Reflection in Torchlight

The sunlit morn
dawns bright
over the haze
of the night before
torches held
as voices chanted
age old words
the long lost prophets
of war and woe
fingers pointing
to the sun
upraised hands
to strike us down
voices of peace
that break the bread
offering to all
a Sacrament given
from the wooden beam
of God’s great love
a grace that overflows.

Friendship in the Age of Social Media

 Friendship, today that word seems to have taken on a new meaning. We have “friends” on Facebook, we are connected through Twitter and Instagram, I have followers of this blog as well as followers on the other social media platforms, yet, are they friends? Friends in the true sense of the word, the classic dictionary definition:

A person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance. A person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe; ally. A supporter or sympathizer. Something thought of as like a friend in being helpful, reliable, etc.

 When I read the definition, I cannot say that I have many “true” friends on social media, while some are real in the classical sense of being a friend, most are acquaintances, people I have known in various stages of my life, but not close, not intimate. I could not share my inner thoughts with many, I could not share my own struggles and doubts, and recently I cannot even share my own political views. 

 I began really thinking about friendship after going out last evening with two of my oldest and dearest friends, Bill and Bob. It was Bob, Bill, Mike, Ted and I who formed the our small but close group. Our friendships began long ago when we were in high school at a time of peer pressure, the desire to conform, yet to also rebel, a time when one is trying to figure out the confusing signals that come with teenage angst. Bob, I have known since the third grade and he came into my life at a time when I was having difficulties in adjusting to a new school, new people, and also the lingering effects of tragedy at home. Our third grade teacher was, to put it mildly, was my Gorgon. In my imagination she was evil, a witch, a dark shadow that over whelmed all that I tried to do. Going to school then was my journey into Mordor and I was the Hobbit just trying to survive by keeping my head down. It was during this turbulent time that Bob and I became friends, hanging around together, going to each other’s homes and generally being boys. Mike, I would meet in our Freshman year at Framingham South as part of the Class of ‘69. He was one of five boys and his dad was a career Navy man so it was his mom who ruled their home. Mike and I would get together at his home after school, watch Dark Shadows and consume several cans of Hi-C fruit drinks. It wasn’t long after that when Bob, Mike and yours truly began hanging out together and by the time we reached our Junior year, Bill and Ted became part of our crew.

 Throughout the years we have all grown, Mike, Bob and I, all joined the Army together after we graduated in 1969. After basic we went our separate ways, with Mike and I ending up in Vietnam and Bob being stationed in Alaska. Bill and Ted went to college, where we lost contact with Ted, but the four of us remained close. We shared our joys, our struggles, our lives with each other. Even as we moved along, getting married, having kids, choosing our vocations, we remained close.

 There are so many stories to be told about our friendship, some funny, some sad, but all of them born out of our deep affection for one another. Now as we grow older, move into new phases of being grandparents and re-defining our lives, our friendship shows little or no sign of going away. Sure, distance, family and life do get in the way, yet, each of us knows that when called upon we can be assured that they will be there to support, give comfort and be that friendly ear.

 As I sit here and write, I feel a sense of loss in these deep friendships. With the advent of social media, and the accumulation of acquaintances rather than friends, I feel a deep sense of loss. Most of my Facebook “friends” are good folks, I like them but I could never share with them on the same level as I do with those four. Being an introvert and never one to put myself out there just to have friends, I find the whole thing, depressing. 

 Is it a part of the aging process? I don’t think so, having time alone, to read, write and be in that blissful state of solitude has its own reward. I also have that most beautiful of friendships with my partner and spouse, someone I can be me with, who knows my many foibles, yet, still loves me as I love her. 

My 800 Words

 So, I started watching this Australian show on Acorn, the Brit equivalent of Netflix, about a guy whose wife has died and he moves himself and his kids to a small town in New Zealand. Called 800 Words, it centers on their new life and on his vocation as a writer, a cute show and I’m sure we will continue to watch it but what struck me was the way it treated writing. Now, I’m sure there are writers out there who can just sit down in front of their laptops and the words just spill out in perfect order and symmetry but for myself that’s not the case. In this show, the main character, a writer, does just that, sits at his laptop speaking as he writes with little or no editing. The reason the show is called 800 Words, is that is the title of the column he writes for a newspaper, as he limits his subject to just 800 words.  

