Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How will it end?

When a dinner companion once lamented about a loud party on her block the previous night that the police didn’t respond to I told her to just throw some cherry bombs in the street and wait for the neighbors to report gunshots. Everyone laughed and agreed it was a good idea.
Even if bringing the police in on a basically erroneous report is wrong my solution was still appreciated. I like being a source of answers. With 17 and a half years being a father I like to imagine that I could answer most parenting questions. So when I don’t have a solution to a problem it really bugs me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this memoir. There are so many good stories I could string together chronicling the life of Naomi. I have journals that I wrote right after her diagnosis and right after her death. There are some raw, ugly emotions there.
Even without things written down I have clear memories of incidents. The time it literally took four nurses and me to hold Naomi down just to do a needle stick I felt frustration, sure, but I also was very proud of her. I remember the time a man dressed as Santa Visited her and cried as he hugged her. She made up songs about her cancer and sang them very loud in the hospital. They were not power ballads or dirges but campy songs with words like “wibbldy wobbldy wone, the cancer’s in my bone”.
I finally wrote what I want to be the first page of the memoir. It’s a scene that took place about a week or so after we lost her that describes exactly how I felt. I think it’s a good hook. I think if I can work on Icarus and write my blog then I can also write this memoir. But I’m still reluctant to really get into it. I said so in the last sentence of my last blog entry. I don’t know how it would end.
Like I said I feel right if I have the answers. I can write a whole powerful story about this little girl who touched so many lives. I can write about how her loss was devastating. If I had a dollar for every time I heard something along the lines of “I can’t imagine going through that…” or something similar I could buy a car. But that’s okay. The loss of a child is everything horrible one might begin to imagine but the good news is that at least with our family the years provided healing.
So where will my memoir end? The years go by where finally the first day goes by that I don’t think of her? I don’t think that’s happened yet. The day she ought to turn 18? Sarah’s wedding day? I don’t know. I know that I can write it just for me. Most of my writing is. But if I write this I want it to be just a little more significant than anything else I’ve written. For her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

why I am up so early

I try to get up early every morning now. I feel that this is the only way I can get any real writing done. Granted as I write this it’s the middle of a Sunday afternoon. And perhaps if lazy Sunday afternoons happened every day I might get more writing done then. Back when I was a member of a writer’s group that met every Monday night I would write all Sunday afternoon. By the third semester of the workshop I had started working on my novel, Icarus. I think that I finished my first draft in the middle of 2008. I started working on revisions but never really got back to it for a long time. Now that we’ve pretty much moved into our new house I feel like if I really want to write I must do it for at least an hour a day or so and the best time is early morning.
So I get up without an alarm clock around six. Hopefully I’ve remembered to set the coffee pot. I switch on my obsolete little IBM Thinkpad®. It’s got almost no battery life and I disabled the internet capability. I wrote a lot of Icarus on it. Now I have started my second draft in earnest. I have abandoned the epistolary style that switches points of view for a limited third person POV. I have eliminated the dreadful opening narration and replaced it with several expository scenes to follow the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule.
Some mornings I will also compose a blog and post it. Yesterday morning I just typed a few paragraphs about how cold mornings feel like they’re eating my soul.
I think that as long I’m spending time writing it’s okay.
I have several other stories that I started over the years. Some of them I’ve described on this blog. I started something else a few weeks ago. I’ve thought about it for years and seriously considered it for about a year. I want to write a memoir about Naomi. The three and a half years from her illness to her death will of course be only part of the story. There are stories from before she was even born I could include. And then the weeks, months and finally years after we lost her has me stumped. I think that aside from my habitual procrastination there is another heavy reason I don’t want to start this memoir. I’m not sure how it will end.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

