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rough draft

After a search for one last piece to post this month, I’m just not satisfied.

According to Evernote, where I keep my working drafts, I have 83 blog posts in progress.

Some of those are just a few lines or phrases, and will probably never go anywhere.

Other drafts are long and fraught. I just read one for the first time in about six weeks, and realized why I was struggling so much with it: there are three distinct ideas trying to establish themselves in the piece, and by the end, it’s at best a weary draw. All three lay gasping in a heap, not even caring who won anymore. I need to treat my ideas with more respect.

In place of a properly-edited, mostly-polished blog post, I’ve decided to share a peek into my process: lines, quotes and images from works in progress.

I’ve intentionally left a few pieces out. There need to be some surprises.

Is there a sense of coherence across all these different fragments? I’m not sure.

What follows are simply clumps of loose and stray thread that may or may not be woven into something larger:

Downtown Portland

Our streets are a cutting room floor...

If you’re taking all the trouble to go somewhere else, maybe it’s worth pretending that the internet hasn’t gotten there first.

Looking Aft

A sense of connection

One of the ship’s officers, during a safety briefing:

“The bad news is that we do not have Internet aboard. The good news is that our records show that 100% of our passengers have survived this condition.”

Butterflies near Igauzu Falls

Adorning a mineral-rich puddle

To those still expecting you to be a caterpillar, your wings are merely distracting appendages.

The View

The View

If all systems of transmission corrupt, the question becomes: how usefully or beautifully do they corrupt?

Dulce de Dulce

Dulce de Dulce

At a pivotal point in the middle of one draft, I found this:

[see notes not yet typed from Jan 4, in wet blue notebook]

Three Borders, Two Rivers

Two Rivers, Three Borders

From abundant potential, we must narrow our attention to a single, fixed goal. The decision of what to do in any given moment lasts much longer than that moment. It creates its own minor legacy.

Glacier ice on the beach

A beached glacier

The entirety of Anne Carson’s biographical note on the back flap of “If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho”:

Anne Carson lives in Canada.

Emily Dickinson:

“…the Truth must dazzle gradually…”

Emerging Lenticular

A coy lenticular

Offline, the shrunken world: Our social reach retracts to physical proximity. Just when I think I’ve truly escaped it all, there’s a song playing in the bar that is also on the iPhone in my pocket.

Ushuaia — as a city tenuously clinging to the edge of the world? It doesn’t exist.

Edge

Edges

Whenever I travel, I’m reminded of the distinction between where our body is, and where our mind is. How often are they co-located?

Seasonal Consommé

Seasonal Consommé

Other than the annual stumble through an old standard for my grandmother at Thanksgiving, who politely pretended not to notice the rapid decline of my keyboard skills, I didn’t play any traditional repertoire for more than ten years. I had completely burned myself out, to the point that I didn’t even want to pick through pieces I enjoyed listening to, or had once enjoyed playing.

No Skating

Prohibitions

Even when I was still too young to drive a car, my parents were broad-minded enough to let me put a bumpersticker on their car: “Skateboarding is Not a Crime”.

It wasn’t just theoretical: The only time I’ve ever been in the back of a police car was when I was 12 or 13, and was chased down for…well, I don’t know what, and the officer didn’t seem to know, either, but that didn’t stop him from throwing me in the caged part of the car (my skateboard in the trunk) and taking me to the station for a good old-fashioned injection of small-town fear.

Broken Windshield Cone

Broken Windshield Cone

It is an error to assume the inarticulate have no story to tell, or that the middling sketcher has no inspiring vision to share. Maybe they just haven’t found a medium yet in which they are or can become fluent, and in the meantime, they are a musician without an instrument, an actor without a stage, or a sculptor with only paintbrushes.

Too Small To Fail

Reinterpretation

When you crash in public, keep going, and frame it with an improvisational flourish so it seems like it was part of a larger plan. Carry on, and finish strongly.

In Color

In Color

Momentary dissonances must be considered in a larger context.

Loud is easy. It’s much harder to play softly but powerfully.

Layers

Underneath

A strong wind hitting a bare mast won’t get you anywhere.

Fallen

Fallen

By standing silently at the trimming of one twig, we give our assent to the loss of an entire branch of human knowledge.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

We have a notion of Paris or Kyoto or the Baltic Sea, and we use those words to communicate that notion with others. And then we go there, and, on arrival, discover that we were completely wrong, even about some of the broad strokes. We can’t reconcile the ideas we had in our mind with our present experience without completely rebuilding our definition of those particular words and letters.

And then we wonder: what have we been talking about all those years when the topic was Kyoto?  What did the other person have in mind during that conversation? And did we effectively communicate anything at all?

Because winters need more red

by Dusty Weston, a distant cousin

I just felt like ending this one with a bit of red — a color our winters don’t provide in abundance.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Play

You may have noticed that the pace of posting on this blog has slowed over the last few months. I’ve been working on a few other projects recently, mostly long-term, some more public than others.

I’m excited to announce one of those projects today: the Six Dense Minutes podcast.

I question the ergonomics of this mic stand

I question the ergonomics of this mic stand...

There’s no intro music, hastily added outro music, and I think I heard a few sloppy splices — it sounds like a pilot episode!

As Pam Slim once put it, sometimes you just have to stop fretting over all the imperfections and “let your scrappy self loose!”

This preview episode includes an explanation of my ideas and goals for this podcast, some thoughts on brevity and density, and a question for the audience.

I’ll be publishing new episodes at least weekly. I hope you enjoy it.

Links For This Episode

The Scrapbook post with the Heather McHugh quote

Blog post: My Experience of English as a Second Language

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