Monthly Archives: January 2014

I will not go gentle into that good night.

It’s possible I read this Dylan Thomas Villanelle one too many times at an impressionable age…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

…yes, it’s possible, but not likely. I was from birth a table-turner, town-crier, bomb-thrower, head-breaker. What has happened to me? Why am I now a coffer-filler, tax-slave, Christian mom who silently sits biding the time while pastoring eyes glaze over and move past me with dismissive words: Oh, you’re a mom; nothing more needs spoken. Nothing more needs saying. Why can’t I go gently into that distant forest, at peace with who I am and with the world around me?

I will never be at peace. That’s why. I know in whom I have believed, and he wasn’t a man of peace. He was a man of truth. Give unto Caeser what belongs to Caesar–he said–and to God what belongs to God. But everything belongs to God, and I’ve peered inside the fish’s mouth and found gold. By contrast, the Caesar’s mouth is a dark cavern full of rot and decay. Someday, the waterbearer will pour out his pitcher, and the time of the fish will be over. That time is not now.

And, so, I will not go gently into that good night, no matter how it will make the world an easier place for you or for me. I despise ease. My pillow need not be soft, and if your pillow is soft, let it belong to you and let honor go where honor is due. A stone of consternation will do for me.

Yes, I will rage against the dying of the light. You won’t like me for it, but I couldn’t care less.

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The Bear Cycle

DSCF0238Inside, I’m a bear. The instinct of the beast drives me into darkness for the winter. I crawl on all fours when overcome; I’m a lengthening shadow. I’m drawn in, my head hanging with exhaustion. It’s difficult to carry myself, and yet, I know if I continue–if my claws slip and scratch over the mine dust and sunset-toned rock–I’ll find that inner place, where a wall of hallowed earth blocks further entry. There, I’ll drop and curl in on myself and fall into a relentless sleep.

DSCF0245The deeper in, the darker it is. It’s the darkness that’s relentless. It yawns in front of me. Sadly, the child that often hides in the mineshaft is afraid to confront me. You see how she hides from me? I don’t blame you if you miss her. She’s camouflaged herself in the colors of the cave to your left. The bear is weary, the child afraid. Somehow, they’re resigned to a lengthy sleep. That’s how it works. That’s how I catch myself crawling down the shaft in the first place. I force the weariness to drag me down so that all thoughts of fighting back are lost. It’s time for hibernation whether I like it or not.

DSCF0248Waking is bound to happen, though. Did you honestly believe the spirit of the bear could sleep forever? She opens one eye, and the light is a blur. It’s painful, too. It stabs me, right through the retina, stimulating the optic nerve, and, further, agitating the mind. The bear is awake, which means I’m awake. I don’t immediately desire to rise up on two feet and rush into the world, my strength let loose. I’m made weak from savage hunger, for a start. I exist. My stomach tells me so. For a few minutes, I concentrate on the weight of my body, still heavy from sleep.

DSCF0489Eventually, my instincts force me up and out. A life lived awake is a life of priorities, and the mind–even the sleep-groggy one–collates by importance what must be accomplished before the light seeps down between the curve of the hills. First, I rise and search the horizon. The air is brisk and cold. The world is eerily still, as though holding its breath, waiting. Time waits at the earthen altars.

The bear doesn’t. She’s furious. Hungry. Thirsty. Aching. The water she finds is still frozen, but she discovers its source, where it has burst free from its pipes.

The bear sleeps; the bear awakes. What else must I write, but a warning? When she stands on two legs, back away.

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The Downtown Portland Scene: Escape is Directional

DSCF0115Years ago, I escaped from Portland. I can’t say I’m altogether happy about escaping from city life. I’m married to a small town boy, and a small town is where he gravitates. While Portland isn’t the city I would like to make my home, I would prefer a city over a small town any day. Cities have resources. They have green spaces and museums and tall buildings–old buildings up against new architecture. They have a variety of shops and businesses that offer variations on a theme, whether that theme happens to be clothes or medicine or books. Small towns are hit and miss–mostly miss. If, for example, an herb shop exists in a small town, it’s likely to have a limited selection of dusty vitamin bottles and herb bins and not likely to sell whatever the customer had in mind to purchase at a given moment. Living in a small town, mail order and lengthy, expensive trips to the nearest city become the norm. In other words, the nuisance that shopping is (and, yes, it IS a nuisance) turns into a greater nuisance of long shipping times and expensive shipping rates or just doing without because the gas needed to arrive in the grand metropolis is outside the budget.

Although I’m currently living in a small-town island that contains little more than a Wal Mart, and although I bemoan its lacks, I acknowledge that city life isn’t perfect. Traffic is hell in most cities, and not all of them offer adequate public transportation meant to ease the burden of cars on the roads. In addition, most city water sources must be filtered to rid the tap of chlorine and fluoride–cities are, in general, difficult for the health conscious individual. I’m living in a kind of Promised Land of clean water and air, above the agricultural run-off and smog of rural valley or city living. I’m living in a place where the enormous sky meets the horizon in a distant one-point perspective, no matter where I’m standing. While I sometimes imagine how our family life would be in a city, I can’t deny that I live in a beautiful environment that is low on stress and devoid of the kind of drama I avoid like the plague.

It may sound as if I’m checking the scales of small town life against city life and seeing how they balance, but that wasn’t my goal when I sat down to write. My goal was in remembering that I don’t want to mentally regress, except in memory, to where Portland lives and thrives inside me. Escape is sketchy. Environment plays a role in mental health, but it can never create a situation in which a person is able to escape himself. I won’t ever be able to escape who I am–an outsider in any world. I will never escape my own mental landscape, formed only in part by my childhood in Portland.

