I have learned the important thing - that I am to learn it. Children understand. Takes longer for some of us.
 
I looked up this morning and saw the last of the night fade into dawn. A poem ran through my head then out and into the woods. And on that star, I thought, someone is whistling a beautiful song, and the people who hear it are smiling.
 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Not Me....You

Hello. My name is Michael. How are you?

I checked my blog today, and I saw you. All 47 of you. I have 47 followers. I have 47 followers, and I realized I don't know you at all. Isn't that strange? You are kind enough to follow my strange writing, and yet you remain faceless, nameless folk.

So today, after all this time, I invite you to chime in. Comment on this post and let me know you

a) really exist
b) pay attention to my posts
c) really exist

In addition, I want to let you know that I have another blog where I post all the work of mine that ends up getting published. I have it separate as a kind of CV. You can find it here.

In further addition, I invite you to find me on Facebook, where I sometimes post my writing as status updates. Find me at "Michael K. Gause." Send me a private message there and let me know you follow this blog. If you want to friend me, I'll accept once I know the context.

Finally, I want to thank you for following my writing for all this time. It means a lot to me, and in so doing, I can tell you that you know me more than many who think they do. Seriously, reach out. Let me know who you are.

Cheers.

P.S. Here is some ambient music for your day.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hum, Shiver, Repeat

Oh, time makes men grow sad
And rivers change their ways
But the night wind and her riders
Will ever stay the same...
 

 
Reading The Hum and the Shiver by Tennessee expat Alex Bledsoe. It is set in Tennessee, but not in the '40s or '50s, the time some authors choose for that region. It takes place today, though I can attest the further out you go into that wild, the further back you go in time. The book has me thinking of family, particularly to bloodlines, about which I have never given much thought. While my father has researched our family's history admirably, I have but a vague sense of the family thread - a mutt pedigree that thins and fades like fog. Stories and words that twist themselves toward meaning. Small children watching affairs end with both barrels, limbs lost as a matter of course, men whose iron bones turned back invisible tides in the Civil War. Surnames break and split like streams to creek. Counts. Tucker. Bobo. Back further still. Signposts barely legible. Huguenot and nomad. 
 
All of this floats through my head as I read about the book's main character, Bronwyn Hyatt, and her return home, the blood that welcomes her as one of their own, but forever changed. I sit in my Minnesota home, hundreds of miles from the air the story makes me long for wanting to feel the arms of my mother around me strong, assured of something I cannot name, something known only to us, with small, mystic gestures like the Tufa in the story. We were born in the middle, neither urban nor remote enough to grow native traits I might later use to identify me in the us. I have trouble finding deepblood traits to distinguish us from the progression my parents moved outland to abandon. O how we seek to be special in the face of the tide.
 
Bronwyn's return comes through sacrifice, through heroic acts appreciated by her place and people. Today I find myself devoid of such, whatever potential cultivated in youth now leveled out and on display for those to only wonder after. At some point or another, I guess we all want to be a hero, have our mother's praise be vindicated. Perhaps sometimes it goes dormant as we enter the flow and tide, as we learn that just about everyone has potential, and that it is up to us to make it an active thing. Sometimes it takes hitting bottom to activate it. Maybe the feeling of a god's light upon our upturned face. Hell, maybe sometimes it just takes a story, a parable of sacrifice and humility before the immensity of the world, something to remind us that there is a difference between what we are handed and what we choose to do with it. We'll see. I'm not done with the story, neither one.
 
 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day

I get nostalgic this time of year. It was 19 years ago this year that I decided to pack up my broken heart and pet rabbit and leave my small town life for God knows what in a strange northern place called Minnesota. I was leaving Kingston Spring, Tennessee, a town that once offered the Ce Bon Motel (pronounced See Bonn) and the Dixie Doodle, a burger joint that would, sadly, change its name to the less colorful I-40 Truck Stop. It was a place that reared, damaged, and taught me. I learned to love deepest nature. I learned to watch my back.

