The Gentle Storyteller in a Violent World

Silence is sometimes preferable to unleashing emotions that are not processed or packaged for public consumption. My silence here, on this blog, has been due to a simmering bouillabaisse of anger, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. I know that I am not alone in this, nor is my angst much different by degree than anyone else’s. I’m either at the edge of tears or letting loose an inextricable profanity.

Cartoon drawing that says "WTF".

I feel frenetically angry these days, to the point that I have a Post-It note below my computer monitor: Be kind. Don’t swear. Listen. Anybody who knows me knows I love some good swearing. But since every meeting or get-together is online, it has become too easy to blur the boundaries between close friends and the board of the nonprofit for which I volunteer. All the faces are flat, the location always my study with multi-directional, disorganized anger banging around in my brain. A mistakenly uttered profanity might be quite jarring in the wrong environment.

Physically, I’m wearing each and every emotion. I wrote this little ditty in my head yesterday when wearing a baggy shirt: All this swathe of cloth, does not have the ability, to hide my rolls of fragility. Yeah, I won’t be reading an inaugural poem any time soon. I’m walking a lot, trying to get back into strength training, but I’m having a hard time making myself care. It feels like something is a little broken, like I’ve just given in to entropy.

Owl in glasses sitting on a pen.

Still, I’ve almost finished my first semester of an MFA in Creative Writing Program. I’ve learned several things. I am further along in my writing skills than I imagined. Secondly, talent doesn’t mean jack if you’re not actively writing. Thirdly, when you solidly believe that everyone around you is better than you at everything, it always comes as a surprise when you realize, Hey, I know something. This has given me some ambition to put together my own low-rent virtual workshop for the fall. 6-10 writers, nominal fee (just so people show up), and covering all the basics of good narrative.

I’ve done a couple of writing competitions, which work like tournament brackets. Thus far, I’ve been given an Honorable Mention, and I’ve just advanced another round in a short story competition. Some competitions offer critiques from judges on your piece as part of the registration fee. One of the comments struck a nerve. You’re a gentle storyteller. In any other world, not littered with my literary ambition, this would seem sweet. But it really stuck with me, because the translation at first in my overthinking noggin was “tepid, mediocre, simple”. Oh no! What happened to complex, rich literary narrative that evokes some intellectual pablum and blah, blah, blah… I’ve already written the New York Times review of my first book. And gentle storyteller does not cut it.

Book open on table in woods.

We all have ideas of who we want to be or at the very least, how we want to be perceived. I’m settling into this idea that my writing will never be edgy or evocative or prizewinning. Maybe it will just be a good story. My current novel was described by an MFA professor as character-driven and a quiet, complex story. That will make for a shelf-grabbing blurb. “Boring. TLDR” – Publishers’ Mistake Weekly. Mark this little tea cozy of a book for the remaindered bin. Still, I don’t want to tell this particular story any other way – I like complexity, nuance, subtlety and if it ends up being a bathtub read for someone, as they fall asleep and accidentally drown, well, that’s just good publicity.

As I waited for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, to see if the Twin Cities will set itself on fire, I thought about violence. About militarized police and mass shooters. As a veteran, I have enough familiarity with weapons to know that I don’t trust them and I don’t trust people who fetishize them. I do know that brandishing weapons makes people lazy. They don’t have to de-escalate, they don’t have to compromise, they don’t have to use diplomacy. They don’t need self-control or empathy or decency. Like the mafia, like gangs, like uniformed units, they conflate fear with respect and think compliance is the only way they can “win.”

Red spiral like the boring inside a gun.

There are likely few Americans who have not been touched by violence – from war, from mass shootings, from childhood traumas. I have now lived in two places where mass shootings have taken place. In 1991, at the University of Iowa, my afternoon Russian class was moved, as hours before, a man who had killed five people around campus, entered the classroom and shot himself. There have been multiple events in Minnesota since I moved here and that’s not counting the police violence. Even they are not immune. In 2015, just a few blocks away, at the city hall, a man walked in and fired upon police at a swearing-in ceremony. They were injured, he was killed. It’s everywhere. Guns are everywhere.