cavernous corridors

I was in the corridors of Clarkdale Elementary School before kindergarten only once. I was getting some vaccination along with perhaps every other child my age around Yavapai County. The dread of the needle overtook anything else I may have noticed there that day. I remember being in a line of children shuffling forward like beef stock. I arrived at a table and someone swabbed my arm.
“I don’t want my arm washed,” I protested too late. Then I was shunted forward. I looked to my left and there was a man dressed as a doctor. He was glancing around as if he was as lost then he noticed my arm. There was no eye contact. He reached out and I felt the needle stick and burst into tears.
Something like a year later I stood in about the same spot and felt even greater fear. It was my first day of school. I had told my teacher the same thing I told everyone who gave me an ear. I said I was a policeman. More than the cool uniforms or the exciting music of Adam 12 on TV the thing I liked best about police was the cars. I didn’t pay much attention to the dialogue or plot of my favorite program. I just liked when they drove their black and white code three.
So on my first day of Kindergarten I told Miss Tatch that I was a policeman. She told me that she had a good job for a policeman. She sent me to the office with the attendance report.
My clearest memory of Clarkdale Elementary School is the cavernous hallways. The floors were wide and dark brown. The walls were dark and towering. The ceiling seemed miles overhead. I exited the classroom and walked close to the wall with the attendance slip. When it was necessary to cross to the other side I looked both ways. The enormity grew around me. My little legs took little steps and I made it into the warm office.
They took the paper and thanked me. I turned around and walked out the way I came and then I was back in the hall. The front entrance was on my left. I took a few steps to my right and recognized where I was. I was right where the doctor with the needle had stood a year before. But that didn’t matter. The light from the front doors made the walls seem even taller. Suddenly I felt like a mouse on a wide freeway. Then there was Miss Tatch standing by the classroom door smiling at me and I found my way back.
Even to this day high walls and ceilings make me a little nervous.
One other important note is just a day later and a thousand miles away Prajna was born. There is no way I could have fathomed at the time what joy this would eventually bring to me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

walking away is easy

Morning recess during most of my elementary school years was never too much fun. At best it was a break from the classroom. Kamehameha III School in Lahaina (a.k.a. The Uku farm) was so crowded that the older students didn’t use the playground during recess. We all walked across the street to Malu Ulu Olele Park. There we were expected to amuse ourselves for a half hour or so. The park had baseball diamonds and a basketball court. There was lots of wide open space and no playground equipment. I got in trouble once for allegedly climbing a small tree. All I was doing was stepping around it on the exposed roots but the student patrol snitch must have been bored.
One morning when I was probably in the fourth grade I walked along the back of a set of bleachers that faced a baseball diamond. Some girls were playing bingo. I watched one girl dispensing the bingo chips from what looked like an oversize toothpaste tube. Before she popped out the next one I called it. I don’t remember what I said. Perhaps I said I-23 or something but then the girl drew it out and read it and I was correct. One girl giggled and another looked horrorstruck at me.
Right at that moment I should have winked and nodded and walked away. But I tried again and of course got it wrong.
My blog entry last week got the most hits of any blog I’ve written. When Prajna and I were first dating one thing that made her different was she was unimpressed by my poetry. She liked my blog last week enough to repost it. Last week’s blog was like calling a lucky shot for me and I have been nervous about trying to follow it. For some reason I felt like I should just never blog again and leave the world dazzled. But I realized that my post wasn’t nearly as impressive as calling the bingo number. I had been wanting to tell the story of the whale and the sunset for a long time and then when the tsunami happened along with the scary world situation I thought about the world we are standing on. I really wanted to share a positive story with some hope in it. It was a good piece. But the best writings I have saved are ones where I felt inspired by God. So I’ve connected my blogging to luck when it is actually this: When my blogs really shine is when I’m being prayerful and follow God’s direction.
I turned this story over in my head this morning and I thought of something I had never considered before. How cool would it have been if I had correctly guessed the second bingo chip. At least I tried. I should still be more like that today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I believe What is Real

Someone who has never seen the green flash might think it’s a myth. It isn’t. If you’re watching a sunrise or sunset and the conditions are right you may see it. The sky should be clear enough and the horizon should be flat and distant. Watching the sun over a nearby hill or through buildings or trees will not do it. The times I’ve seen the green flash have always been over the ocean. I thought that the phenomenon was caused by the sun shining through the water, but in fact it’s just some magic from the sunlight being scattered in the atmosphere. At sunset you can see just a little green blip just at the moment that the sun disappears.
Sunrise is even more spectacular. I have always loved the anticipation of a sunrise. The sky becomes lighter and you can tell right where the sun will come up. Then just for a moment so small it seems like a dream in the blink of an eye you see it. There is a distinct green light as if the sun is green but then the bright white-yellow sun is already up and the moment is gone.
One evening I was at a park by the beach in Kihei. The setting sun was huge over the ocean. I took two year old Harrison with me and held him by water’s edge and we watched the sun set lower. The haze in the air dampened the sunlight enough that you could watch, but I hoped that it was clear enough to maybe see the green flash in a few minutes.
The sound of the playground and traffic faded, replaced by ocean waves on the rocks. The sun got lower and I held Harrison and we watched the sun seem to touch the water. The bright disk shrunk down quickly then. I held my breath as it was just a brilliant sliver and then it vanished. Then my breath escaped me. About a quarter mile out in our line of sight a humpback whale jumped completely out of the water and splashed back in.
I didn’t see the green flash. But in my life that was the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen.
This is the Earth we live on. It’s a world of pain and fear and earthquakes and tsunami waves. In the shadow of the recent world events from political unrest to capricious nature it’s hard not to stay up all night worrying.
But one evening some 15 years ago I had a brief glimpse of the face of God. The splash from the whale was as big as a house. As I saw it I couldn’t think of anything else but our creator.
Anyone who has seen the green flash will know it is not a myth. If you can take my word for that then take my word for this: It was not just that magical evening I felt the presence of God. He’s with me now as I write this and you as you read this. The Earth we live on will pass away but His love for us is forever.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