Born of deep rocked pain, for which that tender heart was hardly prepared, was the need to move, a hunger for everything that was not my severed life. The pain of love failed, love taken, created first a resounding hum like a cuff to the ear or a touch of almost lethal live wire. That it did not kill me immediately should have been a sign. But in such situations, we are too deep in that well to have any kind of needed perspective. When your heart is broken, the world can, in an instant, become a violent kaleidoscope seared to the face, its colorful menagerie the product of outside chaos and of the soul sick rising up through the guts of your heart. When I would come to look back on the night in question, the night when it all changed, what I recall most are the sharp lines around her face and around the gaudy pictures filling the wall behind her. Before that moment, they had all been a part of a harmonious whole. Face, family, future, all tethered seamlessly by what could only have been that place, that time, that sense of fortune I felt had finally found me in adulthood.

For years after moving I wanted novelty without excitement, something to keep my mind from thinking about what was left behind, but I wasn't ready to feel. My new Minnesota landscape was just that, a minimalist backdrop onto which I splattered activities to make it seem like movement. I feared the opening of wounds, the revivification of life proper, the warming glow of the machine that makes us feel so much. But soon the past begins to fade as you start taking steps. I felt the need for fire. Flushing the pipes with salty air and stinging truths. I found myself opening up to new people and to old ones. I listened to Flannery O'Connor and cried while she laughed. I shook hands with the words of William Gay, from Hohenwald, TN and felt a kin. With them I wanted it. I wanted pain. I wanted their articulation of what I sensed but to which I could put no good words. I soaked up their sweat and sorrow and watched with them how the day stretched shadows to the edge of the town. I wanted them to hurt me, and with each eloquent barb, I laughed, a little more saved. It was a welcome comfort to discover I could once again feel without having to die.

And so years later I sit, having met wonderful people that would change my life forever, even one I helped create. I can look back on my Tennessee roots not with rose glasses nor bitterness. I can see it for what it was and appreciate it for same. To me Independence Day will always mean not being tethered to that which makes you less, but being a part of that which helps to make all of it more.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Drafting




"Yep, about four sentences and I'm off."

He takes another pull and looked around the bar. It was only 8:00, but we always show up before 9:00 to avoid the cover. I've known Chris for about 8 years, and we have talked about books millions of times, but this is the first I had heard about this.

"Four sentences...really?"

"I know. It's nuts. It doesn't matter if it's a novel, a short story, or what. Four sentences."

"That's the shittiest attention span I think I've ever heard of."

"But it's not like I lose interest or because my eyesight is bad. It's about the stuff that starts popping out of the shadows in response to what I'm reading. I grab a book, open it up, and things start to go online."

My eyes squint. From behind someone yells "Bullshit, he is."

I could see he was starting to go to his mind palace, or as he called it, mind garage. He looked right at me, but was only seeing what was churning in his head.

"The first sentence, and I can almost hear the hum somewhere deep. Lead word, follow up verb or adjective, flavoring second sentence. Lights flicker behind my lids. Switches snap. I imagine a furnace coming alive. At..."

"Man, this is the"

"AT SENTENCE THREE my eyes start focusing on how the curves of the letters buttress against one another. A voice, a small, little voice, begins to wonder as deep machinery begins to warm. I can feel it starting, like its right beside me, closer even. I wonder how the words got here,  how they were chosen, THESE words, how were they picked and ordered, amidst all of the permutations and combinations, the literally (ha ha) dizzying array of linguistic choices for this. very. sentence here. It's a funhouse? Why these?..."

Chris' eyes were dazed as he stared down at the etchings in the table, though I really don't think he was referring to the FUCK YOU scrawled just north of his beer.

"Hey, man, that's the way it is. It's the choices that separate those that are and those that want to be. I would think you eventually get to the point where you feel more and more comfortable making the choices and stringing shit together."

"I guess." he mumbles, scratching at the edges of YOU. "When it's good, each sentence seems so natural, a natural thing grown. By the time sentence four reaches its subject verb agreement, the book goes down like it's on fire. Whatever I've just read, whether its a descriptive scene or bone bare fact, whatever I've read starts a cryptic chemical reaction that makes me grab a pen and paper."