When I write, it takes time and I’m constantly editing my work to the point of being a bit overly anal about it. Every word, every sentence, I try to make perfect and this coming from an English class failure. It’s not in my nature just to sit down and write straight out and if I do I’m consumed by doubts and fears that what I’ve written is just pure shit. Lately, I’ve tried my hand at poetry and that seems to go along okay, I’m no where near being a good poet since I have no idea what I’m doing, but it has caused me to reflect on my own style.
 Right now, I’ve got several pieces, of fiction and nonfiction all in various stages of the process. My problem is procrastination, my mind is a turbine of words and thoughts as I try to write, so much so that I tend to get lost in the spinning blades. The only editing the author in this show did was to eliminate one word to make his 800 word limit, I wish it was that easy. Here I am at over 300 words watching the word count meter ticking up as I write, having no idea where I’m going with all of this. 

 Am I a writer? That’s a good question and one I continually ask myself. Eson Kim, one of the instructors at Grub Street in Boston, has been most encouraging when it comes to what I have written, but then that little voice of doubt creeps in saying, “That’s her job. To make you think you can write, after all you’re paying for the privilege of indulging in your fantasy of being the next Hemingway.” Yes, I do have fantasies of being a decent writer, then I wonder if I have the discipline and smarts to be one. Writing daily so many words, tying each paragraph together, developing characters with some depth, the kind of people easily identifiable by the readers who come upon my hieroglyphics. 

 I know I have a story to tell, it may not be the rags to riches fare, or about lifting oneself from the depths of poverty, despair or some other great tragedy, but there is a story to be told. Is there an audience that will read what I write? Is that really the question I need to ask, is that the only reason to write to find an audience, to be published? It was Eugene Peterson, a writer and minister who I admire, who wrote that he writes because of a deep need to do so, whether or not he has any readers is not the point. I guess that being an Episcopal priest and a person of faith, I should just allow myself enough slack to write and let the words fall where they may. Whether it is poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, memoir or just my own reflections on what I hear and see going on, I need to write. 

 Too much is bubbling up inside and like a volcano where the magma has been building up over years, the lava of words just need to be released. It may be messy, incomplete, full of nonsense or just plain nonsensical, but these are my words and my thoughts. 

 So I will plug along, slowly like the tortoise, I’m too old to compete with the young guns out there but each day I will challenge myself to write. Maybe this will eventually become my version of the 800 words. Not a daily write but maybe an occasional reflection on what I see in the world around me. For those of you who have volunteered to ride along on this train, beware, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. My word count is now 795, time to stop writing. 

Update

I’m a bit behind on my bits of poetry, I’ve been taking this Creative Nonfiction class at Grubstreet in Boston and have been caught up in getting out a couple of pieces for that. It does take me awhile to get out any writing, my mind seems to be all over the place and I’ve got one of those pesky little inner editors that likes to be heard as I write. They are not blog worthy, yet but if I do post any of these writings they will have to be serialized in some form, they are a tad too long for a blog. In the meantime, I plug away with poetry trying my best to figure that genre out while producing some passable stuff and some not so passable. It’s all part of the process of writing. I also keep reading what other bloggers have been posting and liking much of what I’ve read, there’s some really decent poetry out there and well worth the read. So, hopefully I will have something new to post, in fact there are two or three little pieces that I’ve been working on that may one day see the light of day. In the meantime, keep on writing my friends, the world today needs the poets words, dreams and voices to help us see the beauty as well as cut through the anger and darkness that infects our world. 