So, what can a gentle storyteller do? Is there a place for that kind of narrative in a world full of trauma and injustice and cruelty? I cannot watch shows or read books organized around violence. I don’t find it interesting or entertaining when it is reality for so many people. I’ve always believed that reading, getting inside a character’s head, helps grow empathy. And if there is anything missing in American life, it would be that. Throw in some critical thinking skills, less hero worship (seriously, when did politicians develop fan clubs?), more responsibility that accompanies freedom, organizing public policy around the common good, then there might be progress.

Image of Tim Kreider's book I Wrote This Book Because I Love You.

It’s a funny thing that I’m a writer, that I’m here now, writing in public. If I could have one secret power, it would be invisibility. Understatement is my brand. I’ve been reading Tim Kreider’s collection of essays, I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. This excerpt sticks with me: “…if you want to enjoy the rewards of being loved, you also have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” I mean, what is writing, but a wish to be understood, to be heard, to be known and loved? People can go on and on about why they do it, but practically everything we do organizes around a basic human need to belong somewhere.

Perhaps telling tales in a mild-mannered way serves as a counterbalance to the rage. The world does not need more anger. The world needs the opportunity to see the possibilities. That this is not it. That we are capable of change. That cynicism is not intelligence. That we cannot be anything more than what we imagine. So, imagine we must. Even if it is with a light touch.

Acts of Reader Gratitude

Gratitude is one of those words that has become tainted and overused over the last few years. Gratitude journals ballooned into full-blown humble-bragging on social media, ad nauseum recitations of beautiful children or perfect autumn days or that special cup of coffee. I feel immense gratitude for the things and circumstances and people in my life, but also feel grateful that I can, for the most part, keep it to myself. The joy for me is not in the telling, rather in the being. But there is one form of gratitude that I prefer to share over all others. Saying thank you to others.

This week, I burrowed into my reading chair under a couple of blankets with the Virginia Quarterly Review. I read “Stepping Up” by Sylvia A. Harvey, who wrote about the children of imprisoned mothers and the grandmothers who raise their grandchildren. It was enlightening and painful and I sat for awhile after, my eyes welled up with tears. It made me think about the all the different perspectives – the children aching for mothers, the grandmothers struggling to do the right thing, the mothers, living claustrophobic lives of regret.

Empathy. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to writers who tell the difficult stories and help us see the world. Those who sit with strangers and coax the words out of them and arrange them in such a way as to touch me, hundreds of miles away in my cozy suburban life. To move me to tears, to want to do something, anything to right the ship of social and criminal justice. A single story as a way in to thinking about criminal and social justice reform. I have come into the practice of turning impotent frustration into action. One of my favorite organizations is The Women’s Prison Book Project, so I’m getting ready to send more books, but there is much more to be done.

canstockphoto1787242Criminal justice and social reform has been the fight of many social activists over the years. It’s true that so many things require our attention, our anger, our involvement. It can be overwhelming. But I’ve found that if I shut out the “shoulds” and focus on learning about one issue at a time, and pair action with that knowledge, I can be more useful as a citizen. Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about voting rights and campaign finance reform. While I continue to work on those issues, I’ve found my attention captured by the prison system and incarceration rate in this country. Time to learn more.

This is the ultimate power of storytelling, fiction or nonfiction. It gives the reader a window into the lives of others. It gives us the opportunity to be better people. I remember many years ago that someone referred to the writer Anna Quindlen as a “monster of empathy”. It was meant to be an insult for the circumspect way she addressed social issues in her column for the New York Times. I think it’s okay to be a monster of empathy, as long as empathy is followed by an action, no matter how small.

canstockphoto6979194My other slight action was to tell the writer of that article, Sylvia Harvey, Thank you. One of the rare delights of Twitter is being able to contact writers and artists and musicians just to express gratitude. The unknowns, the knowns, it doesn’t matter. Saying thank you to people who touch you in some way, just to let them know that their work is appreciated. We’re so quick to critique and criticize, thinking everything we read and see needs our judgmental pronouncements. What about the work that takes us out of ourselves, teaches us empathy, gives us a new perspective, stops us, for just a moment, from being the self-centered, complacent creatures that we can be?

This is a practice I’ve decided to engage in as a regular thing. I’ve written notes, emails, and now Tweets to writers who have made my world a better place through their work. It’s not idol worship or fandom, it’s simple gratitude. This thing they did brought something to my life. Sometimes they write back and I squeal just a bit, so unaccustomed to all these direct methods of communication. Still, the simple act of saying thank you has added to my reading and writing experience – an act of solidarity with those who seek to translate the world into words.