"A fountain pen, I'm guessing."

"Hell yeah, a fountain pen. 'Yes, of course,' I say to as I find a notebook. All the lights are on now, and the pistons are slamming smooth. The taste of the last sentence is still on my tongue, and with a peal of rubber I'm gone. Sometimes it looks like what I just read, and sometimes the words take off on their own. Just a push. The momentum carries them, like drafting in car races, passing dust fields and highway dives. Neon seems to be a good power source.  Hooo! Over 3% grades, down valleys of pure energy, and shot fast through long stretches of asphalt and glass. They roadtrip into the night. Sometimes I wake up at the table. Think I'm in a speeding car, diamonds still on my windshield."

And with that last sentence I notice that it is, indeed, Tom Waits on the jukebox and smile.

"And then it ends. Out of gas, just like that. Wad shot. Feels like the words, language has been demolished somewhere back in time. They begin to fade and blend into the landscape. Nothing fits, and I am left with a pile of melting puzzle pieces whose edges no longer jive. The combinations don't come. I've forgotten how to arm the device, and there's so little time. The vehicle slows, as the rest of the world zooms by. I lose lap after lap. I get out and push in some pitiful act of desperation, but it's hopeless. I creep to an impotent halt. Crickets chirp, and what once felt like a child's trip to the moon has become a deadfast stump, immovable for centuries in the heart of a forest, beauty be gone. And like an addict I start looking for another hit. Wolfe. Capote. Bataille. Varese. Eiseley if I'm feelin' rich. Crews' hard scrabble plans or Mallarme's diaphanous vision of the opposite of hell. I scramble, scramble for something that might shoot me forward again. I feel fake or worse. I sit, staring ahead and feeling like some no-trick pony who can't even remember he's supposed to compete..."

And with that, Chris looks at me like his dog just died. I think there are tears in his eyes. He drains his beer and sits back, spent, empty, whole. I get up to get the next round, but he gets up, too. I figured as much. Happens every now and then. He's headed home, ready to try again, drafting weightlessly on the words I can still see floating in the air.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Time or Something Like It

 

It's a big, wide open field. Alone. Night. Frustrations and stars above and distant. Your smallness is clear. In it, maybe wisdom. But mostly you feel alone. you are sure if you only turned to your left or right, you would be able to remember a story that would help make ithis make sense. Crickets are chirping, and something in the horizon moves, and you want the loneliness to feel good. It moves again, but it doesn't. Maybe if you walk toward it.

It's more like floating. Maybe you're sick. Oh, a dream. That must be it. But you can't remember your fingers being this cold asleep. It doesn't matter. A small, nostalgic sting as you leave your spot for new ground. You've done this before, or at least that's the feeling. The new space you enter, the way the old one ages without you. Things die when you leave them. But you always leave. You want every option at once. Impossibility itself. You are a part of neither, just the space in between, like calling the airport home.

The distance you approach on the horizon isn't made of space. That much feels true. You're drifting from even your own thoughts, as they become part of the left behind. The distance you approach is made of time, or something like it. You feel too old to reach it in time. You've been here for so long, but the music has always been nice and has never stopped, but now, for the first time, it has stopped.

"New music." you say, first words in a long time.

But all you hear are your own feet, anyone's else's feet, shuffling toward the dark with the bravery of a child.

Murmur turn
Ascend and enter
All at once

Yes, things are falling around you. You've felt alone before, but not like this. Things are falling from you. Words like Earth and Dimension and Starfield seem more intimate now, less cliche. World, City, Time Zone are bougeous. You know you've changed, or the world has.

You are now landscape to everyone you have ever known, lover and family included.
Why is it all so distant? The question you wish made sense.
But this, too, just bubbles to the surface and is released into the night.
Just words coupled and offered in fear. They have no place.
Not here.
Not for you.
Not now.