Over 100 Followers

 Much to my surprise I now have amassed over 100 followers on my blog. Now, I realize that there are other bloggers who have well over 1000 if not more, bloggers who have found that special niche producing prodigious works. I, on the other hand, have no special niche. I just write what’s been bubbling up in my head, it’s not rocket science. I started this blog a few years ago, first it was my poor attempt at some creative writing, then it became a place where I recorded my recovery from being hit by a car door, while out cycling. It was that accident and the months of being laid up that began this journey. Having time to think, I mean really think, about what is important I began to focus more and more on my writing. Now, I’m no Hemingway, I really struggle when I write trying to find the words that express my feelings and surroundings. At times I’m a bit successful at other times, not so much but I continue to write. One of the results of all this attempted writing is that I’ve been taking classes at Grub Street in Boston, a place where one can go and learn more about the craft of writing. Yes, writing is a craft, it takes time and effort just to get something written then expose it to the world and let them see what you have composed. At Grub Street, I have been given the opportunity to experiment, to explore the various genres and take risks in my writing. Right now I’m in the midst of a 10 week Creative Nonfiction class and so far I have produced one piece and am working on a second, that I hope to have finished soon. Well, finished is not the correct term, as anyone who has been writing, finishing is a movable line that sits out there on the horizon, tantalizing one into thinking they are finished. I’ve got several pieces that are in various stages of being finished with none of them even close. 

 That brings me back to my blog, my little musings that I throw out there. Lately, I’ve been intrigued by poetry, something that I still don’t fully understand but still try writing about. I read poetry, I love the way in which poets use words to paint pictures on the mind, taking the reader on a journey through time and space. Some are able to do so using their words economically, sparing us the effort to slog through long, rambling paragraphs. So, I try. I try to write poetry, I try to use my words to paint that picture, to convey what I see in my minds eye and write. Am I successful? That’s for the reader to decide, all I can do is write, post and let the chips fall where they may. 

 So, thank you to all of you who are taking a chance to follow my blog and are reading my small offerings. I appreciate the fact that you are taking time from out of your busy day to read what I have written and also to like what has been put out there. Now, I must move on, put my Creative Nonfiction hat on and continue to write for my class. What’s in my future? Who, knows. Grub Street has many other classes that I find intriguing, from doing more nonfiction, to writing fiction, essay’s, and of course, poetry. In fact, as I write this I’m thinking that this might be a good start for a Creative Nonfiction piece, about a novice out there in the blogosphere looking for his place among the giants of that world in the words he writes.

My Morning Thoughts

Each morning my routine begins the same way. I awaken to the sounds of the birds outside my window, the early morning light beginning to seep through. I lay for a few moments, as I calm my mind to prepare for the coming day. As I lay there I sometimes allow those moments from the past to be heard in the darkened caverns of the mind. Their voices echoing in a past that I can not change but only look back upon. An examination of the soul, that place of deep meditation in the early quiet moments of the new day. I’m not some mystic, able to touch the face of God or to hear the voice in a burning bush, I’m simply a man, filled with doubts and fears trying my best to live into the calling of my vocation. There are times when I begin to doubt my faith, not my faith in God but my faith in the path I have chosen to take. There is the temptation to run and hide, to bury myself in busyness using it like a cloak of invisibility, joining with the masses who run around looking more like chickens pecking the ground for the few scraps. Being busy becomes the great disconnect, that way of not having to deal with anyone’s issues, including my own. To be intentional, to be attentive means having to let down that great barrier and be vulnerable to the emotions and feelings of being human. Looking out the window, just as the light of day begins to brighten the grey, I know somewhere deep within that there is also another light seeking to brighten the dark depths. The poetry that I write, although not great pieces, begin to take shape in those early moments, I see the words floating along as I begin to create. Sometimes what I see within is sharp and clear with no fuzzy edges, then there are those days when the words are a jumble, their meaning senseless, yet I write them down. I go over and over every piece, fine tuning the words, looking to make clear what I have written. Writing has become its own journey, it has taken me down long, winding roads into the deep wilderness of the self. I write a stream of consciousness, then I revise, then I write again, then I revise. I read it though first silently then aloud, I pick at the wording, try to make sure the grammar is almost correct. I try not to use the comma like a life raft. This week I begin another writing class, again I’m taking creative nonfiction. I will once again be challenged to explore the depths of my being, finding the words that best express my thoughts and feelings. The writing will be read and judged by others, and their comments will help me become better. At least in theory. After all, as I said, my writing is a journey through the wilderness. It’s not a yellow brick road, and I’m not off to find the Emerald City of publishing where the great and powerful Oz’s decide if your work is worthy or if you need to go after the witches broom stick