What Writer or Artist are You Grateful for Today?

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

canstockphoto9496832I was listening to Tom Petty this morning, sad that he has passed away at a relatively young age. His music immediately pulls me back into the past, growing up as a teenager in Iowa. It reminds me of parties out in machine sheds in the middle of nowhere, of awful first dates, and coming of age when getting booze and pot and avoiding pregnancies were all that we worried about.

It wasn’t a great age of innocence. We were still in the Cold War. Someone tried to assassinate the president. Terrorist attacks were happening around the world. In 1983, 299 American and French service members were killed when their barracks in Beirut were bombed by Islamic militants. HIV was finally in the mainstream conversation.

Life at my house was disastrous and tense. And everyone in town knew about it.

canstockphoto5763691But I could find refuge in the middle of a cornfield, where life didn’t seem so scary. There were some irrigation ponds several miles outside of town. My best friend and I would drive out there, sit on the hood of my car, smoking and watching the orange reflections on the water as the sun went down. We’d have philosophical discussions about anything and everything. She had a mentally ill parent, mine were drunk and/or dysfunctional. Home was never where we wanted to be.

She introduced me to cigarettes and booze and pot. And I listen raptly to her stories about boys. She was one of those girls who attracted them like flies. More so when she started putting out. Her parents thought, as parents often do, that their child was a good kid. They thought I was a bad influence. It wasn’t the first time in my life I took the hit because I was a poor kid from a messed-up family, so it didn’t bother me.

canstockphoto11803482My friends and I would drive to the closest university town on weekends to hit the frat parties. My car was a jacked-up 1972 turquoise Monte Carlo that I bought for $500. It had shiny wire rims and no car stereo. I had a boom box and a need to tear away at stoplights, as if I were always in a drag race. We’d load up, stocked with cassette tapes, cigarettes, hash brownies, and a mixed gallon jug of Everclear, orange juice and 7-Up.

A gaggle of teenage girls were always welcome at parties. No invitation needed. Over the course of the evening, my friends would gradually disappear with one polo-shirted guy or another. I ended up sitting next to a giant bong talking about the nature of the universe with some kid in a War Games t-shirt. I never did know how to flirt, but I could talk Cold War politics until everyone around me had passed out.

My junior year, while others were diligently working on college applications, I was running and doing push ups and counting down the days. I had decided to join the Army. I made decisions like this very quickly. My instinct about what I needed to do always preceded long thought processes. I knew I needed to leave and I knew I wanted to go to college.

I decided that way about a lot of things, including my virginity. It wasn’t valuable to me – it was just this thing that meant I lacked life experience. I found a boy older than me and got the deed done. It was not as interesting as I had hoped. And there was no point in pretending that it was love.

canstockphoto866395.jpgMy true love was a popular, acne-covered boy who I’d loved since 8th grade. I wrote him anonymous love letters, blushed whenever I passed him in the hallway, imagined glances and smiles meant for me. Our sophomore year, his girlfriend was killed in a car wreck. It gave him a tragic air that was like catnip to a teenage girl. I loved him from afar all through high school. Many an excruciating poem was written on the basis of that love.

It was a small school, so his girlfriend had been a friend of mine as well. It was the first time anyone I’d known had died. These days, I can never attend a funeral, without that sickly floral smell of too many sympathy arrangements, and not think of her, lying there, porcelain and pretty in her casket, her manicured hands folded around a rose.

I spent most of high school working at a small cafe in town owned by a married couple. The man was a chainsmoker and coffee addict with glasses that made his eyes look Pokemon enormous. His wife was a tolerant woman and kind. While the police and social services were becoming more frequent visitors to my house, I found sanctuary at the cafe. We’d close up at two on Sundays, after the church rush and the four or five of us working that day would sit down for lunch.

canstockphoto30204079While his wife would tally the day’s receipts, the boss would challenge me to Ms. Pac-Man, a giant video game in the front corner of the cafe. He’d grab quarters from the till, refill his coffee, light his next cigarette off the last and we’d play for an hour before I went home. If I needed money or a ride or a place to stay, they were always there, offering.