My niece works at the Portland nightclub pictured above. In describing it to me, she said it was meant to be a place where people could be themselves without judgment, even if only until the wee hours, with dancing and artistic open mic shows. I get that. I do. Escape is vital for humans. For that reason, people eat and drink together and seek out entertainment after work. But from birth until death, escape is a transitory concept that is as easy to cling to as wind. And sometimes, it’s better to live in the moment–this moment, in the daytime–and face it. I look up and hope for escape. I mull over the past; I plan for the future. Yet, how often do I take on the present and live in it? How often do you? Escape is an upward trajectory, but until death, it’s a finite ideal. I applaud my niece for her work at the club. In her own way, she’s taking on her present reality and creating something positive with it. She’s creating a tangible, albeit temporary reality in the midst of city life and attempting to find health through it all.

DSCF0111This is only to demonstrate that an upward trajectory, a lack of regression, a moving forward is impossible. A life is made of layers, and the outermost layer isn’t the only reality. The past peeks through and, sometimes, the outer layers are intentionally stripped off in order to reveal the past, to lay it bare. This is a necessary occupation for even those who aren’t detectives or psychologists. Escape moves inward before it turns back around. In some cases, exposing the past reveals its beauty, rather than its degradation, as in this building. Somebody made the decision to expose the beauty of its past. What if, upon investigation, a detective were to discover unexpected beauty in human populations, rather than heinous crimes and the perpetrators and victims of such?

DSCF0116Escape is more than a reflection of our environment. When I peered in these dark windows, I could see the hint of decay in the building. As opposed to the uncovered facade of the previous building, this one was dirty on the inside, in need of cleaning and repair. Yet, when I stepped back and took a picture of the windows, the camera caught only the reflection of a functioning world outside the gritty interior space. The city continues to function, just as homes and humans do, for better or worse, despite ignoring interior work. What if, upon entering the interior space, we were to begin to clean and repair rather than walking past and imagining that those reflections we see (including those of ourselves) are, in fact, reality?

DSCF0127Ah, well, I suspect you’ve already guessed I saved the best for last. This is Powell’s. This framework is the same Powell’s I knew as a child. Wandering through the aisles, up and down stairways, I recognized the basic construction, even though the inside had transformed itself throughout time. For example, upon entering, the dreadlocked and pretentious intellectual elites, who used to work there and shout at you if you didn’t immediately check in your backpacks and bags, were nonexistent. It’s a friendlier place, an open place, but still full from floor to ceiling, upstairs and downstairs, with books. As I walked through with my camera, surreptitiously snapping pictures, an uncomfortable feeling stole over me. It was as if a pretense of friendliness and openness had subsumed the place, but it was a big, fat lie. The interior space was, is, and always will be about books and a cramped literary life lived in them. You might try to repair the past, but you can’t change it, nor can you change the core essence of what something or someone is. Escape is moving outward. Look: down the dark aisles covered in books, there’s a world outside. It might appear small from this perspective, but trust me when I tell you it’s much bigger than it appears. Your repairs may seem to overshadow it, yet they are minute compared to the grand outer workings, the mechanical scheme of the universe.

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On New Year’s Resolutions

Look, there is nothing especially wrong or misguided about New Year’s resolutions. They are an attempt to let go of the past and strive for better things in the future. How could there be anything wrong with a spirit of hope and determination? The problem, of course, is with you–the person making the resolutions. Promises to self and others are great, but only if you keep them. I’m the type of person who believes in honor. I believe in honoring contracts and promises. Promises that are made to be broken are…let’s just say they rub me the wrong way.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Generally, I give myself writing goals to meet, and most of the time, I meet them. What else am I going to resolve to do? I’ve been exercising more or less daily since I was sixteen. I already eat a healthful diet. What else do I need to become more determined about? I’m already too intentional and determined as it is.

Okay, there is this one little resolution I want to make. I would like to (deep breath) resolve to no longer spend time on blogs where the automatic truth perspective of the world is filtered through a cynic’s lens. Cynics believe themselves to be realists. They aren’t. They are merely peering through a glass darkly–really darkly. They are solipsists who can’t or won’t look at a broader perspective because they are too busy lying to themselves. Positive thinkers are the same way, but my patience for them wore out a long time ago. I have been successfully avoiding their soul crushing philosophies for years.

I should clarify a little because I tend to speak from philosophical terms. I no longer want to associate myself with the cynicism of modern usage. Honestly, I don’t like people who are chronically suspicious of the motives of others. Going back to the Greek philosophy, I don’t have much problem with cynicism, except that it creates warring ideologies inside my mind. You see, I want, more than anything, to be accomplished by worldly standards of success because I happen to live, for the time being, in the world. I would very much like to fulfill my life’s purpose, whatever that happens to be, before I die. In other words, I eschew life in the tub.

In other news, I’m still working on the Oso and Julia novella/linked stories. Trying to earn money for school has been beating me down and robbing my time. Completing Oso and Julia is, therefore, my New Year’s writing goal. I also plan to continue with my coffee memoirs. And I hope I can scrape by with two classes. That’s about it for me. If I have a word to strive for in the New Year, it’s “Action!”

And looking back over the last year…I managed to self-publish one of my books (obviously). I managed to earn enough money to send myself to Portland to visit my sister (hence the “scraping by” with two classes). What else have I accomplished in the last year? Well, I didn’t accomplish this on my own, but my eldest child is now an adult–the first graduate of the Domschot homeschool. It’s been a big year. I actually did make a start at Tech last spring–so there was that. I just didn’t get very far without funding. So the family and I accomplished a few things in 2013 and we’re set to continue up the hill of life in 2014.*

Cheers to the hope and determination a new year brings!

*Wait, what? You expected a spiritual reflection in which I show gratitude for others and ask for forgiveness while simultaneously granting it? Nah. I’d rather do that sort of thing in my active life.

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