Let Your Light Shine

“As you get older, you should get impatient with showing off in literature. It is easier to settle for blazing light than to find a language for the real. Whether you are a writer or a bird-dog trainer, life should winnow the superfluous language. The real thing should become plain. You should go straight to what you know best.”

I’ve had that quotation of Thomas McGuane floating around in my mind for several days.

A language for the real. OK. I like that. But what’s real?

Is it real to say that my life is a continuum of bird-dog training, or sleep, or eating, or music, or silence, or suffering, or joy, from the spring of 1961 to the middle of December 2014? No, that is not what I see as true. I see fragments. And what I believe is real about my life – and possibly about yours – is that reality cannot be very simply said.

One does not simply write into reality.

There is so much about life and death that we have no language for yet. You know those memories that make you breathe a little faster, and how you face gets hotter, and then there’s the weeping equivalent of the dry heaves that makes your head shake and your shoulders heave, and you want to cry but it just won’t come so maybe you just say Oh God Oh God?

And you know how sometimes you feel the opposite of that, and you just need to stand on the Now edge of all the life you’ve ever known so far and clap your hands for the coming of the next nanosecond of existence?

And you know those times when you’re trying to see a fragment of boring old life that slipped by, but you can’t make it out because it’s hidden behind the shadow of a year that seems meaningless now, but you know that fragment is important now because somehow you would give anything to have it back?

Yeah, we’re supposed to find the words for that shit. And for what it’s like to bury the dead and to hold a puppy up to see the moon.  And for Grandma’s biscuits.

Now I may not know much about the language of the real, but you need a pretty bright light to find your way to the point of making something real out of something that doesn’t exist.

As we get older, we should become impatient, period. Alea iacta est! But nothing becomes plainer, ever. And the task of the artist is to go by any route necessary to what he or she doesn’t know at all. It’s not about what we know best, it’s about discovering what we’re becoming, by holding a piece of broken glass to make a refraction of what we’ve been.

Let’s worry about superfluous language later.

I remember something Richard Bach wrote: “The original sin is to limit the Is. —Don’t.”

That Small Rain

We had rain two days ago; a great big storm of it pushed into southern California. It was great. And all that day and into the next, this little line of old poetry kept dripping through my mind:

That small rain down can rain.

It’s from this fragment of anonymous 16th century poetry:

O Western wind when wilt thou blow
That small rain down can rain –
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

Wonderful, isn’t it? It makes you believe what Stephen King says about writing being a kind of telepathy; that thoughts can be transmitted from one mind to another, across centuries, by means of writing. There is so much longing in those four short lines.

How far we can wander from our purpose, from the home of our hopes, from the elusive moment when we last held ourselves in love and hope of love. Our soul cries out to the God of our understanding to guide us home again.

Anyway, I’ve heard there’s more rain on the way. So here’s a poem I posted a couple of years ago, when we were between storms.

Amends

If I have hurt you, but I know
I have hurt you and left your love
wasting like a dove stunned
on a wire, through countless days
of incredible sun, forgive the sun.

I have wandered off again,
looking for the perfect way
to make amends. I can’t imagine
finding it, before you fly away
and leave the wire trembling.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
11-22-2014

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Useful Stuff

I see a lot of content online that I find useful to me as a writer, inspirational, and worth sharing with other creative people. I usually don’t mention it here in this blog because I’ve come to think of Metaphor as a place only for my own creative output. So I share those things on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Tumblr. (Using Friends+Me to syndicate a single post.)

The thing is, those links don’t get much engagement in those other places. My audience for creative topics is actually here at WordPress. And I used to share a lot of links and thoughts here, about writing tools, computer issues, and a wide variety of topics.

Things changed, so they can change again. So I’ll try a return to sharing things I enjoy – but which were created by others – here in this space. If this material gets some positive feedback, cool; if not, that’s cool too.

Let’s start with a post today by Evernote — part of their NaNoWriMo series — called

How Neil Gaiman Writes with Evernote.

I use Evernote a lot to keep track of ideas for writing, to save interesting ephemera, household flotsam, and for business.

A Chewy Subject

“My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can’t see why a chap should need 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”

So said a French literary editor to Marcel Proust, on rejecting volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. It was a century ago and the subject was consciousness, not events or people. One can imagine such a book to be a challenge for the Marketing Department, especially when the writer’s style has all the pop and sizzle of a damp wool carpet.

I’ve not read much Proust. I used to have a 1921 edition of Remembrance of Things Past and I found it oh so dull. As advertised, it was good reading when trying to fall asleep. But my little dog thought the leather cover was tasty, so there went that.

It begs the question, though: if the subject is consciousness, as I think it can be, where can you go with that? Consciousness is the matter with which we are all most intimately familiar, yet we no almost nothing about it. So by means, we writers should explore the inner life.

Two years ago, I posted a flash fiction piece called Shining Leaves. Here it is, complete with audio reading. The second section imagines the consciousness of a dog, its life still touched by subtle joy yet aware of aging and loneliness.

Stalling Death

One wants to tell a story, like Scheherezade, in order not to die. It’s one of the oldest urges in mankind. It’s a way of stalling death.

So said Carlos Fuentes, who failed as do we all, and died in 2012. He was born on November 11, 1928, which is why it’s been brought up now. And you can still read his books, so there’s one way to cheat death if it won’t be deferred.

I confess that when I see the word Scheherezade, I don’t think of the mythical Persian queen. She told stories to the king so he wouldn’t kill her. As much as I’d like a few of my words to live beyond me, I tend to think of Rimsky-Korsakov. He’s dead too, but his music still lives. Well played, Nokolai.