It was these strange, unexpected kindnesses that saved me. And they are sometimes the easiest to forget. So often my intense need to burn bridges, to put the past far behind me, makes me forget the people, the music, the memories that provided solace and refuge and helped me grow to be a better person than my experiences might have allowed.

We learn to see ourselves a certain way, to remember our pasts and define our character in the same way for years. Psychologists talk about re-framing our experience which I always understood as being something different. I was repulsed by the idea of revision, of rewriting the painful chapters.

Remembering only the bad served a need in the story I told myself. For me, it was how I could get away, break a cycle, leave behind a life that would not serve me well. But that was thirty years ago and that story no longer serves my needs.

It is why I am stuck as a writer. I keep telling the same story over and over, in one form or another. But it’s not the whole story. I am not the sum of miserable parts, but of parts equally happy and funny and poignant – those girlfriends from long ago, the kindnesses randomly offered, the gangly boys, the music that reminds of me of long, humid summer nights leaning back against the windshield, watching the sun go down.

 

 

The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest: 1st Place

canstockphoto142844611st Place goes to Kiri at The Dust Season for the “A Happily-Ever-After Story Involving Break-Ins and Police Action”. It takes a village to raise a child, but those villages often wait to show themselves. At just the right moment…

She was sent one Green Study Coffee Mug, a postcard from Minneapolis and $100 donation was made to the American Red Cross on her behalf.

“A Happily-Ever-After Story Involving Break-Ins and Police Action”

By Kiri at The Dust Season

My son is an escape artist. He revels in finding ways around the protective prison cocoon of his home life. This would be fine, if my son were normal. But he isn’t and this story isn’t. So, before everyone gets up in arms about my use of the word ‘normal’ in relation to my son, let me get one thing straight: something beyond ordinary happened—and that’s okay.

I am coming to terms with the fact my autistic son is getting older, bigger, faster—and let’s be honest—smarter than I am. He recognizes that, by the end of the week, mommy is flat out exhausted and lacking in due diligence. This has led to several problematic incidents involving the police.

Before my mother-in-law left to go back to sunny (drought ridden) California, we were enjoying a last Masterpiece Theater. We were snuggled on the couch waiting for Inspector Lewis to figure out who dunnit when there was a knock at the door.
Argh, fifteen minutes to the end….

canstockphoto17258172As I approach the door, I spy the red and blue lights flashing against the windows. This does not clue me in. I open the door to find an officer standing there.

“Ma’am, don’t you answer your phone?” The officer says.

“Uh, we don’t have a home phone, just a cell phone.” I say, nonplused.
(Note: No alarm bells are ringing yet. I haven’t had this pleasure before.)

His next question sets off alarm bells aplenty.
“Do you have a son?”

*DING! DING! DING!*

I scream my son’s name, whip around to go search the house despite the quite apparent evidence he—like Elvis—has left the building.

“Ma’am. Ma’am. I need you to calm down.”

I’m frantically grabbing shoes, my purse, my phone which has been in my bedroom recharging, but the officer won’t let me leave until I am no longer hyperventilating.

“Your son is fine. A neighbor called it in.”

Turns out my son was visiting a cul-de-sac two blocks east and north of our home. It’s a favorite route of his when we take walks. Someone at that address saw my son and realized how odd it was to see a boy scribbling on paper squatting in someone’s driveway at 10:30 p.m.

I follow the officer in my car, we get to the location where another officer is waiting with my son. He didn’t restrain him, just walked with the boy until mom arrived.

A conversation ensues in which I learn they figured out who my non-verbal child was because of a piece of paper he had in his hand which had his name scrawled on it. They called the local principal who helped to identify my son through process of elimination.

canstockphoto8143483This would be a feel good story, if it ended here. This alone, this interaction in which nothing bad happened despite the unlimited opportunity would be enough. But no, my son discovered his super power and he is now making the most of it.

Two more times, since this one, my son has escaped my hawk-like surveillance.* All of these times coincide with Sundays when I am tired, distracted, and just a little too grateful that he is being ‘quiet’ and ‘good’ when actually he is breaking into the local church and, then, two weeks ago, a neighbor’s home—a neighbor we don’t know.

This is where true serendipity comes in.

My twelve-year-old, who is big enough to no longer have the automatic cute appeal of a child, entered a stranger’s home. The stranger was alone at home with her small child and a dog.