idea in the hand

15 years ago or so when I was living in Kihei I found a bird on the ground that had been hurt or stunned. I took it home and put it in a box. Prajna tried to feed it egg yolk. It didn’t seem to want to eat. The next morning before work I checked on it and it was still in the box looking forlorn. That day at work I thought of names for this sparrow. I fancied the thought of taming it like a falcon and having it return to my wrist.
I called home from a payphone at about noon and Prajna told me the bird died. Later that day she told me that it had seemed to want to get out and join other birds but she didn’t let it go because I had wanted it so bad for a pet.
A few years ago one summer while I was working at Trinity Church I found a bird that had struck a window and was lying on the ground, stunned. I held it for quite a while in a cleaning cloth as it sat with that same forlorn look. Then it began twitching and moving around and finally fluttered out of my hand and away.

Last week a bird flew inside of a building at Yucaipa Christian Church and struck a light fixture. It fell and lay on the floor. Someone took it outside hoping it might fly away. From experience I reasoned that the bird was stunned and needed to recover. I put it in a box with a lid and brought it in out of the cold for about a half an hour. When I picked up the box I heard the bird scuttling around. I went outside in the open and opened the lid. The bird blasted out and disappeared into the sky.
From all of this I learned that birds that have been stunned may need just a little time to regain their faculties. They may need some sunshine or if it’s wintery out a warm box. And they can’t be kept too long or they may die.
Prajna complemented my blog after reading it the other day. She also had some counsel to offer. She understood that when I write I tend to let the thoughts flow out and when I am on a roll I tend to not slow down. This is true except that I do slow down sometimes to choose the right word. Prajna’s recommendation was to go ahead and write how I have been writing but don’t post it right away. My last blog entry, she said, was good but it read like a rough first draft. She thought I ought to save the finished work and then come back the next day and read it and fix any errors and clean up parts. This is great advice. I blog to exercise my muse but by doing this I can also get a lot of practice in reading and revising.
I should do this. My only fear is that my blog posts are like stunned birds. Left too long and not released at the right time I may lose interest in them or lose the inspiration that created them. Left too long and it’s dead. But released right away before it’s well enough and it is devoured by predators.
I wrote this yesterday morning and revised it last night and am posting it 24 hours later. All writing advice and wisdom aside. If I’ve learned anything over the past several years it is listen to Prajna’s advice.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Walk of Life

There used to be a time when all the world’s problems could be solved by lyrics to 80’s songs. From heartbreak to self-esteem issues to global hunger and the nuclear arms race the lyrics had it all. “Tell her about It”, “Don’t worry be Happy”, “Feed the World”, “War is Stupid”.
I will not deny that other decades have their share of profound lyrics. Where would some of the 80’s lyrics be without Bob Dylan or Buffalo Springfield? But the 80’s were my decade. Just the other day I was vacuuming while listening to The Cars’ Heartbeat City. I remembered back to when our circle of friends (a.k.a. Kittyhawk) each had their own song off the album. I started out liking the song ‘Magic’ with its typical romantic theme but my friends convinced me that my song was drive because I was usually the one to drive folks everywhere. The song also hints that the singer is the one who will take care of someone. When my friends told me that I realized that about myself and that boosted how I saw myself. A group of girls told me my song was Dire Straits’ “Why Worry”. Nowdadays that ‘why worry’ attitude is a flippancy that tends to annoy lots of people.
So the truth comes down to this: The lyrics don’t solve any problems today except to keep me entertained. Although I wish each of my blog entries could be as profound as Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender”. But most of the time they are just entertaining. Sometimes they only entertain me. But I got up this morning and wrote and posted this and that’s good. If I do this every day for a decade what will I have? A long string of observations and memories. All together they will say Don’t you forget about me.