I take fewer risks now. If everything you say is PC, you might say very little. You could talk about the weather, furniture, shopping, toys, kale, berries, the ocean. I am working on my repertoire of PC conversations which are the only conversations I should be having outside the house or my own circle of friends. It isn’t very interesting and it isn’t very lively, but safe can be good and some people are not safe. Some people can look you right in the eye and seem like your friends, but they aren’t. Life is risky, but I’m watching the cliff and how far down it goes and when I get desperate, I fly away.
In the Bible, one of the plagues was frogs. Frogs and fish have fallen from the sky throughout history. Flightless creatures landing on stumps, trees, in rivers, frogs falling in the moonlight. We don’t believe in things we cannot see, but fish can fall, pigs have flown through the air in a tornado. There is big magic in the world and like a frog in a tornado, I have felt it all around me.
Today I spoke with my friend Peggy and the sound of her voice reminded me of Hawaii, of being somewhere that I can breathe. Whatever is too strange to think through, you let it go. Some parts of life are worth thinking through, but then there’s letting go. Every morning, I wake up, do situps and let go of something. I don’t need things to stay the same. I’m ready for change, and 2016 has already started off really well. With fireworks.
I know what can happen, what does happen, but still I believe in love, I believe in the stars falling. I am going to be much more careful as I swim in the cold, but still swim, still love. Still moon, still stars and planets.
The wisest way to live is this: Walk around in the world very carefully and do not tell anyone anything about yourself. But if you really do that, the world would be a very lonely place. I have learned about the frigid air, the wildly cold ocean, the desire for vengeance that bubbles along the river bank. Yes, I’m more cautious. But my heart is still open. Stay warm, I say to myself. Keep your heart warm.
There are rats.
We must kill the rats, but rats are creatures.
The chickens cannot live with rats.
There are also raccoons.
We can’t allow the rats to go on.
We must get rid of their dirty feet and their tails which are hideous to contemplate.
The rats have glowing eyes, and they are smarter than the chickens.
The chickens are ours. We raised them. The rats are not ours.
The chickens must be protected because they are ours.
The rats must be exterminated because they are wild.
Much of life is unfair.
But the sun still rises. And we go on doing as much good as we can.
Loving as best we can.
Things that happen when I spend my day working on editing from home:
The dog’s got into a fight and now JJ needs a bandage for one bloody paw.
There was blood spattering the kitchen floor.
The cats are climbing on the fridge.
I took Zooey for a five mile run but she still begs for a walk.
I am listening to Gershwin.
We are going to see Revenant tonight.
There will be popcorn.
Los Angeles is in the middle of a deluge of almost biblical proportions. We drove home in rain that made it almost impossible to see. The water poured down the freeway in rivers, and on the way home we kept seeing one accident after another. The sky was split open, and the ocean and sky were ready to meet. Happy to be home. It’s nice to get back home. Even if it’s just cleaning up, pulling ourselves together. I can feel in my bones that 2016 is going to be such a great year. Great books, friends, stories, journeys, parties, big love.
I’m having the best problems to have for a writer which is that I am so excited about my new writing projects that I can’t wait to get home and dive into them. I am making notes, but I need to plan these projects out from start to finish. Without planning, I begin to randomly write the wettest most exciting scenes rattling around in my head in no particular order, but it’s good because I’m getting going. The beginning of a project is fun because you aren’t at the heavy lifting. It’s like falling in love. It’s all champagne and chilled strawberries with cream and you look good when you wake up in the morning, and you smell good. That’s how it feels: Perfect. But then you get down in the mud of writing, and sketch out the whole book and the work begins. But, I’m happy to be into this wild place. Tomorrow when I go home to Los Angeles I am going to have strawberries and cream and champagne for breakfast. Why not?
New Year is starting well. I am swimming every day here in Nebraska. It’s warm enough that we can walk past the orchard to the cider house. Snow on the ground, ice on the pavement, over the bridge, way down frozen stream. I’m surrounded by passionate writers, and fantastic students. One of the students here is blind, and her husband, who is also blind came to Residency for New year.
They have a young daughter. This writer has such energy and happiness walking with her everywhere she goes. She walks around in a big light. I feel all these writers living in the world of the imagination. Michael Oatman, one of the playwrights has gone through a media wash since last Residency, and I’ve gone through my own brush with social media shaming, but here, we are all writers, and many of us have formed lifelong friendships. As a writer, you realize, that you will have rough times personally or publicly. To survive a creative life, you must find people who will follow you down if you fall out of flight and stay with you until you are flying again. I am glad to feel myself flying again with all these fellow writers. Red Hen is going to have an excellent year, and so am I.