I promise you, I have spent many nerve wracked hours imagining what could have happened. What might have happened. What didn’t happen.

Instead, the woman contacted the police. The police contacted me because they have my son’s information on file and now are getting to know him. The woman even took her dog outside because my son seemed upset. The woman was not mad, did not blame me and even tried to console me. I was never made to feel like I was a bad parent because I couldn’t keep track of my child.

In a world that is so very eager to tell you the worst case scenario, where autistic children die from wandering, where the police react before recognizing a special needs situation, it felt important to share that sometimes things turn out okay. And that’s simply extraordinary.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*If by hawk-like surveillance you mean geriatric, near-sighted-buzzard-distracted-by-carrion awareness.

Afterward
canstockphoto34208068The author has now installed a door alarm which shrieks like a demented banshee whenever the rear door is opened so much as a sliver. It is the most beautiful, heart-attack-inducing sound you will ever hear.

Congratulations Kiri (for winning and for your new door alarms)!

Here’s The Dust Season Sampler:

An Unnatural Brunette Gets Political

A Creep in the Nighttime

A Villain After My Own Heart…

The Green Study’s “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest

canstockphoto28843846Months ago, I had decided to run an autumn contest here at The Green Study. It will be my 4th contest in 4 years, so longtime readers here are familiar with the patter. At first I thought I’d dispel some political gloom and make it the “If I were President” Contest, but frankly, I’ve lost my sense of humor about it all. And I don’t have the energy to rein in political rants running amok on my blog.

Instead, I’m looking for good news – the news that aren’t click bait, news happening in your life or in your neighborhood. We the people aren’t just political affiliations and labels. We have stories – stories that remind us of what is good and kind and generous and decent about being human. They could be something that happened years ago or something that is happening now. We need joy. Stat.

Welcome to The Green Study “Positively Happy Nice Story” Contest. Here are the canstockphoto16178005guidelines:

Write a previously unpublished blog post or if you’re not a blogger, an essay (with title) 400-800 words long about a positively happy nice incident, an admirable person in your life, unwitting luck or fortunate consequences.  Submit it through my Contact page by Saturday, October 1st, 2016, Monday, October 3rd, 12:00 pm, Midnight (US Standard Central Time). Please note that your formatting is retained when I receive it – the Contact page makes it look like it has disappeared.

One entry per person please. The contest begins as soon as this post goes public.
The winners will be notified on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by 12:00 am (US Standard Central Time).

Shipping of the prizes and donations will take place by October 12th, 2016. Guest blog posting will occur between October 15th and November 1st, 2016.

All entries will be judged by me, myself and I. It’s entirely subjective.

canstockphoto23327111st Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $100 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

2nd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $75 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

3rd Prize: Your entry will be posted as a guest post to my blog, you will be sent a brand new The Green Study Coffee Mug and I will make a $50 donation to the American Red Cross on your behalf to your local Red Cross Chapter or their International Disaster Response fund.

All participants will receive a priceless, irreplaceable postcard from Minneapolis (although it actually cost $1.00 and can be bought at the airport, in large quantities).

I will ship prize winners’ mugs stateside or internationally (with no guarantee that it will arrive or that it will arrive in one piece), just because I like to hold up the line at the post office because I haven’t filled out the right forms.

If any former participants and/or winners read this post, please feel free to comment on the veracity of The Green Study contests. Please let readers know that you’ve received your prizes and that I haven’t shown up at your front door looking for a place to stay or spammed your email. Previous winners are allowed to participate and an updated mug is in production.

Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.
Hunter S. Thompson

Administrative Note: There will be no fondling or diamonds involved in this contest. 

canstockphoto14284461

Walking through Storyland

canstockphoto15817518The most irritating writing advice for me is write what you know. Once I’ve written that paragraph, I sink into a morass of self-pity and caffeine. I wrote about finding narrative on vacation. Sometimes a change of scenery is the jolt needed to wake a person up from the glazed coma of being in one place for too long. Upon return, things look a little different.

Last night, I took a stroll around my neighborhood. With the latest addition of a grocery store, my neighborhood is like one of those preformed children’s city sets. I had a moment when I realized how lucky I was to live here, about two seconds before writer’s angst kicked in – could I create from such a comfortable and comforting kind of life? But wait! There’s more.

Welcome to the calm seas of a suburban life rendered into the turgid waters of human existence. Let’s take a walk.

I live in a neighborhood built in the 1950s, each little ranch home a duplicate of the one next door. Except that these houses have stories. Our neighbors on one side have home schooled their six children and the driveway is chock full of cars, as each child gains a driver’s license. Years ago, the husband got booted for smacking his wife. He’s back, contrite and polite. I watch for signs that he’s actually learned his lesson.

canstockphoto15722695The children all turned out a bit weird. One walks the dog sullenly, barely making eye contact when I say hello. The youngest has grown his hair as long as my daughter has had hers cut short. The next youngest used to follow me about the yard asking me if I was a Christian and telling me that the raspberries I picked were “God’s juice boxes”. I’m hoping the kid that keeps showing up on the weekend in camouflage is part of a well-regulated militia. And while they sound like a version of creepy Quiverfulls, they’re pretty good neighbors who don’t spray their lawn with chemicals. We share weeds.

The house that sits on the curve was thankfully bought after a brief time as a rental property. It worried us. They had pit bulls that occasionally got loose and the Sheriff showed up once a week to follow up on warrants for the son, an ex-con who was still dealing drugs. Cars would pull up at all hours of the night.

canstockphoto28260950I walk around the high school near us and pass a house where a couple of years ago, a man holed himself up with his shotgun and girlfriend. Eventually he surrendered, but we listened to the choppers all day.

John’s house is on the right. He is a veteran of the Korean war and following a valve replacement, would walk every night down our street. When I saw him coming, I put down my gardening tools and met him halfway. He’d lived here since the beginning and always had a new story. He has Parkinson’s now and I sometimes catch glimpses of him in the evening, slowly walking to his mailbox.

As I walk a few blocks away to the city park, I feel a moment of silliness. I’m in Lego Land. There’s city hall, the police station, the firehouse, the public pool. I think whimsical thoughts about how, if like Lego people, we could all turn our plastic hair backwards, everyone would look like Donald Trump.

There’s a gangly boy using the skateboard park. I always fear that I’ll be witness to a noggin being cracked open every time I pass the park. This kid’s not wearing a helmet and seems light on skills. My pace quickens.

At the outdoor amphitheater, they’re in rehearsal for “Oliver”.  A woman is warning them that four days is a long time without practice and that they need to keep at it. My daughter, years ago, took a summer acting class at this theater. They made the kids wear stage-worthy makeup which smeared in the August heat. She was morphed into a melty butterfly whose lack of interest in stage direction was only eclipsed by this summer’s soccer apathy.

Behind the firehouse, the police and firefighters are having a family picnic. The officer I talked to that morning is there. Two police cars and a fire engine had pulled up in front of our house before 7 a.m. I could see up and down the street, people looking out windows, strolling to the end of their driveways. Hovering at the edges with the odd, wary politeness of midwesterners. I watched officers break into the home across the street.

I used to joke that the guy was either a unabomber or that bodies would be found stacked like Jenga blocks in his basement. It seemed like he waited until no one was outside before getting his mail and his windows were always covered. After having a child, I decided that this was too weird. I started waiting for him to get his mail. And then I’d go out to check mine and greet him with a loud “hello” and big, fake smile. Who’s scary now?

It turned out to be a natural gas leak and he’d moved out a while ago and was just renovating his elderly father’s place, in order to put it on the market. Nothing exploded and no bodies were discovered.

canstockphoto2595648I was glad to see the officers and firefighters at a happy event. They deserve it. Earlier this year, after two new officers were sworn in at city hall, a man entered the building and fired on them, hitting the new hires. They survived. The shooter did not. One of the worst first days on the job ever.

Behind the pool there are tennis courts. A young woman is teaching tennis to a group of elementary kids. Only one parent stays. He watches as her tennis skirt sways and flutters upward during a demonstration for the kids. I slow down as I walk past him, making him unconsciously lean left and right to keep his view. Sometimes I can be a jerk.

One and a half miles of the human experience. Subject to a thousand interpretations, waiting for a writer to take hold and grapple with the stories on paper. To say we don’t know what to write has as much veracity in my ears as my kid saying I’m bored during the summer. My response is the same: Go for a walk.canstockphoto7444328